Economic Development

Statewide Zoning: a Pipe Dream?

Gregory Bialecki wants something for Massachusetts that no other state has: a comprehensive statewide zoning code. He thinks that's needed to break down the longstanding...
by | September 30, 2009
 

Gregory Bialecki wants something for Massachusetts that no other state has: a comprehensive statewide zoning code. He thinks that's needed to break down the longstanding enmity between developers and local governments. For the developers, his "Land Use Partnership Act" would offer a streamlined permitting system to replace the years-long process many currently must endure. For localities, the new code would offer control over maximum house size, enabling them to block teardowns that result in McMansions.

Gregory Bialecki

None of the 351 communities in the state would have to sign up, and the biggest of all--Boston--couldn't. It has its own code and would be exempt. Still, Bialecki thinks that once his system got going, it might entice as many as three dozen localities a year to opt in.

Statewide zoning sounds like a pipe dream to lots of experts, but Bialecki is no wooly-headed dreamer. A former real-estate lawyer and developer in Boston, he knows as much about the subject as anybody around. Still, time and politics are working against him. Bialecki's chief patron, Governor Deval Patrick, whose approval ratings are abysmal, is in no position to provide much clout. But Bialecki, who has a whole array of other issues on his plate, believes that if he keeps pushing, he can get the zoning job done. "I may be a geek," the secretary recently told Commonwealth magazine, "but I'm not doing planning and zoning for the fun of it."

Position: Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Massachusetts

Age: 48

Other jobs: lawyer; real estate developer

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