By Marya Dantzer
The Planning Board has begun identifying concrete steps toward an in-depth review of zoning bylaws, beginning with the category Industrial Mixed Zoning (IMU), as a step toward implementing quality-of-life and economic-development goals articulated in the town’s Comprehensive Plan (The Bedford we Want, https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/bedfordma/files/file/file/comprehensive_plan_12_10_2013_1.pdf), Following a series of more wide-ranging discussions at recent meetings, on June 24 the Board discussed an incremental approach that would update Garber termed “modern use classifications,” as well as recent experience with mixed-use development.
Garber and the Board have repeatedly noted that the town’s zoning regulations for office/industrial/research & development property are obsolete and incompatible with the 21st-century market: many business structures in town reflect 1960s standards regarding, for example, height restrictions. Revisions are therefore important to building Bedford’s commercial tax base by enhancing the town’s market competitiveness against surrounding communities.
The current IMU zoning section, enacted in 2002, allowed for combined commercial/retail/residential use by special permit, with the goal of preserving open space, reducing traffic congestion, facilitating efficient use of parking areas, and increasing proximity of housing to nonresidential services. However, this endeavor has proved impracticable, as demonstrated by the dearth of combined-use developments and failure of the Village at Taylor Pond complex to attract business tenants. In contrast, the combination of office and restaurant uses with shared parking at the corner of Middlesex Tpk. and Burlington Rd. has proven successful.
The Planning Board is therefore considering revising the IMU bylaw without provision for a residential component, with potential warranting of such a proposal at the Fall Special Town Meeting
Among technical aspects of revising the IMU zoning section is adjusting floor-area ratio (FAR) standards, in part as a means of providing a “density bonus” that would be attractive to developers and consistent with conserving open space. In its discussions going forward, the Planning Board expects to more precisely define the type of commercial-tax developments the town wishes to attract, based on data being gathered by the Planning Department regarding current and future development markets.