One of the advantages of Chapter 40B is that projects can be negotiated. ZBAs frequently try to nego¬tiate reductions in density or the scale of proposed buildings, architectural design changes, housing types and unit sizes, open space and outdoor recreation amenities, landscaping, and off-site mitiga¬tion such as connecting nearby sidewalks to improve pedestrian safety. Sometimes ZBAs negotiate for more low- or moderate-income units, especially in homeownership developments where the increase would directly benefit the community’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI).
In communities with an active housing partnership or similar committee, developers should meet with them early on, well before filing a comprehensive permit application with the ZBA. Informal review and negotiation by the housing partnership can benefit the community and certainly the devel¬oper. It usually leads to a smoother and more productive process when the comprehensive permit application is filed with the ZBA. Still, the negotiations process should not end when the public hearing begins. Since ZBAs will like¬ly find it difficult to conduct negotiations while also trying to decide a case in a public hearing, responsibility for continued negotiations of¬ten falls to a qualified municipal employee, the housing partnership, or some other local offi¬cial.