Planning Board Settles on Two Areas for Housing Law Compliance

January 31, 2024
The latest map of potential for MBTA Community district zoning as of Jan 16. Map: https://bedfordma.gov/836/MBTA-Communities-Multifamily-Zoning-Requ

The Bedford Planning Board on Tuesday agreed on the boundaries of two proposed districts intended to comply with a new state law requiring an area where multi-unit housing can be built by right.

One area encompasses Loomis Street, across South Road, then west on Railroad Avenue to Commercial Avenue. The district includes all of commercial as well as the property at 200 The Great Road – a commercial building on land opposite the intersection of Loomis and Great Road.

The other district is designated as “Shawsheen West,” and it incorporates the area between the Great Road Shopping Center and all of Roberts Drive, as well as Alfred Circle, which is contiguous across Elm Brook.

The two proposed areas not only comply with the requirement for at least 50 acres, but also that at least half of the total designated be contiguous. The Loomis-Railroad corridor is more than 30 acres out of a total of about 54.

Other areas no longer under consideration are the properties north of The Great Road between the Shawsheen River and Shawsheen Road, and the Walsh-Ashby Roads neighborhood.

The law requires a minimum density of 15 units per acre with no age restrictions. A public hearing on the proposal is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 13. The rezoning will be on the March Annual Town Meeting warrant. The compliance deadline is Dec. 31.

There was some discussion at last week’s meeting about postponing the proposal until a Special Town Meeting in late summer or fall. But at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, member Steve Hagan moved to commit to a March warrant article. 

“It’s time for the Planning Board to step up,” he said. “We’ve had lots of public input and gone through many iterations.” A majority of the board agreed.

Board members on Tuesday agreed on the district boundaries early in the meeting, then spent more than two hours fine-tuning the zoning parameters for the overlay districts and drafting the proposed zoning bylaw.  

Parameters include parking spaces per unit, maximum height, and lot sizes. Members agreed on lot setbacks of 20 feet in the front, 30 in the rear, and 15 on the sides.

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