WAKEFIELD — The Planning Board will not be recommending favorable action on a citizens’ petition Town Meeting article calling for minimum compliance with the state’s MBTA Multifamily Zoning mandate. They will, however recommend favorable Town Meeting action on their own expanded compliance map, which goes well beyond what the state is requiring for a multifamily housing district.

At this week’s Planning Board meeting, Town Councilor Edward Dombroski presented the citizens’ petition, which will appear as Article 18 on the April 29 Annual Town Meeting warrant. 

He began by reviewing the state mandate. According to Section 3A of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40A, an MBTA Community must have at least one zoning district of reasonable size within half a mile of the commuter rail station in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right.

Failure to comply, Dombroski noted, would result in loss of state grants and possible litigation against the town.

He pointed out that the state mandate results in loss of local control. 

The main purpose of the citizen’s petition, he said, is to offer Town Meeting voters a minimum compliance alternative to the plan developed by the Planning Board’s working Group, which would allow more multifamily housing over a larger area than the state is requiring.

Dombroski pointed out that the state mandate would require a capacity of 1,696 housing units in a Wakefield multifamily district, which would be centered within a half mile of the North Avenue train station. But the plan developed by the Planning Board’s Working Group calls for 2,359 units over an area that extends to the east beyond Main Street.

Dombroski noted that there is a public outcry for more control of 40B developments but at the same time the town is voluntarily ceding control over development in a way that’s not required by law. 

“This article says, ‘Let’s do what the law requires, but not beyond,’” Dombroski explained.

He observed that the vast majority of people who spoke at the public hearings on the MBTA Multifamily Zoning Plan favored following the law but not exceeding its requirements.

When the hearing was opened to public comment, Dawn Millward of Emerald Street led off. 

“The community has spoken loudly and clearly,” she said, “but the Planning Board is not hearing us.” She advocated sticking to the law’s minimum requirements. “That’s why they’re there,” she said.

Bronwyn Della-Volpe of Cyrus Street thanked Dombroski for “giving the voters a choice.” 

Julie Scott of Central Street also supported the citizens’ petition minimal compliance plan, saying that she was concerned with the impact that added housing in one area of town will have on municipal infrastructure and the schools.

“With multifamily housing comes students,” she said.

Scot McCauley of Walden Road asked for the dollar amount in grants that the town would be losing if it doesn’t comply. He pointed out that these grants are not guaranteed.

“We are a town for a reason,” he said. “We don’t want to be a city.”

Deborah Fox of Alyssa Drive said that the town could just refuse to comply with the state mandate. The state grant money at stake, she insisted, “is not worth losing our town.”

Planning Board member Matthew Lowry questioned a provision in the citizens’ petition that would require the Planning Board to take public input on every future building project within the proposed district.

Requiring public input on every project “would be onerous,” Lowry said.

Dombroski disagreed.

“Public input is never onerous,” he said, adding that Lowry’s comment reflects why residents feel that they are not being heard by the Planning Board.

Planning Board Chairman Theo Noell made a motion that the Planning Board recommend unfavorable Town Meeting action on the citizens’ petition under Article 18. Jim Hogan seconded the motion. After a brief discussion, the Planning Board voted 5-0 to recommend unfavorable action on the citizens’ petition article at Town Meeting.

Board members subsequently voted unanimously to recommend favorable Town Meeting action on their own expanded compliance plan under Article 17.