MBTA Community Zoning


In 2021, the Commonwealth approved a modification to MGL Chapter 40A (Zoning Act) to add a new provision under Section 3A – referred to as the MBTA Communities Zoning Law – that requires communities with access to MBTA amenities such as Commuter Rail, Rapid Transit Subway, Ferry or Bus service to provide zoning within ½ mile of a station area. The law applies to all 177 cities and towns (excluding Boston) that have MBTA amenities or are adjacent to cities and towns with MBTA amenities. These cities and towns are designated as ‘MBTA Communities’. Wellesley, with 3 Commuter Rail stops, is designated as a “Commuter Rail Community.” This designation determines the compliaMBTA Communities Mapnce deadline - for Wellesley it is December 31, 2024.

The law aims to address Massachusetts’ housing shortage by requiring all MBTA Communities to change zoning regulations around their local transit stations to allow multifamily housing by-right. This does not guarantee that housing will be produced. However, through zoning, a theoretical capacity of units must be achieved within 0.5 miles of an MBTA station. The law’s statute outlines three critical components to the zoning changes:

  • Minimum gross density of 15 units per acre
  • Located not more than 0.5 miles from a commuter rail station, subway station, or ferry terminal, if applicable
  •  No age restrictions and suitable for families with children

In August 2022, the final guidelines that must be followed by MBTA communities were released and were further revised in August 2023.

Wellesley’s obligation is to have zoning for 1,392 units, of which 90% of those units must be located within a ½ mile of the transit area. Wellesley’s minimum land area for zoning must also equate to 50 acres. 

Wellesley Data from Mass.Gov

In Wellesley, the Town has 4 districts: Wellesley Square, Wellesley Hills, Wellesley Farms, and Williams Street which falls within the Waban T (in Newton) designated area. 

MBTA Wellesley

In March 2023, the Attorney General issued a clarifying advisory statement to all of the subject cities and towns which detailed rules for compliance with the MBTA Communities law and the consequences of non-compliance. Per this statement, should Wellesley fail to comply with the MBTA Communities law, the town would be ineligible to receive funds from Housing Choice Grants, Local Capital Fund Projects, and MassWorks Infrastructure Program. The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) may, in its discretion, take non-compliance into consideration when making other discretionary grant awards. Additionally, non-compliant cities and towns may be subject to civil enforcement action and risk liability under federal and state fair housing laws.

Links to Recorded Meetings

Recorded meetings with presentations and/or discussions regarding MBTA Community Zoning can also be viewed on Wellesley Public Media (www.wellesleymedia.org) 

Presentation Documents

Presentation documents correspond to meeting dates above

Additional Resources