Hopkinton withdraws its zoning amendments 

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 11-05-2023 7:26 AM

Hopkinton’s economic development committee has withdrawn its proposed zoning amendments aimed at creating more affordable housing opportunities in the town.

After residents expressed their concerns at public hearings, the committee concluded that passing the zoning amendments next year would be challenging due to the lack of confidence among residents and the need for further education in the community.

“If as a community, we aren’t able to provide housing for the different structures of individuals, seniors and families, we will end up with a more homogeneous community and that is a choice as a community we can make, but we can’t make that choice without having a conversation,” said committee member Andrea Folsom at the economic development committee meeting on Wednesday.

Several issues contributed to the committee’s decision to withdraw the amendments.

The Housing Committee is still in the process of assessing Hopkinton’s current housing availability and future housing requirements. Additionally, confusion surrounding data and statistics regarding the projected influx of residents into Hopkinton created worry among residents.

To accommodate smaller, more affordable dwellings in alignment with the town’s master plan, the committee proposed four recommendations for the zoning ordinances.

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One of the recommendations suggests altering the zoning regulations to permit more single-family houses on smaller lots, potentially allowing for four or even eight units on a single acre, as opposed to the current regulation that requires at least two and a half acres for a single-family house.

The other recommendations focus on amending the zoning ordinances at three specific locations: Hart’s Corner, the Exit 6/Maple Street area, and land near Burnham Intervale and Pine Street.

These changes would enable a mix of residential buildings within commercial and industrial zones, promoting denser housing options and the introduction of affordable housing alternatives.

In response to the amendments, Hopkinton resident Robert Knight expressed concerns in public comment and said that the proposed overlay districts are a crude tool with the potential to inadvertently cause long-term damage to the town.

“Any new housing development should be close to village centers,” wrote Knight. “Putting new housing out at Exit 6 and Hart’s Corner seems bad for the residents and bad for the town as it provides services.”

The widespread opposition from residents primarily stems from concerns of potentially losing the town’s rural character and worries about an increased tax burden.

“We are vehemently opposed to the changes,” wrote Garret and Deborah Mikita, who recently moved to Hopkinton from Arizona. “After a countrywide search, we chose Hopkinton for the rural environment, clean air, open space, wildlife and the community feel. We don’t want that to change.”

The need for more housing is supported by Central New Hampshire Regional Planning’s study that predicts Hopkinton will experience a substantial 9.5% increase in its population by 2050, potentially adding around 500 more residents to the town.

“I don’t think you need to give up or sacrifice a community with rural character to more densely develop or to bring in non-residential development,” said Steven Whitley. “But I recognize that people can disagree with that and there’s some nuance to having a defined rural character.”