Brian DeVellis returned to the Planning Board this week with details on a development he introduced as a concept last summer. The board’s initial reaction ranged from favorable to enthusiastic.
DeVellis said he has formed a limited liability corporation with a member of the Kazarian family for the development of two tracts, already demarcated to avoid wetlands.
A 14-acre parcel, not far from the intersection of Routes 4 and 225, would accommodate two buildings for “co-housing.” Farther west, plans call for a mix of single-family, townhouse, duplex, and apartment structures on 35 acres. Both lots are about 50 percent developable, he said.
At least 25 percent of the units would enhance the town’s affordable housing inventory because DeVellis is seeking approval as a local initiative project (LIP), also known as a “friendly 40B.” Under the state law known as Chapter 40B, complexes with a 25 percent affordable component can bypass local zoning and go directly to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a comprehensive permit.
Towns and cities with more than 10 percent of their housing designated affordable are exempt from this process. But they can still employ it, with approval from the Select Board, as a way to enhance affordable options.
DeVellis referenced the 2019 town housing study and said his plan addresses eight objectives: a mix of housing options, energy-efficient housing, racial and ethnic diversity, townhouses, senior and age-restricted housing, accessible units, accessory apartments, and rental options. He told the Planning Board that “you’re probably not going to have this chance again” to address so many points.
He pointed out that he could build eight or nine houses with frontage on Carlisle Road by right.
A former long-time Bedford resident who is also an attorney, DeVellis has been a major force in local projects for many years, including The Edge Sports Center on Hartwell Road and the residential streets Sweeney Ridge Road and Hosmer Way.
He told the planning board he began discussions with the Kazarians four years ago; the land fanning northwesterly from the Routes 4 and 225 fork has been owned by the family for generations. The Northside convenience store was built by Steve Kazarian, who named it Gammy’s to honor his mother.
Tuesday’s session was the latest in a series of informational presentations on the proposal. The development team, including engineers and architects, spoke to the Council on Aging Board and the Housing Partnership and secured wetland delineations from the Conservation Commission. DeVellis also has had talks with Margot Fleishman, chair of the Select Board, and State Senator Mike Barrett. He has also written to abutters and the police, fire, and code enforcement departments.
The team plans to hold neighborhood meetings, attempting to balance the needs and concerns of the neighbors and the overall needs and concerns of the town.
DeVellis said a LIP is “a negotiated 40B with the Select Board. “I look at it as a partnership—it makes sense. How many of these items that the town is looking for can we check the boxes on?” And those can be refined with discussions, he said, even mentioning the concept of finding a use for state and community preservation funds.
At Tuesday’s virtual meeting, he presented a conceptual design of the larger parcel, with single-family houses fronting on the street, consistent with the character of Carlisle Road. Behind would be townhouses, duplexes, and apartments, including a three-story residence for the elderly.
The development team, he said, spent time considering the appearance and atmosphere of the area, asking, “What does it feel like to walk through the community?” Their vision is “a place that’s dominated by pedestrians, where people get out and meet their neighbors.” The plan features a meetinghouse, and “pocket parks.”
He also called it an “age-in-place community, where conceivably someone could begin as a renter, move into a single-family house with three bedrooms, and ultimately relocate into an accessible senior apartment.
DeVellis described the two L-shaped buildings on the smaller, eastern parcel as possible co-housing residences—private bedrooms with shared kitchens and living space. The arrangement is “essentially for younger or older persons,” he said, comparing it to “a really expensive dorm at my daughter’s school.” He emphasized the value of the outside space between the two buildings as enhancing community experiences.
He acknowledged that there are many specific topics to be addressed: a “pro forma” detailed cost breakdown, with a market study; a traffic impact study, specifics on density and unit count. For now, “We want to lay out a pathway for a LIP. that would take into account the various boards.”
Financially, he said, he is “99 percent sure this would work at 25 percent (affordable).” He said he is still trying to figure out the co-housing component, which is more experimental “We don’t see this on the marketplace.”
DeVellis also said he is “fairly confident we can make drainage infrastructure work.” He envisions a sidewalk and bicycle lane on the north side of Carlisle Road and feels the proposal is poised to help reinvigorate the North Road-Carlisle Road commercial zone. Architect Jeremy Baldwin detailed universal design and sustainable energy concepts.
“I love where you’re going with this,” said board member Jacinda Barbehenn. Her colleague Chris Gittins said, “My initial reaction is positive.” Steve Hagan added that the plans are far preferable to the construction of eight “McMansions.”
Other endorsements during the meeting came from Council on Aging board chair Sandra Hackman and Christina Wilgren, chair of the Housing Partnership. Wilgren also called for more affordable ownership opportunities.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763