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Costs and Impact of the MBTA Communities Zoning Law on Marblehead

The new state law “MBTA Communities Zoning Law” will impose costs and zoning changes on Marblehead that will result in allowing 900+ family friendly dwelling units on 27 acres with minimum 5 acre parcels. The zoning will be “as-of-right” multifamily buildings. This means little if any review of proposed projects.


The impact in a number of areas will be major. It could result in as many as 3,000 new residents, a 15% increase in our population. A comprehensive analysis of the impact needs to be completed to ensure that Marblehead voters are fully informed on the true costs before acting on the zoning changes that will be presented at the May 2024 Town Meeting.


Action need to be taken now to assess the following costs:

School System: The state requirements include accommodating family friendly multi bedroom housing units; several hundred school age children will need to be accommodated in our schools. The School Committee needs to assess the impact on the school system, its budget and assessing the possibility of construction of a new school near the proposed zoning areas.


Traffic: The state has used access to the MBTA as one of the criteria for including Marblehead in its law and designating Marblehead as an “Adjacent Community”. However, MBTA’s services to Marblehead are limited to bus service with one bus route through the town. The locations currently proposed for the new development are not close to a bus stop and are 5 miles away from both the Salem and Swampscott train stations. Further, there is no bus service to Salem. Marblehead schools are over a mile away, increasing the school traffic. 


Electrical Infrastructure:  The new green electrical code will require the multifamily housing to be all electric. Marblehead Municipal Electric should be tasked with estimating the impact on their infrastructure.


Water and Sewer: There will be a major impact on Marblehead’s water and sewer system. Marblehead’s Water and Sewer Department should be tasked with estimating the updates that will be needed.


Fire and Police: The new housing could include high rise buildings. The Fire Department should be tasked with estimating if a new fire truck will be needed to support the higher structures and the overall impact on other related fire department services including medical response. Likewise the Police Department needs to assess staffing and other impacts.


Neighborhood and Abutters: One of the proposed areas, East of Peach Highlands, consists mostly of single family houses, many on small lots. It will be possible for a developer to construct large multi-floor buildings with a minimum setback right next door. The residents and abutters need to be fully informed of the implications of this law. The Planning Board and other advocates of the law need to work with them to understand the full impact on the character of their neighborhoods.


Marblehead’s costs to taxpayers and the impact on our residents’ quality of life need to be understood and clearly communicated for Town Meeting attendees to make informed decisions on the proposed zoning bylaws.


Gregg Thibodeau
Nonantum Rd.