Neighbors Object to Multi-Unit Housing Zone on Loomis Street

February 14, 2024

Several neighbors voiced opposition to plans for zoning part of Loomis Street for multi-unit housing by right during a Bedford Planning Board virtual public hearing on Tuesday.

The rezoning is part of the town’s response to a state law that requires at least 50 buildable acres that would accommodate multi-unit housing without restrictions that would make units unsuitable for families with children. Multi-unit means at least three on a single parcel.

After several months of public outreach and working sessions, the Planning Board designated two areas for compliance. One is a corridor along the south side of Loomis Street, across South Road, and west on Railroad Avenue to Commercial Avenue, which is also included.

The board accepted comments before, during, and after its formal presentation on the proposals. After more than three-and-a-half hours, it voted to continue the public hearing to Feb. 27.

Joyce Nelson, a Webber Avenue resident, said Loomis Street is “a close neighborhood noted for its quaint and unique housing,” that risks becoming “citified” by the change. “Bedford has a pastoral and a small-town feel coupled with its unique older architecture, and Loomis Street is an excellent example of Bedford’s unique appeal. I would not want any of those houses to be supplanted by an apartment building.”

Looms Street resident Marcia Mulcahy said that the neighborhood is “almost being penalized” because of its proximity to public transportation and stores. “Buildings of this magnitude should really be in an area of their own and not in the middle of a neighborhood,” she said. Another Loomis Street resident, Joy Kenen, said she is “opposed to this whole thing.” 

Matt Lentine of Otis Street said that opening the area to multi-unit development will exacerbate in-town traffic, and “one of the zoning areas out by the highway might be more suitable.” He also opposes the Railroad Avenue portion. “I understand why this may not be an issue for folks who reside outside the area,” but he said he feels a potential negative impact.

Renu Bostwick, who lives on nearby Hartford Street, pointed out that any changes are likely to be gradual, as they were when the west end of Loomis Street was rezoned to mixed use. But Mulcahy replied that the street now features a mixed-use complex, and plans have been approved for another on nearby Railroad Avenue. “I just don’t think that this road should be carrying any more than that.” 

Resident Nicholas Howard, who has participated in most of the board’s working sessions, repeated his call for eliminating Commercial Avenue from the zoning overlay. He sees it as “an area the town would like to keep at the ready to acquire if it ever comes on the market.”

The only other disagreement during the hearing was internal, as the board voted 3-2 to eliminate minimum and maximum parking space requirements on new developments. Several speakers encouraged this change for environmental reasons. 

But former Selectman Joe Piantedosi of the Depot Park Advisory Committee testified that it appears residents are already using the public parking on both sides of South Road near the park.

Member Amy Lloyd said the change might engender negative town meeting votes. “I don’t disagree that we want to reduce vehicular traffic as much as we can,” she said. “But I know many people feel there needs to be parking spaces. Let’s bring them along gently rather than throw the zoning in their face and risk a down vote.” 

Member Steve Hagan also voted to require one parking space per unit. Kenen said that visitors to Loomis Street residents can only park off the street.

During his summary presentation of the proposed response to the law, Board Chair Chris Gittins described penalties for failure to comply, particularly loss of eligibility for state grants. One of his slides read, “Municipalities cannot avoid their obligations under the law by foregoing grant funding.”

The other overlay district comprises Roberts Drive, two lots on The Great Road between Roberts and Elm Brook, and Alfred Circle, now zoned industrial, which is across the brook to the south.

If every eligible lot were developed, Gittins said, it would increase the town’s housing stock by 16 percent. But he added that neither the Public Works Department nor school officials expressed concern.

Several residents speculated on the immediate impact. “We may see an initial uptick,” Lentine said. 

Additional units could spark more turnover in the town’s single-family inventory, added Armen Zildjian. 

“There are so many variables, so many possibilities,” said Jim Katz. “I don’t think we have a good handle on what the growth scenarios are.”

There was also testimony about the need to preserve existing trees, particularly those that contribute to a roadside canopy.

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Matt Lentine
February 16, 2024 4:45 pm

4th Gen Bedfordite. What’s in the best interests of Bedford and her residents?

Part 1: Traffic & Infrastructure

  • Gridlocked roads: 20% more residents jam-packed on existing streets, leading to soul-crushing commutes, gridlock nightmares, and pollution spikes. Infrastructure crumbles under the strain, with upgrades lagging far behind.
  • Parking pandemonium: Multi-family housing offers stingy parking, worsening existing shortages and sparking fierce battles for on-street spaces. Residents and visitors alike scramble for a glimpse of asphalt.
  • Public transit paralysis: Expanding housing without improving buses and trains leaves low-income residents and non-drivers stranded. Forced back to cars, they add to the traffic inferno.

Be realistic and think of the possibilities and ramifications.

Leslie Wittman
February 16, 2024 9:45 am

I’ve lived in a house on Dunster Road right next to the multi-unit Bedford Village apartments for over 30 years. The development brings a welcome diversity to our neighborhood and to Bedford. I encourage people in the proposed-zoned neighborhoods to be open to possible changes.

Dawn LaFrance-Linden
February 14, 2024 10:50 pm

I am a resident of the Depot Park area and I am thrilled with its inclusion in the multi-unit housing zoning. The current mixed commercial and residential use can easily incorporate a diversity of housing options with no loss to the character of the area. If you want to keep traffic down you must provide housing where residents can walk to things – including bus stops. The walkability of the area and its proximity to transportation options are among the many reasons I chose the Depot Park area of Bedford for my home.

Peter K
February 18, 2024 8:11 am

Remember, the bus only travels east .. those working N,S,and W will still have to travel by auto get to work.

Dawn LaFrance-Linden
February 19, 2024 9:08 pm
Reply to  Peter K

You are right- we definitely need more bus routes! Bus rapid transit (BRT) could be used to make connections N, S, and W as needed. They could be a great addition to our transportation infrastructure.

But, as I am sure you are aware, the new zoning doesn’t actually require building anything, nor does it support the building of anything that would not be attractive to consumers. Any actual construction would only take place as lots became available slowly over time. Any multiunit dwelling then constructed could give options both to downsizing seniors and our younger generations who may want to settle near where they grew up.

The Planning Board did an excellent job in meeting the requirements of the law.

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