Shrewsbury MBTA zoning vote pushed until fall

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Shrewsbury MBTA zoning vote pushed until fall
Shrewsbury is eyeing the Olde Shrewsbury Village plaza for the location of its MBTA zoning. (Photo/Tami White)

SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury Town Meeting will not consider MBTA zoning later this month. 

At a specially scheduled meeting on May 2, the Select Board unanimously moved to push the town’s vote on MBTA zoning to later in the year, allowing the community more time to analyze and debate the issue. While the town’s 240 elected representatives were set to consider MBTA zoning at the May 20 Town Meeting, it now appears the vote will happen at a Special Town Meeting in October.

The Select Board felt that the extra five months will help the town better understand the zoning. In that time, the proposed zoning could complete the state’s pre-adoption process, which may give an early indication if the plans would meet the state’s requirements; Select Board members posited that getting extra feedback from the state prior to voting would help residents make an informed decision. From now until October, the town will make an effort to streamline information and continue to work on the zoning proposal, the Select Board said. 

The later vote will also allow more time for the town’s economic feasibility study, which may allow for up to 20% of potential units to be affordable. 

“While I have no doubt that town staff and the consultant have developed a bylaw that reflects community feedback and will be found largely in compliance, not taking advantage of the pre-adoption process to gain feedback from the state is distracting and has allowed skepticism and misinformation to crowd out facts and data,” Select Board Chair Beth Casavant said. 

“I firmly believe that compliance is the right decision for Shrewsbury, and I am willing to wait until the fall Special Town Meeting for a vote. By waiting, we can wait and see that all interested parties… have the best information available… Trust in local government is critical to having well-informed citizens and Town Meeting members, and time is needed to provide every Town Meeting member with the information they need to be confident when they talk to their neighbors and, ultimately, when they vote this fall,” she continued. 

Casavant later attended the Planning Board meeting, which made the procedural steps necessary to move the vote to October. Town Meeting members will be asked to defeat Article 44 – the MBTA zoning article – at Town Meeting in May. 

The town government is proposing putting MBTA zoning – otherwise known as a “Transit Oriented Development Overlay District” – on a 173-acre plot of land in the southeast corner of town. The area includes Olde Shrewsbury Village, located at 1000 Boston Turnpike near Northborough and the intersection of Route 20 and Route 9. The Christmas Tree Shops operated in the plaza for over 35 years, officially closing in August 2023 after the company filed for bankruptcy. Town officials and residents have identified the site as “in need of refurbishment.”

The town’s proposed MBTA zoning also includes other sites along the Route 20 corridor, including Shrewsbury Commons, the Sajda Drive development off Walnut Street south of Route 20, and the site of the former Rainbow Motel.

Shrewsbury has until Dec. 31 to comply with state law and approve an MBTA zoning plan. 

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