Bridging History

Ipswich MBTA Community

Resources & views from community members

The basics

The new MBTA Community regulations (sometimes called Section 3A) require that Ipswich zoning include an area where multifamily housing is allowed by right, without special permit.

They do not require that any multifamily housing actually be built, or that land be made available for it.

The permitted density must be at least 15 units/acre, and there must be at least 50 acres. For Ipswich, 971 dwelling units must be permitted. That means that the Town would have to allow a density of over 15 units/acre, or include more than 50 acres.

The new multifamily zone may not set more stringent zoning standards than those applicable to the rest of the community – for instance, for higher energy efficiency.

Ipswich must submit a final plan by December 31, 2024.


MBTA Community, Ipswich map

At least 40% of the new multifamily zone must be within half a mile of the MBTA commuter rail station. In Ipswich, that radius is something like what people speak of as the "in-town" area.

Current policy

The Town's current zoning currently allows multifamily housing in its downtown areas. With a special permit from the Planning Board, the maximum density exceeds 15 units/acre,

Before the emergence of new State requirements, the Ipswich Community Development Plan recommended, "Amend zoning in and near Town Center to allow well-designed multi-family and/or mixed-use options by-right with administrative site plan review and design guidelines, rather than by special permit only."

Current zoning allows some multifamily housing in the Intown Residential (IR) and Highway Business (HB) districts.


The Town must have compliant regulations by December 31, 2024.

Zoning changes require Town Meeting approval. Town Meetings typically occur around May and October. Before Town Meeting could vote on zoning changes, these would have to be spelled out in detailed regulatory language and perhaps maps. This will require very substantial technical work.

Conceptual discussions and planning are likely to kick into full gear in early 2023. Meanwhile, the Town will consider possible funding sources for a technical consultant, whose work might begin in something like the middle of the year, give or take.

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