The Bedford Housing Partnership Wednesday unanimously reaffirmed its December vote of support for a proposed 139-unit Carlisle Road housing development. https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2022/12/housing-partnership-gives-the-nod-to-carlisle-road-project/.
However, the panel added a clause encouraging eventual expansion of the number of affordable units.
Support from the Partnership is key because it’s one of the requirements for a Local Initiative Project (LIP), which under state law allows the developer to bypass zoning density requirements if 25 percent of the units meet the state definition of affordable.
This week’s vote, which came after nearly two hours of at times contentious discussion, noted that the proposal “meets the goals of the Bedford Housing Study of 2019” for a more diverse inventory.
The panel’s reaffirmation added an aspiration: “when the numbers become more clear, the (Municipal Affordable Housing Trust) will get together with the developer and the ZBA to seek other affordability levels and the funding to support that.” The Zoning Board of Appeals is charged with deciding on a comprehensive permit for a LIP.
Partnership Chair Christina Wilgren opened the meeting by explaining that the Select Board – which also must approve a LIP – asked for a review of the original decision. The reasons were that no vote had been called for in the posted agenda and members had not had sufficient time to review the materials or get into the details about adding more affordable units.
Shawn Hanegan, Select Board liaison to the partnership, reiterated the need for sufficient time to review all the materials before the meeting. Hanegan said he hopes the partnership can explore with the developer how to meet the “missing middle” in housing, and mentioned the need for more informational outreach.
Public information sessions on the proposal have been scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 24, and Tuesday, Feb. 14, each at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.
Brian DeVellis, the landscape architect and land-use attorney proposing the housing, told the partnership he has personally contacted neighbors on Carlisle Road and has left flyers for residents close to the proposed development. He added he is willing to speak with anyone about the venture.
Partnership member Ellis Kriesberg, who lives on Winterberry Way near the development site, offered to attend the public meetings and advocate for the project. He will also distribute flyers around his neighborhood.
Housing Partnership members asked about the prospects for expanding the inventory of affordable units, including changing the income eligibility formula and expanding ownership options.
Robert Engler, consultant for the project, explained why it is too early in the process to answer some of these questions. Engler is a veteran housing developer and former chair of the Newton Housing Partnership,
When he started in his career, the gap between the prices of an affordable and a market rate unit was $50,000. It is now $600,000. “More affordability is always the goal,” he said, “but how to make it work?”
Engler said there will be many opportunities for answers as the project makes its way through town boards. “You don’t discuss the pro forma until you see all the conditions the ZBA might impose,” he said of the financial projections. “That will come at the end of the zoning board process and the Housing Partnership can weigh in on that.” Asking for it now is not possible, he stressed.
Elizabeth Rust, Regional Housing Services Office, reiterated that these are conceptual plans and this is a first step: If the plan is endorsed by the Select Board, then it needs to be cleared by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The Zoning Board of Appeals makes the final decision.
Rust, a veteran of shepherding LIP projects to completion, said there is ample time for the public process. It’s at the zoning board level when all the financials can be put on the table and questions addressed, she said.