Residents Query Planning Board on “Overlay District” Zoning Bylaw Amendment

The Planning Board held a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed amendment to the zoning bylaw creating an overlay district to allow assisted living facilities.

A revised draft will be presented to the Select Board on Feb. 1 for inclusion in the town meeting warrant.

The proposed district covers a portion of South Road and Summer Street to the Lexington town line. The amendment has been proposed in response to a project from assisted living developer LCB Senior Living for a complex on South Road at Evergreen Avenue.

Planning Board Member Shawn Hanegan gave a short recap of why an overlay district is being used in this scenario. In order to avoid spot zoning, the overlay is designed to create an opportunity for the LCB project as well as an avenue for future developers of assisted living facilities. The overlay district would be used along with a site review, and a special permit would also be required.

The public hearing portion of the meeting began with Lee Vorderer asking that some accessibility requirements be added to the draft, including the width of corridors, door width, and the possibility of accessibility infrastructure like grab bars in appropriate locations.

Planning Director Tony Fields responded that the current language gives the board a greater ability to work with developers on what accessibility features can or should be added. Fields later noted that those exact issues are addressed in language written for Pine Hill Crossing, the former Coast Guard housing on Pine Hill Road.

Amy Lloyd of the Planning Board added that, for the population affected by the draft bylaw, accessibility features would be standard. However, other members of the board disagreed, saying that they would like to see language giving baselines for the three accessibility issues.

Lee Bloom of LCB noted that all LCB units are made to be adaptable to specific needs, mobility, or otherwise.

Armen Zildjian asked how the Board would determine if a project’s density and design are appropriate for the neighborhood. Lloyd said she took issue with density, a quantitative variable, being used in a qualitative context.

Attorney Pamela Brown, representing LCB, noted that the current language allows the board more control over density levels in the special permit portion of the amendment. Fields also pointed out that there is a 100-unit limit in place, making additional requirements on density unnecessary.

Ultimately, the Board agreed to add language stating that any increases in density will not be considered.

Lloyd raised an issue with the dimensional regulations on side and back yard setbacks.  The current draft requires a minimum 50-foot side and front setback, while the rear is only 20 feet if adjacent to a public space or trail. Lloyd wanted to amend the 20-foot measurement to 25 in order to make their intention clearer, as 25 is half of 50.

This prompted a larger discussion on buffer sizes and proximity to public spaces. Steve Hagan, Planning Board, noted that at Carleton-Willard Village, the level of distance between the units and public areas is much greater to preserve the emotional safety of the residents.

Bloom said that LCB has had no issues with smaller yard sizes, with the majority of people walking by the facilities being residents’ families.

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George Epple
January 28, 2021 10:39 pm

Can we require that any construction must be energy efficient or net-zero!

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