What is 40B?

The comprehensive permit statute (so called “Chapter 40B”) was adopted by the Massachusetts Legislature nearly fifty years ago. Many cities and towns have used the comprehensive permit statute to their advantage and to benefit regional residents.  Because the statute allows municipality’s to waive provisions of locally adopted regulations (most notably, zoning), cities and towns have been able to support below market rate sale and rental developments without the need for obtaining difficult to obtain variances from local regulations.  This is particularly true in communities, such as Stoneham, where the Town is actively engaged in planning for new below market rate developments. 

One of the “carrots” offered by the comprehensive permit statute, often referred to as “safe harbors”, permits a city or town that has made measurable progress toward the statute’s enumerated targets (the most commonly referred to target is the so-called “10%” goal where the municipality’s below market rate housing stock consists of 10% of the total housing stock in the city or town) to reject or substantially revise a comprehensive permit application and deprive the developer of an appeal of the municipality’s decision.

With regard to the Weiss Farm comprehensive permit application, the Board of Appeals asserted a “safe harbor” due to the percentage of below market rate housing in the Town as measured against the Town’s land area (often referred to as the “1.5% safe harbor”).  Despite complying with the statutory requirements for asserting “safe harbor”, the state agencies whose mission it is to promote “more housing” overturned the Board of Appeals as a preliminary matter.  As many residents are aware, the Board of Appeals, after months of deliberation and with the assistance of expert engineers and financial advisors, approved the Weiss Farm application for 124 dwelling units with specific conditions.  We await the state’s decision on the developer’s appeal of the Board of Appeals’ decision.

For more information about the comprehensive permit statue, the Housing Appeals Committee, and affordable housing, please visit the State’s website at: