Developing a climate plan


The state of Massachusetts wants more control over municipal decision-making and is threatening to withhold state funding from cities and towns that do not comply with its social and climate goals disguised as zoning.

New state guidelines based on a law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker last January require that every community with MBTA service (like Wakefield) must have at least one zoning district near a transit station in which multi-family housing is allowed by right.

“By right” means that developers can come in and build multi-family residential buildings without the bother of getting a Special Permit, variance or other relief from the local Zoning Board.

Towns that don’t comply would lose state funding.

According to the Baker Administration, the “lack of zoning for multi-family housing is a barrier for new housing development in Massachusetts.”

That there are any barriers whatsoever to new housing development in Massachusetts will come as a surprise to many in Wakefield, who at this point would welcome any obstacle to the skyscrapers they imagine going up on every residential street corner.

“This law is not a housing production mandate,” according to Baker’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Mike Kennealy.

Good to know. So, if it’s not a housing mandate, what is it?

“It is all about setting the table for more transit-oriented housing in the years and decades ahead,” the state’s Housing Secretary explained, “which is not just good housing policy, but good climate and transportation policy too.”

Of course it is.

At least now we know what the new state mandate is really about. Behind pretty much everything these days are the twin causes of climate and transportation, which go together like lithium mining and Chinese forced labor.

Environmentalists love their choo-choo trains and think that multi-family housing near train stations is awesome – for other people. The enviros themselves live in single-family homes with multi-car garages where they charge their electric vehicles’ lithium batteries with power generated by fossil fuels.

And this time, you can’t blame the local Zoning Board. This one is entirely the doing of the state legislators and governor you elected – plus the climate lobby that has their ear. Together, they want to use state funds to bribe towns like Wakefield to go along with their climate fixation.

Wakefield has been way ahead of the curve in terms of creating transit-oriented housing. Not that the town will get any credit from the state for encouraging housing development near public transportation hubs for the last seven years – with a bonus affordable housing component not included in the state mandate.

In 2015 Town Meeting passed a Zoning Bylaw change that made it easier for developers to propose multi-family housing and mixed-use projects within walking distance of commuter rail stations or bus routes. The idea was that communities designed in this way promote walking and healthier lifestyles. The other assumption is that multifamily housing within walking distance of the downtown and public transportation means that those residents are less likely to have cars, which would be a benefit in terms of traffic, parking and, most importantly, climate.

So, if you’re looking to assign blame for all the recent housing development in town, look no further than that 2015 Zoning Bylaw change. That’s what led to most of the new multifamily housing that people have been railing against in recent years.

And now, to achieve its own climate goals, the state is making Wakefield designate an entire district near a transit line where new multi-family housing can be built “by right.”

So, when you start to see even more development in town, just remember – it’s for the planet.

[This column originally appeared in the August 25, 2022 Wakefield Daily Item.]

11 Responses to “Developing a climate plan”

  1. 1 John Breithaupt

    You continue to scorn things that you haven’t taken the trouble to understand. Climate change is a real threat. You can’t dismiss it just because it wasn’t a threat in 1962 or whenever your ideal moment in time was. And people are trying to find ways to put the brake on climate change. Some of these ways may work, some won’t, but at least people are trying, which is more than you have ever done. You will continue to mock the good faith efforts of others from your vantage point of unearned privilege, and you will win your little following in town. You will not win the respect of people who are trying to understand our problems and trying to make the world a little better.

    • 2 Mark Sardella

      Thanks for the enlightening comment, John. I see we’ve moved past “agree to disagree” to the personal. At least now I know.

      • 3 John Breithaupt

        I am sorry for the heated tone of my remarks. But what I would like to see from you, Mark, is constructive criticism, not just a dismissal of someone’s good faith efforts to make the world a better place with the wave of a hand and the declaration that they are ‘’woke’’. Sneering is not an argument. It does not inform the public.

        About the state’s requirement that towns with MBTA stations allow (but not mandate) multi-family dwellings near stations, you could have argued that this would have interfered with the public’s access to the stations, or that it would do nothing to mitigate global warming, or that global warming is harmless anyway — something like that. But you chose instead merely to mock the idea and its proponents. This does nothing to make the public better informed.

        Mark, I find your straight reporting to be impeccable — clear, complete, and accurate — no small feat. I just wish you would put a little more effort into your opinion pieces, instead of just dashing off pieces filled with spleen and contempt. That’s easy, but it accomplishes nothing except further polarizing public opinion.

    • 4 Ed Cutting

      Using the UN’s own models, if we do EVERYTHING, it will reduce temp — by a 0.00001 degree….

      The issue is China…..

  2. 5 Mark Sardella

    I could have done all of the things that you suggest. But that wasn’t what the column was about. It was about a specific piece of state legislation that will increase development in a town that is already reeling from perceived overdevelopment.
    I could have made the dry, intellectual arguments that you suggest – if I were trying to get a good grade and impress a college professor.
    But a newspaper columnist’s job is to be entertaining and provocative as well as informative, regardless of the size of his “following.” If I want even fewer readers, I’ll take your advice.

    • 6 John Breithaupt

      Isn’t it possible to be entertaining without being misleading? You give the impression that people who are worried about climate change are a bunch of pretentious busy bodies with insidious hidden agendas. I assure you that most such people (I’m one) are not. They are, believe it or not, genuinely concerned.

      Writing columns is hard — I don’t know how you do it. Being a technical writer was hard enough, but I always had something to write about, and the way to write about it was given. You have to find something to write about as well a way to write about it. And a way to be entertaining to boot. It’s tough to be Don Marquis.

      But encouraging people to sneer at people who are trying to make the world a little better is not a good way to entertain them.

      • 7 Ed cutting

        John, the actual SCIENCE behind climate change is no more solid than the science that was behind eugenics a century ago.

        The earth wobbles — gravity from the entire universe. Etc.

  3. 8 Ed Cutting

    Yes, Wakefield permitted lots of transit-oriented housing along North Ave and now the MBTA is ELIMINATING THE BUS ROUTE!!!

    • 9 John Breithaupt

      Ed, You write that the science behind climate change is no more solid than the science behind eugenics was a century ago. Where did you pick up that egregious scrap of misinformation?

      You might want to read ‘’What We Know About Climate Change’’ by Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Physics at MIT.

      • 10 Ed cutting,

        And you might want to read some of Margaret Sanger’s stuff.

        The documentation supporting racism is more solid than your documentation — and equally ideological.

      • 11 Ed cutting

        John, look up the Skoal Hoax.

        He was making a point — and 20 years later, things are far worse. There are numerous studies showing that the majority of research can not be duplicated — ie is wrong.

        And that doesn’t even get into political bias. Never forget that Michael Mann is a product of UMass Amherst.

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