Four years after a survey of residents pointed to bed-and-breakfasts as an opportunity for economic growth, Milton still hasn't updated zoning to allow them.
But with the master planning process under way, change could finally be afoot.
“I anticipate the Master Plan Committee will address it, and I think it’s the right committee to do it,” said Planning Committee Chairman Alexander Whiteside, who has concerns about the zoning. “They are going to do a lot of public outreach, and I think this is the sort of thing the public should make known what they think.”
The move to a new committee is promising, as the issue has languished within the divided Planning Board for years.
“A few of the board members want to know all the particulars before they take a vote on it,” said Planning Director William Clark. “They want to know that the rules and regulations are already set, the coordination between the Building [Department], Board of Health, and special permit granting committee are clearly set up. At this time, they are not.”
Whiteside dismissed the four-year time frame as excessive, and said the survey, which involved over 300 residents, was far from scientific.
More important is nailing down answers to key issues, and developing zoning that won’t hurt the town, he said.
“It isn’t an issue that’s being ignored,” Whiteside said. “I personally think it’s a very tricky issue, because of it does introduce a commercial element into a residential district.”
Concerns included traffic, the visibility of the marketing, not to mention the health oversight and housing prerequisites to develop this kind of use.
Those questions halted the board from putting an article on the October Town Meeting warrant that would have kick-started change.
Emily Innis, a Planning Board member and member of the Master Planning Committee, said she was disappointed the discussion had gone on for so long without action, but was optimistic the Master Plan would lead to some action.
“It does make sense to wait a little longer, but I’d like to see it go before the town at some point,” she said. “People have expressed support in the past, and the survey indicated people were interested in looking at this idea.“
Hopes are high to introduce some kind of rezoning by October 2014, Innis said. A specific plan will be drawn up through an overall discussion of the town’s zoning, which will be analyzed to preserve the community’s integrity while promoting new economic goals.
Though Whiteside had his share of concerns, Innis said bed-and-breakfasts made a lot of sense for the town.
“I think for Milton, it has such historic homes and historically large homes, it’s something that would make a lot of sense to allow people to preserve some of those larger homes in cases where families maybe aren’t as large as they used to be,” she said.
Add to the fact that Milton is close to Boston, in an area flush with natural resources such as the Blue Hills and Neponset River, and is the heart of several educational institutions.
“My view is bed-and-breakfasts would be appealing to those markets,” Innis said.