Section 3A - MBTA Communities Project

Grey Blue Minimalist Online Survey Instagram Post Opens in new window

Want to stay in touch or get involved? Sign up for our email list here to be notified of upcoming community meetings, updates, and more!

Project Background & Information

In 2020, Governor Baker signed into law 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(s) where multifamily housing is allowed as of right (without special permit). The Final Guidelines for the law were posted in August 2022, with revisions in October 2022 and August 2023. On March 15, 2023, the Attorney General issued an advisory concerning enforcement of the law. 

Our Community Development Plan and Housing Production Plan, along with multiple other Town reports and documents, recommend amending zoning to allow multifamily housing as of right in the Town Center and in more locations in Ipswich and identifying areas that are priorities for redevelopment. By adopting Section 3A zoning, Ipswich will:

  • encourage development of more housing and more affordable housing for seniors, families, young people, and renters who are unable to find housing in Ipswich due to a lack of smaller, accessible, affordable housing units 
  • partake in a regional response to the region's housing shortage by allowing development of smaller multifamily housing
  • remain eligible for important state grants for infrastructure projects

The Town Manager appointed resident volunteers to a 3A Task Force, supported by the Planning Department, to work on Section 3A implementation for Ipswich. Section 3A Task Force members include:

  • Carolyn Britt, Climate Resiliency Committee
  • Chris Doktor, Architect
  • Peter Eliot, Ipswich Partnership
  • Glenn Gibbs, Zoning Specialist & Former Planning Director
  • Toni Mooradd, Planning Board
  • Sarah Player, Select Board & Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board
  • Lindsay Randall, Historical Commission
  • Ken Redford, Housing Partnership

The 3A Task Force first convened in January 2023 and held three informational meetings in March and April 2023. From these sessions, resident feedback identified the need to focus on engagement, design, and historic considerations. To help facilitate this work, the Planning Department submitted 3A technical assistance grant applications in May and June 2023. Ipswich has received three grants for an MAPC consultant team to support technical work for this project.

From Fall 2023 to Fall 2024, the Town, supported by the 3A Task Force and our MAPC consultant team, will be leading a planning process with extensive community engagement to determine the location and details of Ipswich's district(s). A proposed district(s) will be brought to Fall 2024 Special Town Meeting.

Info sheet for public forum 1 (1)
Info sheet for public forum 1

Planning Process 




Outreach and Engagement Approach

We aim to foster a planning process that is open, inclusive, and transparent. To foster this, engagement opportunities will include focus groups, large public forums, open houses, meetings with Town boards, online surveys, and outreach through social media and the press. We aim to communicate in plain language, provide interpretation and translation (if requested), and utilize best practices for community members who have hearing or visual impairments. Events will be held in locations that are as convenient as possible to the target audience and appropriate to the event. Read more about how MAPC is supporting our outreach and engagement approach here.

Prior Meetings

December 5, 2023 - Community Meeting

October 19 & 23 and November 16 & 17, 2023 - Four focus group discussions to learn from: Town staff/volunteers/board/committee members, housing-related specialists, community members, and housing developers or development related-specialists on topics including: issues related to housing in Ipswich; initiatives and strategies to improve housing in Ipswich; how 3A can help contribute to housing efforts; what guiding principles should be established to help guide decision-making around 3A; what housing or other goals should 3A contribute to in Ipswich; and, what areas in the Town Center should be considered and excluded from potential 3A district consideration. 

October 24, 2023 - Special Town Meeting tabling at the High School.

April 5, 2023 - Presentation "Conversations Without Words: How Architecture Reflects the Values of a Community". 

April 1, 2023 - Coffee & Conversation informal event to speak about 3A.

March 22, 2023 - Public forum to present an overview of the MBTA Communities Legislation to describe the basic requirements of MGL. 40A, Section 3A and what it means and why this process matters for Ipswich. The meeting included ample time for Q&A and comments. 

3A Task Force

The 3A Task Force is meeting consistently through Fall 2024 Special Town Meeting. 3A Task Force meetings are posted for residents to join and observe, and there is a period of public comment held at the end of each meeting.

Previous 3A Task Force Meetings

Background Documents and Resources

Information on Housing & Zoning

  • Exclusionary by Design Report and Presentation: Written by Amy Dain, this report funded by Boston Indicators examines the history of zoning in Greater Boston, which finds that zoning has been used as a tool for excluding certain groups of people, including: racial minorities, especially Black residents; lower-income and working-class residents; families with school-aged children; religious minorities; immigrants; and, in some cases, any newcomers/outsiders at all.
  • 2023 Greater Boston Housing Report Card: Annual regional housing data shows continued challenges with tight inventory, rising costs, and significant racial disparities in housing cost burdens. It points to progress in some state-level policies, like the Section 3A, Governor Healey’s housing bond bill proposal, and the potential for Community Land Trusts to achieve a healthier housing landscape. Some points from this year's report:
    • Need for different types of housing throughout the region to ensure that individuals and families are able to enter the housing market at different price points, and that different housing types and locations fill the diverse needs of a diverse population.
    • Our communities have variable and insufficient housing production histories, and rents and home prices that are among the highest in the country.
    • Transportation and zoning policies have long-prioritized cars and sprawling development patterns, and single-family-exclusive zoning has contributed to persistent residential segregation by race and income.
  • Report on housing America's older adults from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University: Report showing the U.S. population 65+ has grown by 34% in the last decade. In the coming decade, the fastest growth will occur among those 80+, when people are more likely to need accessible housing as well as services and supports at home. The U.S., however, is not ready to provide housing and care for this surging population.
Want to stay in touch or get involved? Sign up for our email list here to be notified of upcoming community meetings, updates, and more.

Want to reach out with any questions, comments, or concerns?