Planning Board Continues Review its Draft for Two-Family Housing

The Bedford Planning Board last week continued to review draft zoning bylaw amendments that would expand opportunities for two-family dwellings.

After some members voiced concerns regarding the scope of the proposed revisions, the board determined that it will continue the discussion during its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 26 on Zoom.

The provisions, drafted by Planning Director Tony Fields, are “intended to give property owners a choice between building a single-family dwelling or a two-family dwelling of similar overall structure size.”

Additionally, the draft states that the amendments represent an effort to provide a greater number of dwelling units available for rent and increase the choice range for housing accommodations.

The board has expressed hope that the changes would foster greater diversity, and encourage a “more economic and energy-efficient use of the town’s housing supply.”

The draft establishes that any dwellings existing as of March 1, 1945 can be converted to a two-family dwelling, provided that any modification to the dwelling is less than 600 square feet.

New or converted dwellings after March 1, 1945 will be permitted if the lots are conforming and meet the new requirements of a .15 floor-area ratio and maximum lot coverage of 10 percent. Any modifications to the dwelling are less than 600 square feet.

Proposed modifications of more than 600 square feet will be subject to review by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The draft additionally establishes regulations that will apply to all two-family dwellings, many focusing on parking.

No more than two parking spaces may be permitted in a front yard; additional spaces must be in a rear or side yard, a garage or carport. Parking spaces must be located in a way that both dwelling units will have at least one space with unimpeded street access.

If there are more than two outdoor parking spaces, or there is a parking space in the front yard and parallel to the street, there must be sufficient screening, such as plantings, walls, or fences.

Also, accessory dwelling units will be prohibited from two-family lots.

The board requested that further edits be made regarding two-family dwellings on non-conforming lots. (There are many non-conforming lots, laid out before minimum lot sizes were established in residential districts.)

The board offered a variety of opinions on the draft. Chris Gittens expressed concern that the current bylaw may be construed as unfair to residents residing on existing small, non-conforming lots. Jacinda Barbehenn echoed his concerns.

Amy Lloyd suggested keeping the bylaw as similar to the current rendition as possible, particularly regarding parking regulations. She also recommended adding more specific criteria to clarify any review of lots before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The board also reviewed projections for school enrollment in an effort to determine the best way to meet the town’s changing population. While the board agreed that the process was useful, it concluded that the projections do not fully quantify changes that have occurred since the pandemic.

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