Board Member Says Public Input a Key to Housing Plan

December 21, 2022

Bedford Town officials want the developer of a proposed multi-faceted housing complex to give residents opportunities to comment and get answers to questions.

Select Board member Shawn Hanegan said at Monday’s board meeting that “the worst thing would be for people to feel they didn’t know. Let’s get everything on the table so we can make an intelligent decision in the best interests of the town.”

“I think there’s a general consensus that this offers an opportunity,” Hanegan said. “But we want to make sure we do it correctly,” he added. Hanegan is the Select Board’s liaison to the Housing Partnership.

Brian DeVellis, the attorney and landscape architect who grew up in Bedford, is proposing 139 units on about 35 acres on a site on the north side of Carlisle Road, east of the compost center across the street.

DeVellis says his plan is in response to preferences expressed in the 2019 town housing study. His plan calls for a mixture of single-family houses, duplexes, and townhouses, as well as an apartment complex for older residents.

Town Manager Sarah Stanton agreed: “Many residents have asked about opportunities to ask questions.” She added that the Housing Partnership, even though it has voted its support, is going to review the details at a meeting next month.

Stanton said she will reach out to DeVellis about scheduling public forums, as well as to ensure that he share details with all town committees.

The Select Board is a key player because DeVellis’s proposal is defined as a Local Initiative Project (LIP), following a state law that allows bypassing zoning density requirements as long as at least 25 percent of the units meet the state definition of affordable housing.

Under a LIP, the plan has to be approved by the Select Board and the Housing Partnership (which voted in favor last week) as well as the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Then it lands on the Zoning Board of Appeals agenda for final approval. 

Rather than building a few single-family houses by right, the proposal has “a chance to really address the missing middle housing, downsizing seniors, young college graduates who want to come back.”

Hanegan acknowledged that DeVellis has reached out to neighbors of the site. The next step should be a forum for the “community at large,” he said. “Our role is significant here and I think there is a lot of potential. The housing study says there is a need. But if we really want to do this right, get the public input.”

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