Section 3A - MBTA Communities

We are kicking off the planning process for Section 3A! Welcome to the landing page for all topics related to Section 3A - MBTA Communities.

What have we been working on?
The Town Manager appointed a 3A Task Force, supported by the Planning & Development Department, to recommend a compliant zoning district that works best for Ipswich. The group first convened in January 2023 and held three i
nitial public engagement sessions in March/April 2023. Resident feedback identified the need to focus on engagement, design, and historic considerations. To help facilitate this work, the Planning Department submitted technical assistance grant applications in May/June 2023. Ipswich has received two grants totaling $60,000 for an MAPC consultant to support technical assistance work starting in July 2023: $40,000 from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and $20,000 from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP). More to come!

We want to hear from you! Please ask questions and share comments/feedback/suggestions here! 

Did you miss the first Public Forum in March 2023? Watch the ICAM recording here! 

Info sheet for public forum 1
Info sheet for public forum 1 (1)
The Town Manager appointed a 3A Task Force, supported by the Planning & Development Department, to work on Section 3A compliance for Ipswich. The group first convened in January 2023 and members' terms expire on December 31, 2024.
  • Carolyn Britt, Climate Resiliency Committee
  • Chase Delano, Ipswich Partnership
  • Chris Doktor, Architect 
  • Glenn Gibbs, Interim Planning Director & Zoning Specialist
  • Toni Mooradd, Planning Board
  • Sarah Player, Select Board & Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board
  • Lindsay Randall, Historical Commission 
  • Ken Redford, Housing Partnership
Below are FAQs we are getting. We will be updating this list, so check back here! 

Who is deciding on a zoning district & when? 
You are! Ipswich voters will vote on a compliant zoning district at a 2024 Town Meeting. The 3A Task Force, with your help, is working to develop this for Ipswich. More to come on the timeline for this process. 

Is Section 3A a mandate from the State? 
Yes. The State's Attorney General (AG) issued guidance on March 15, 2023 stating all MBTA Communities must comply with Section 3A and the Law doesn't allow any municipality to opt out of this requirement. The AG says that if municipalities fail to comply, they risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws and may be subject to civil enforcement action, in addition to losing specific grant funding sources. See the AG's full letter here.

Ipswich Project Timeline

To remain in interim compliance in 2023, communities must submit an Action Plan to DHCD. Ipswich submitted an Action Plan on January 31, 2023.

By December 31, 2024, Ipswich must submit its District Compliance Application to DHCD for their compliance determination. To do so, approval for the zoning change that complies with this regulation must be voted on and approved by Town Meeting vote. 

The Task Force put out an initial project timeline; however, that timeline will likely be slightly altered given the grant funding the Town has received. Updated timeline to come!

Section 3A Background

The State has created Section 3A of the Zoning Act, which states that Ipswich, along with 174 other communities in eastern Massachusetts with access to MBTA service, shall create a district or districts where multi-family housing is allowed as of right. Over the next year, the Town, supported by volunteers in the 3A Task Force, will be leading a planning process with extensive community engagement to determine the location and details of Ipswich's district(s). The result will be a zoning amendment presented to Town Meeting in Spring 2024.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) posted its Final Guidelines for the Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA Communities on August 10, 2022 and revised the guidelines on October 21, 2022. The regulation, which is part of the Housing Choice Initiative enacted in an economic development bill passed in January 2021, requires MBTA communities, including Ipswich, to have at least one zoning district in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and meets the other criteria in the statute, including:

- Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre and minimum land area of 50 acres
- 40% of the district must be located no more than ½ mile from the commuter rail station
- No age restrictions
- Suitable for families with children

Here are the full guidelines for this legislation.

Much more to come! Please ask questions and share comments/feedback/suggestions here or contact the Planning Department by phone or email.