Hearings Begin on Proposed Two-Family Dwelling Zoning Changes

November 21, 2022

The Bedford Planning Board last week held a public hearing regarding its draft revisions to the zoning bylaw related to two-family dwellings. The hearing will be continued on Dec. 13.

The board plans to include the amendments on the 2023 Annual Town Meeting warrant.

The proposal 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. 

Newly constructed or converted dwellings after March 1, 1945 will be permitted if they are fully conforming and meet the requirements of a 0.15 floor-area ratio, maximum lot coverage of 10 percent, and that 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 in Bedford. Accessory dwelling units may not be permitted on any lot. No more than two parking spaces may be permitted in a front yard; additional parking spaces must be in a rear or side yard, or within a garage or carport. 

Parking spaces must be located in a way that both dwelling units will have at least one parking space with direct, unimpeded, street access. Furthermore, if there are more than two outdoor parking spaces or if 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.

Jacinda Barbehenn informed fellow board members that the Bedford Housing Partnership raised equity concerns regarding the disqualification of non-conforming lots from converting to two-family dwellings. Hundreds of lots in Bedford are considered non-conforming as they predate the adoption of zoning.

Member Amy Lloyd agreed that clarification was needed to avoid confusion regarding nonconforming lots existing before March 1, 1945. 

Elena Zorn of the Partnership expressed fear that the proposed bylaw amendments would cause equity issues, particularly related to income levels. 

She also noted that Bedford’s high housing prices make it more difficult for younger people to purchase property within the town, saying that the prices could lead to Bedford becoming “a dying town.”

Planning Board member Todd Crowley clarified the fact that changes to non-conforming lots would need to be brought to the Zoning Board of Appeals for review rather than excluded outright.

Lloyd offered her support for equitable bylaws, but emphasized the need to create bylaws that will get passed and warned against “allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

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