Campbell sues Milton on housing

The consequences for Milton voters rejecting a zoning reform plan did not end with losing state grant funding: the town now faces a legal complaint from Attorney General Andrea Campbell.

Campbell on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Milton and its building commissioner, Joe Atchue, alleging violations of the MBTA Communities Act, which requires dozens of cities and towns near the T to allow multifamily housing by right in certain areas.

Campbell asked a judge to order Milton to clear the way for more housing development, arguing that the law does not allow for communities to opt out of new zoning requirements. Zoning rules over the years have typically been set at the local level.

“The housing affordability crisis affects all of us: families who face impossible choices between food on the table or a roof over their heads, young people, who want to live here but are driven away by the cost, and a growing workforce we cannot house,” Campbell said in a statement alongside the complaint. “The MBTA Communities Law was enacted to address our region-wide need for housing, and compliance with it is mandatory.”

Milton Town Meeting approved a zoning reform plan that would have complied with the law, which state lawmakers wove into an economic development package at the last minute in the 2019-2020 session. But opponents of the changes worried about excess development pursued a referendum, and a majority of Milton voters chose to spike the zoning plan.

Campbell and Gov. Healey have been warning for months against failing to comply with the MBTA Communities Act. The AG’s office in its complaint noted that Campbell issued an advisory nearly one year ago “stating unqualifiedly” that MBTA communities must comply with the law, which “does not provide any mechanism by which a town or city may opt out of this requirement.”

In a statement released by Campbell’s office, Healey said she is “grateful” to the AG for “taking this important step to enforce compliance with the MBTA Communities Law.”

In remarks to business leaders on Tuesday, Healey said, “I know the conversation in recent days has focused on Milton. We’re going to continue to work with Milton. The MBTA Communities Act is law, and everyone needs to follow it.”

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