Letter to the Editor: Planning Board Should Reconsider Multifamily Zoning 

Submitted by Christina Carvey

Last Fall I wrote a Letter to the Editor encouraging the Planning Board to take a circumspect approach with the MBTA zoning maps.  I also shared this feedback in the Planning Board’s survey, and first Community Forum.  The key take-aways were that Bedford should comply with the law, but:

  1. Guard against further overburdening Town resources with too-rapid growth.  Prior rapid growth has left classrooms bursting at the seams. And our Recreation capacity (fields, camps, courts) doesn’t meet existing demand.
  2. Take credit for some of the multifamily zoning work done to date.  Bedford currently has a higher percentage of rental housing than all surrounding towns, except Burlington (roughly tied).
  3. Exclude parcels the Town might acquire for new Recreation facilities – namely centrally located parcels along Railroad Avenue. 

The Planning Board responded by:

  1. Claiming #1 won’t happen– promising their parcel selection will lead to slow, moderate growth. Yet their Zoning maps haven’t materially changed from what they first presented last Fall.
  2. Asserting #2 defies the “Spirit of the Law” – despite the State expressly stating that existing multifamily counts:   https://www.mhp.net/news/2022/correcting-some-misconceptions-about-the-states-new-zoning-law-for-mbta-communities#:~:text=Myth%3A%20Areas%20with%20existing%20multi,%E2%80%9Ccounting%E2%80%9D%20existing%20housing%20units .
  3. Dismissing #3 as unmerited, citing ignorance of any plan to acquire that land. 

Throughout this process, the Planning Board has dismissed or disregarded all concerns that run contrary to their Agenda. Their priority is to incentivize adding maximum housing stock, in the shortest possible timeframe. Accordingly, their proposal:

  • Focuses on older commercial lots, (>60% acreage), ripe for redevelopment.  
  • Allows for much greater than 15 units/acre on many parcels.
  • Has no affordability requirement. 
  • Has no parking minimum.

Bedford currently has over 350 housing units under development over the next five years.  This Zoning Amendment will allow for over 700 additional units to be built.  Once zoned, these units may be built by-right – the only hurdle for developers will be acquiring the property.   

Bedford has grown at the rate of ~400 units/decade for the past two decades. We’ve struggled to keep pace in our Schools (having twice exceeded capacity, warranting build-outs), and haven’t kept pace with our Recreation capacity.  Imagine adding >1000 units in a decade.  Next Monday, I encourage you to vote NO on Articles 11 and 12.  The Planning Board should revisit their proposal, find a revised approach for November Town Meeting which respects and addresses all Bedford Residents’ concerns – not just the subset of people who agree with them.

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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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