Last Tuesday, Massachusetts voters voted No on the ballot question to repeal 40B by a margin of 58% to 42%. The following URL provides a great visual indication of the vote:
Basically, the communities between Route 128 and Route 495 that are actually affected by 40B, voted overwhelmingly to repeal it. The western part of the state voted to keep the law. 40B is not a problem in western Massachusetts, because developers don’t use it there. There’s no need to override local zoning.
The margin of victory for the No vote, however, came from the cities. Boston, Worcester and Springfield all voted at least 2 to 1 to keep the law, which was presented on the ballot as “a low and moderate income housing law.” Polls showed that those voters have not heard of the law and have no idea what it does. It’s so sad; the working poor in our cities are completely left out in the cold by 40B, which sucks up tax subsidies and direct funding from DHCD at the expense of the cities. But they are the ones who voted to keep it in place. As the cartoon character Pogo opined, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
The pro-40B developer lobby spent over a million dollars on consultants and ads to beat back the vote for repeal. Over $100,000 was from out-of-state developers. Chelmsford voters understand this, and voted to repeal 40B by a margin of 60% to 40%, the highest margin in the state.
Paradoxically, Pat Wojtas won the open selectman seat, despite being the only candidate who has openly called 40B “a good law.” I cannot explain this. All I can do is promise that well-intentioned residents and Better Not Bigger will continue to monitor any efforts to use 40B to benefit favored developers and real estate lawyers at the expense of the good people of the town.
It is truly unfortunate that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the only board which hears and permits 40B projects, is not elected. Its members are appointed by pro-growth, pro-development Town Manager Paul Cohen. The BOS has shown it will not hold Cohen or any other official accountable for malfeasance, including the facilitation of counterproductive construction projects. Ongoing vigilance is needed. Please do not assume that I or other Better Not Bigger supporters know all that is going on. We don’t. It’s important that you let us know of any “skullduggery,” as one resident colorfully put it. I am confident that, over time, we will achieve good and honest government for Chelmsford.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew