Letter to the Editor: Please Attend Wednesday Forum on Multifamily Housing

Submitted by Karen Sturzenacker

I encourage all voting Bedford residents to attend the Wednesday, Nov. 29 Planning Board Open Forum Meeting.  It is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. in the Reed Room at Town Hall.

Under state law, all municipalities in the MBTA service area must identify at least 50 acres (25 or more contiguous) where multi-family housing could be built by right, with a density of at least 15 units per acre without age restrictions.  Based on a formula used by Mass, this means Bedford needs to designate enough space within Town borders for 750 new housing units of varying sizes (larger buildings, 4-10 unit buildings, etc.) and change our zoning bylaws so that people can build these units “by right” without having to go before the Zoning Board for variances on setbacks, building heights, etc.

We must have these geographic areas designated, and modified zoning bylaws in place, no later than Dec. 31, 2024.  While a year off, the reality is we need to have these changes approved at Town Meeting so there is much work to be done in the next few months.

If done thoughtfully, Bedford can designate several areas for multi-family housing in such a way that no one area needs to be taken over by large apartment buildings to be in compliance with this State law.

One thing to note:  having appropriate zoning does not mean anything will change immediately for Bedford.   We are not required to actually build anything!   Instead, when a residential or commercial property within a designated area comes up for sale, the purchaser may opt to put up a multi-family unit of appropriate size for the parcel rather than a 4,000+ square-foot house, a shopping center, etc.  So we could see a mix of three- or four-unit townhomes with mid-sized apartment buildings, complemented by larger buildings, to achieve the minimum of 750 units.

For background, you can read the item in The Bedford Citizen from November 17, and an earlier Letter to the Editor from September 15.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Chris Gittins
November 27, 2023 8:28 pm

Thank you, Karen, for spreading the word about MA’s multifamily zoning law and the upcoming community forum. I’ll add two things:

  1. The law allows for setback requirements and height restrictions but whatever restrictions are in place must allow housing density of at least 15 units per acre without discretionary review by ZBA, the Planning Board or other entity.
  2. In addition to Wednesday night’s forum, the Planning Board will be hosting another community forum next Tuesday, 12/5, in the Reed Room from 7:00-9:00 PM

Chris Gittins
Member, Planning Board (Chair 2023-4)

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