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Milton voters will have final say on controversial zoning plan on Feb. 13

Petition drive forces townwide vote on proposal to meet MBTA communities law

In early December, Milton held a town meeting to deliberate over MBTA communities act compliance.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

Milton voters will go to the polls on Feb. 13 to decide the fate of the town’s most ambitious zoning proposal in nearly 100 years, after a petition drive gathered enough signatures to force the townwide vote, Milton officials say.

The controversial zoning plan was drafted to satisfy the town’s legal obligations under the state MBTA communities law, which requires municipalities served by the MBTA to loosen their zoning rules to make it easier to build apartments and condos, largely near transit stations.

Milton Town Meeting approved the zoning plan on Dec. 11 by a 158-76 vote, over the objections of opponents who argued the town was moving too quickly for such a momentous change.

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Opponents immediately launched a petition drive, under the rules of the town charter, which provides that a petition signed by at least 5 percent of the registered voters in town — in this case at least 1,062 voters — can prevent an action of Town Meeting from going into effect and instead put the question before all the voters in a townwide ballot.

The Boston Globe Spotlight team analyzed the stakes of the debate over the MBTA communities law in a special report in October.

Acting under the charter, the Select Board on Thursday set the date for the vote; the hours the polls will be open that day is still to be determined, said Town Administrator Nicholas Milano.

Due to the successful petition, the Town Meeting vote in favor of the zoning will not go into effect, which means Milton will not have a new zoning bylaw in place by a Dec. 31 state deadline. “The [Feb. 13] vote will be the final determination on the zoning question,” Milano said.

Towns that fail to comply with the law are ineligible for certain state grants and could face legal action from the Attorney General. A spokesperson for Attorney General Andrea Campbell could not be immediately reached on Friday.

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The proposed zoning plan makes construction rules more friendly to multifamily housing in six districts, generally along the Eliot Street corridor roughly parallel to the Mattapan Trolley line, along part of Blue Hills Parkway, and in East Milton Square and along Granite Avenue. Under the state law, Milton must rezone to permit at least 2,461 new units of multifamily housing, though the actual number of units ultimately built is expected to be fewer, given how much land within the zones is already developed.

The zoning question will be the only item on the Feb. 13 ballot, Milano said.


Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him @bostonglobemark.