ROCKPORT – The planning board hopes to bring more housing to Rockport with three proposed zoning regulations.

All three were described by Chris Kuschel of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council during a Thursday evening town hall meeting on Zoom. It followed another meeting the day before which discussed reforms and updates to current zoning regulations.

Rockport’s population is declining at one of the highest rates in the state, Kuschel said. The percentage of school-aged children continues to decline while that of residents over the age of 70 increases. Additionally, the median home price in the city has increased by 80% over the past decade.

The Rockporters know that housing is a top priority for the city. In a 2016-2017 Community Vision Survey, residents voted “more affordable housing options” as the #1 pressing issue.

The first proposed by-law will allow for more secondary suites or apartments built from a single-family home. The city has regulations for secondary suites, but according to Kuschel, the regulations make building one almost unreachable in some situations.

This new by-law will allow secondary suites in all zoned areas of the city. Short-term rentals will be prohibited, which means residents will not be able to build such a unit just to rent it out on AirBnB. Rentals must be for 30 days or more, and those who break the rules will be penalized.

The bylaw also limits accessory dwelling units to 900 square feet and provides design requirements to maintain the look and feel of the main house.

The second proposal for a regulation aims to preserve free space when developing new districts. Rockport has bylaws that deal with open-space residential development, but Kuschel described them as “dense and cumbersome.”

With the new bylaw, 60% of the land in a new neighborhood development will have to remain open. Houses will be more clustered, but more land will be preserved and the city will save on water and waste removal.

The third proposed bylaw would implement a transit-oriented village overlay district on Station Square. This would allow for mixed-use housing and commercial buildings, townhouses and multi-family homes in the area. Since this is an overlay and not a rezoning, all existing permitted uses, such as the Whistlestop Mall, will remain intact.

With the proposed stacking, new units would be limited to 2 1/2 stories. Other requirements include window percentages, uniform rooflines, and “New England neighborhood” facades.

Housing near the MBTA station has been under construction since 2019, when Kuschel was first hired to advise the city on its options. At the time, the Metropolitan Area Planning Board developed model apartment complexes to show city officials and residents the housing options in the area. However, construction could not begin until the city rezoned the area.

These proposed by-laws must be approved at the municipal assembly this spring. Typically, changes to zoning bylaws require a two-thirds majority vote, but thanks to new state legislation to build more housing, the three new bylaws will only need a vote. simple majority.