Letter to the Editor: Possible Impacts of MBTA Housing Rezoning

Submitted by Christina Carvey

I love Bedford. I was born and raised here, and it’s where I’m raising my own family. Bedford has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to transform and grow. But we must ensure growth aligns with Bedford’s capacity to meet additional infrastructure and resource demands.

The Planning Board’s approach to compliance with the MBTA Zoning Law is concerning. They have prioritized rezoning schemes that maximize the likelihood of new developments, and the largest increase in housing stock.[1],[2]Depending on which parcels are rezoned, this could result in an additional 750 housing-units in just a few years. 

Many residents are concerned about the impacts such rapid growth could have on Bedford – in particular on our limited infrastructure: school space and resources; recreation facilities; traffic capacity; emergency response.[3]

Bedford already struggles to meet resource demand. Parents are concerned about class size and course availability. There aren’t enough fields or courts (indoors or outdoors). Recreation programs are oversubscribed. 

A rapid increase in housing stock, and the concomitant population boom, will further strain our limited resources. We risk repeating what’s happened before, in the 1990s and 2010s, when Bedford’s school capacity couldn’t meet the unexpected, rapid enrollment increase, requiring temporary trailer classrooms, large class sizes, and the use of hallway space for several years.[4],[5],[6],[7]

Bedford should comply with the law, but limit infrastructure strain by including areas already, or soon to be occupied, by high-density housing as a portion of the rezoned land. Such rezoning is NOT prohibited.[8] Bedford shouldn’t rezone central areas the Town could acquire for future school/recreation facilities.

Bedford currently has five developments underway that will add over 220 units of multi-family housing. We should use these projects to quantify the impact on our infrastructure, and let these findings inform the Planning Board’s next Comprehensive Plan.

My concerns aren’t assuaged by the justification that Town planners and committees don’t think there will be significant impact. The past holds lessons for the present. Let’s not ignore them.  

[1] https://www.bedfordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3067/Info-Pamphlet-distributed-at-Bedford-Day-9-23-23-PDF

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxMCul57q1g

[3] https://www.bedfordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3236/Summary-of-responses-to-open-ended-request-for-comments-PDF

[4] https://www.bedfordps.org/sites/g/files/vyhlif2786/f/uploads/thedavisschoolbuildingproject9.19.17b.pdf

[5] History supports that each new housing-unit adds more than 0.5 students to the population, and that new students aren’t spread evenly across grades. In the late 2000s, Bedford developments added ~350 units of multi-family housing. Subsequently, Kindergarten class size increased from ~150 (in 2009), to ~200 (in 2014) (https://icma.org/documents/bedford-affordable-housing-development  https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=00230000&orgtypecode=5&)

[6] “…families with more children than anticipated” moved into new, dense developments https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2012/10/enrollment-and-class-sizes-causing-concern-at-bedford-high-school/

[7] https://www.bedfordps.org/sites/g/files/vyhlif2786/f/uploads/lane_school_-_k-8_space_needs_study.pdf

[8] https://www.mhp.net/news/2022/correcting-some-misconceptions-about-the-states-new-zoning-law-for-mbta-communities

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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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