The Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals is on the verge of approving a comprehensive permit for construction of a 20-apartment development at 330 South Rd., behind the southeast corner with Summer Street.
The proposal, which has been before the board four sessions over three months, needs only formal responses to the Fire Department and Department of Public Works comments before board deliberations. The discussion was continued until Jan. 12.
“I think this application is in pretty good shape. You have done a good job in addressing our concerns,” said member Angelo Colasante at the most recent hearing session last Thursday. “I don’t think it would take much to get it across the finish line.” Member Tom Flannery said, “The applicant has done a nice job. We’re just dotting I’s and crossing T’s.”
The so-called Village at Merriam Farm, owned by Jennifer and Steve Soillis of Concord, comprises four buildings on close to a two-acre tract. Three of the buildings – two barns and a house – are to be repurposed, according to the proposal. There is also a new two-unit townhouse, each with a garage.
As a Local Initiative Project, designed under state law to facilitate affordable housing, the proposal has been endorsed by the Select Board, the Housing Partnership, and the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The zoning board is the last stop in the process.
The DPW pointed out that stormwater policy requires removal of phosphorus, said Pamela Brown, attorney for the developer. She replied, “It looks like we can add some structural controls.” She added that plans call for infiltration of all stormwater on site with no outfalls directing storm flows away.
“In our opinion these are engineering details,” Brown said. “We don’t believe they are going to change anything that the board is looking at.”
Fire Department comments need clarification, Brown said, as it appears that the plans are already in compliance with recommendations.
“We will make sure we work with the Fire Department and make sure they are on board,” she said.
Brown also addressed previous board concerns about the unit designed for tenants with disabilities; it is not a basement apartment, she said, and has “complete walkout at grade level” and is close to parking and amenities.
She also said landscaping and fencing are planned to address concerns of abutters, particularly near parking areas. “We would like to continue that positive relationship” with neighbors, she said.
Taylor Dowdy, the project engineer from BSC Group, noted that landscaping will be concentrated on the abutters’ side “so they aren’t looking at a fence.”
A new area of disagreement arose after an abutter requested in writing that an additional five parking spaces be paved. Those spaces now exist only on paper as a reserve if needed.
“We really felt we were doing our best due diligence to show additional spaces that could be constructed, if necessary,” Brown said. She noted that “the number of spaces exceeds what would be required for single-family homes. There are 44 paved and five banked, which far exceeds the two per unit” required under zoning.
“We never want to pave green space if we don’t have to,” she said, allowing that if there was some way to determine a need post-occupancy, it could be addressed then.
Member Kay Hamilton favored paving the spaces. “There are going to be more cars than you think and you are going to need as much parking as possible,” she said.
“We are balancing another very important goal of community – character and green space,” Brown said. “Paving would disrupt not only the five spaces, but also the surrounding area. Forcing that much pavement in the front yard at this juncture is not acceptable,” she said.
Member Lucille Wilson pointed out that “there are more than two spots for every unit right now.” Karl Winkler, alternate member, cautioned that the Bedford Gardens neighborhood is showing signs of “urbanization” because some parking is overflowing on the street.
Planning Board member Todd Crowley pointed out that excess pavement contributes to more storm runoff and harming. He suggested the board address the option as a condition for approval; “I feel strongly that converting them immediately is not what the town wants.”
Colasante, who is serving as acting chair, said the matter will be part of the board’s upcoming deliberations.