MA Attorney General Approves Two-Family Zoning Amendment

June 23, 2023
Zoning map.

At the Bedford Annual Town Meeting in March, voters passed by a two-thirds majority a zoning amendment that eases rules for creating two-family dwellings. The amendment, Article 22,  was then sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General for review of procedural correctness and to make sure there was no conflict with state law. 

On June 15, the AG issued a letter of approval, posted on the town’s website on June 21. The amendment is in effect as of the date of Town Meeting.  

People may review the changes in Article 22 of the Warrant posted on the town website. They will eventually be incorporated in the full Zoning Bylaw document, which is currently undergoing reorganization.

The Planning Board spearheaded the proposed changes, as described in Article 22 of the Warrant. The Board offered this reasoning:

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“This article is based on a recommended strategy from the 2019 Bedford Housing Study to “ease zoning restrictions for two-family dwelling.” Current zoning allows for single family dwellings constructed prior to 1945 to be converted into two-family dwellings, and for construction of new two-family dwellings where a vacant lot existing since 1992 has one-and-a-half times the minimum lot area.

“This proposal offers the potential for two-family dwellings to be created as an alternative to single-family dwellings, subject to certain parameters to ensure that a two-family dwelling is consistent in size and scale with the comparable single-family dwelling that might otherwise be built. In other cases, this may help preserve existing residential structures by allowing them to be altered into two dwelling units and thereby providing a potential source of revenue for the property owner. 

“The real estate market is otherwise creating very large single-family dwellings that cater to the top 5 percent of income earners.  New single-family dwellings in Bedford are now 6,000 square feet with five or six bedrooms, while the average household size is now only 2.51 persons.  Very little housing is being created for this typical household situation. 

 “The strategy behind this article is intended to help households with average income afford an average housing unit.  Housing options for residential lots would still allow single-family dwellings under the same criteria that currently exist, and single-family dwellings with accessory dwelling units up to 900 square feet under the same criteria that currently exist, or two-family dwellings subject to size limitations relative to lot size under these new criteria.”

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