After five sessions with the Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals, the proposed 20-unit apartment complex at 330 South Rd. finally has a comprehensive permit…. well, almost.
Last week’s fifth meeting between the board and Atty. Pamela Brown, representing owners Jennifer and Steven Soillis, consisted mainly of a two-hour review of a 20-page comprehensive permit document prepared by Brown. The town’s code enforcement director, Chris Laskey, was an active participant in that discussion.
The attorney and the board agreed to schedule one more meeting – on Thursday, Jan. 26 – to finish the process, so the language can be reviewed by town counsel and individual board members.
The comprehensive permit is the final step in what is defined as a Local Initiative Project (LIP), which under state law can bypass zoning density requirements if a percentage of the units meets the state definition of affordable. As required under state law, the LIP was endorsed by the Housing Partnership and Select Board, and cleared by the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
All of those approvals were months ago. The Zoning Board series of hearings began in September.
The so-called Village at Merriam Farm comprises four buildings on close to a two-acre tract on the southeast corner of South Road and Summer Street. 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.
The plans have been evolving for three years, Brown said. “We’re saving a house and barns, and we worked hard to come up with the appropriate unit mix. It provides needed housing that could be attractive to everyone from aging empty-nesters to disabled veterans to young professionals buying their first home.”
One potential sticking point was whether the permit should require paving green space to create five parking spaces. Under the current plan, those spaces are “banked” for potential use. The main advocate for paving was Gary Lesanto, an abutter on South Road. The issue was resolved after a lengthy discussion when Brown drafted a condition authorizing the code enforcement officer to require paving if town officials receive multiple complaints about on-street parking from tenants and neighbors. Lesanto said he still would prefer making the paving a condition for the permit, but allowed that “the language provides a lifeline should the issue arise.”
Brown said all of the concerns and conditions stipulated by the Fire Department and Department of Public Works were acceptable and could be part of the permit conditions. She noted that compliance with DPW standards is required for a certificate of occupancy.
One request by Brown is still up in the air. She wants to include in the agreement exemptions from standard sewer and water connection fees. Brown’s rationale was that the services are already available on the property, the work will be done by private contractors, and the town in effect is a co-applicant of the project.
The total value of the connection fees is between $50,000 and $70,000, depending on whether connections to existing buildings would be charged. The money would end up in free cash if it exceeds the revenue line for the year the fees are paid. Member Robert Kalantari proposed waiving 20 percent of the fees, since four of the 20 units are affordable. His colleague Kay Hamilton favored 50 percent. The matter will be settled at the next meeting.
Also remaining to be settled is Brown’s request for the permit to include provisions for one or two signs, which normally would require a separate hearing with the Board of Appeals.