Letter to the Editor: Multi-Family Housing Can Protect the Environment

Submitted by Kathy Kirby

I’m a tree lover. You may have seen my photo in a recent Bedford Citizen article de-vining trees along The Great Road to save their lives. I’m also a member of Mothers out Front, an organization of mothers and others working toward a livable climate and an equitable future for all children. 

For the sake of future generations, we must act now to address the housing shortage and the climate crisis. We need to think both globally and locally, about both the forests and the trees. 

Our highest climate priority must be to preserve undeveloped forests and ecosystems rather than bulldozing them to build single-family homes in sprawling, car-dependent exurbs, far from Boston. We must minimize land covered by roads. We need to protect our forested land beyond Route 495 and in NH from development. Allowing multifamily housing in the proposed overlay districts in Bedford will help protect the climate.

A recurring pattern in Bedford is for builders to tear down an older home to build a 4000+ square foot single family home with a 3-car garage. In that same footprint, three townhouses could be built to provide much needed smaller, and therefore lower priced, housing units. Because of their shared walls, these units would be more energy efficient than detached homes and would not require building any additional roads or infrastructure.   

Another recurring pattern is for builders to clear-cut lots, which results in the loss of trees that would otherwise help prevent flooding from stormwater runoff; would moderate temperatures during heat waves; improve air quality; and enhance neighborhood beauty. We need to preserve local trees, but we must not lose sight of the forest for the trees. We cannot afford to prioritize preservation of every individual tree over building multifamily housing, since adding housing density in Bedford is essential to preserve undeveloped land elsewhere. We must do both: build multifamily housing on developed property and preserve mature trees.

The multifamily zoning articles do not require any housing to actually be built, they merely allow property owners the option to build multifamily housing. It’s a necessary step in the direction we need to be headed in the coming decades.

Bedford voters must follow state law and approve the Planning Board’s thoughtful multifamily zoning overlay districts. Please vote YES on warrant articles 11 and 12 at Town Meeting on March 25. 

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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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