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MONSON — The Monson Planning Board continued to review the town’s draft Chapter 40B Housing Production Plan during its June 18 meeting.

At this meeting, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission Senior Planner Lori Tanner reviewed the plan’s specified goals and implementation strategies, as well as answered board members’ questions.

The Chapter 40B Housing Production Plan is a process that towns can follow to increase affordable housing and protect themselves from the Comprehensive Permit law, Chapter 40B, Ken Comia explained at the Planning Board’s May 21 meeting. Comia is the land use and environment deputy director for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. This law would allow affordable housing developers to override certain parts of the town’s zoning requirements if the town does not have the required 10% of affordable housing, Comia said.

Individualized housing production plans have been adopted by towns in the surrounding communities, including Palmer, Ludlow and Belchertown, according to the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. Each plan follows a similar structure and outlines how the town can meet its version of the 10% affordable housing goal.

Within Monson’s draft five-year plan, there are three goals for the town to work toward increasing the number of affordable housing units, Tanner stated. First, the town should look to create at least 18 units each year. This would work toward the town’s 10% affordable housing goal, which would require 233 added units, she said.

The second goal is to focus on increasing senior housing. This goal was established through a previously conducted town survey that asked residents what types of developments they were interested in for the town, Tanner said. The Planning Board, Select Board and town administrator also participated in this survey, according to the draft plan.

The third goal encourages Monson to engage with regional housing agencies, such as Way Finders and Valley Community Development. As stated in the draft plan, this goal is designed to aid the town in the affordable housing process.

To work toward achieving these three goals, the draft Housing Production Plan describes six strategies. These include identifying areas where units could be constructed and modifying current requirements to allow greater ease of establishing affordable housing units in town, Tanner said. Each strategy also has an estimated timeline for when the town should be able to complete it. Most timelines are extended to 2030, Tanner stated.
During the June 18 discussion, board members raised concerns about the feasibility of the 10% affordable housing goal, noting the high number of required units to add each year.

The board also talked about difficulties in finding space to construct the units, discussing how while areas such as the Monson Developmental Center had acreage, there were other complications with using the land.

Moving forward, the Planning Board requested additional time to review the plan before approval. To finalize the plan, the Select Board will also need to approve it, Comia said. He stated that he would work with the Planning Board throughout the summer to finalize and approve a final copy of the plan.