Board Continues to Grapple with Multi-Family Requirements

The Town of Bedford is exploring ideas to comply with the MBTA community multi-family zoning requirements by 2024. Map: https://www.bedfordma.gov/

By Lauren Ennis and Mike Rosenberg  

The Bedford Planning Board last week continued exploring options for compliance with multi-family zoning requirements for communities served by the MBTA.

According to the law, Bedford is designated an “adjacent” MBTA community. As such, under the state’s guidelines, multi-family districts must comprise at least 50 acres of land with a minimum gross density of 15 units per acre, with no restrictions on age or number of bedrooms.

That means a minimum of 750 potential units, although none has to actually be built.

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The town’s current zoning that allows multi-family housing is ineligible because it also requires a retail component.

Assistant Planning Director Catherine Perry referenced her memorandum to the board that highlights three areas within the business/mixed-use zone that she thinks have potential for rezoning to accommodate multi-family dwellings.

All of the designated areas currently are already at least partially developed:

  • In the Shawsheen mixed-use subdistrict, 15.48 acres on the north side of The Great Road between Shawsheen Avenue and Shawsheen Road;
  • In the Depot subdistrict, 9.88 acres on both sides of Railroad Avenue west of Commercial Avenue, and a parcel at the corner of DeAngelo Drive;
  • In the Marketplace subdistrict, 8.98 acres south of The Great Road between Veterans Memorial Park and Loomis Street, as well as 200 The Great Road across the street.

Perry emphasized that she chose the locations for their ability to meet the requirements, and that they consist of parts of multiple districts in order to avoid entire districts being altered by the guidelines.

“If we allocated these areas, we would still need more,” Perry said in her memo. “The Guidelines state that at least half of the total MBTA zoning must be contiguous, so if we just met the total 50-acre requirement, we would need one area to be at least 25 acres.” She added that the minimum contiguous area required is five acres.

“We will of course be organizing public outreach efforts, perhaps when we’ve done a bit more technical investigating ourselves, before narrowing things down,” her memo said.

The town has until the end of 2024 to comply, and any rezoning necessary would be proposed at next year’s annual town meeting. 

During the meeting, member Amy Lloyd suggested an additional location on Middlesex Turnpike land that is owned by the Woburn Sportsmen’s Association, a shooting club. Steven Hagen opposed this idea, saying that it would cause further division in an already divisive political climate. Jacinda Barbehenn also opposed Lloyd’s recommendation saying that the land is less promising than other locations that Perry highlighted. 

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