Zoning Reform for Quality of Life

Massachusetts’ state zoning laws are some of the most outdated laws in the country, which explains why in the past three decades many attempts have been made to change these laws. Although municipal level zoning reform laws have been passed, none of these attempts at the state level have been successful. This lack of success is why this project has been created.

The photo above is the team and our sponsors

(From left to right: Tom Gammel, Senator Harriette Chandler, Tyler Fazsewski, Ryan Kolb, Jennifer Burnham, and Tim Daley)

We are the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) team that has been assigned to assist Senator Harriette Chandler with reforming the state zoning laws. Our names are Jennifer Burnham, Tyler Faszewski, Thomas Gammel and Ryan Kolb and we are all students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). To learn more about us, visit our Meet the Team page.

Throughout this seven week term we will be working alongside the office of Senator Harriette Chandler to gather information to aide the senators in their attempt to pass a Zoning Reform Bill in Massachusetts. More information about our sponsor, Harriette Chandler, can be found in our About Our Sponsor page. The zoning reform bill aims to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and the passage of this bill will hopefully aide in the improvement of the lives of the citizens of Massachusetts.

Zoning ordinancesĀ benefit the community by establishing design standards for the land use and define land use regulations for commercial, residential, industrial, or parks. Zoning ordinances regulate how the land is used and can affect the quality of life of citizens through some of these elements:

  • Improve public transportation and increase walk-ability
  • Maintain and protect recreational and open spaces
  • Improve air quality and conserve fuel
  • Create affordable housing

These are only a few major benefits gained through zoning reform, but all can attribute to improving the quality of life of individuals. Our team has set forth goals and objectives which will ideally be accomplished by the end of the seven week term. Our overarching goal is to assist Senator Chandler’s office in promoting and passing a state zoning reform bill to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Massachusetts. We hope to achieve this goal by satisfying these objectives:

  • Characterize the purpose, structure, and content of previous bills submitted in Massachusetts
  • Characterize the purpose, structure, and content of state zoning reform bills that were successful/unsuccessful in other states
  • Identify the nature, range, and purposes of zoning reforms that have been proposed in the United States in recent years
  • Solicit opinions from and educate key stakeholders in Massachusetts about the need for zoning reform
  • Develop model language for the proposed zoning reform bill

By achieving these objectives, we will complete tasks such asĀ  analyzing zoning reform laws in other states, gathering opinions from the general public of Massachusetts, interviewing city and town planners throughout Massachusetts, and holding focus groups of Massachusetts Senators to determine their opinions regarding zoning reform bills that have already been introduced. We will also analyze the language used in previous Massachusetts state zoning reform bills and in bills that have successfully passed in other states.

Final Report

Zoning Reform for the State of Massachusetts

Project Video