The recent Arcadia Street conflict which saw a neighborhood unite to oppose a plan to locate an educational program with transitional housing for Revere’s homeless population on the middle of their densely packed dead-end street left Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo with a bad taste in his mouth. Rizzo has proposed asking Mayor Brian Arrigo to request that Revere’s state delegation file legislation that would bring the Dover Amendment into question. The Dover Amendment is a state law adopted in 1950 that exempts proposals for religious, educational and agricultural land uses from local zoning ordinances and bylaws.
Rizzo sees the Dover Amendment as an antiquated law that fails to take into account how densely populated urban communities have become. And how much times have changed. He feels the law puts communities that impose sensible zoning regulations on such projects at risk for protracted and costly litigation and, even worse, allegations of unlawful discrimination that can mean civil penalties amounting to millions of dollars.
“We want to help people who need it, but we have to be strategic about where we place these facilities,” said Rizzo.
He conceded he doesn’t have any specific suggestions for the legislature on how to revamp the law. “But I know it needs to be tweaked,” he said. “Developers know if they can implement the Dover Amendment in virtually any neighborhood they want to build in, they can use the law as leverage to get what they want to go forward with a plan that might otherwise be rejected by a city council or board of aldermen.
Rizzo seemed confident that Representatives Jessica Giannino and Jeffrey Turco and Senator Lydia Edwards would be able to find ways to protect neighborhoods from developers who want to hold the Dover Amendment over their heads. Rizzo said he did not think that was the situation on Arcadia Street but the more he looked at the law, the more he began seeing the bigger ramifications. “I think there’s a problem with the way it sits now in state law,” he said.
Fellow councillors congratulated Rizzo for a great proposal. City Council President Patrick Keefe said the law needs to be adjusted to fit the times, and anyone who buys a single-family house, a multifamily house or a business has an absolute say in what happens next door.