Carlisle Road Housing Plans Arrive at Zoning Board of Appeals

May 13, 2024

The long-discussed multi-faceted housing development proposed for two parcels on the north side of Carlisle Road reached its final local stop on Thursday at a public hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The hearing was the first of what is expected to be several, as the Local Initiative Program (LIP) culminates with a Board of Appeals decision on a comprehensive permit. The next session is scheduled for May 23. The board is also planning a site visit.

Brian DeVellis, the attorney and landscape architect who is the project’s originator, said he has hosted 11 meetings with town boards, another with municipal department heads, and three public forums. Last Thursday, about 20 people attended, most of them familiar faces from earlier meetings, including some neighborhood residents opposed to the magnitude of the project, and some supporters of diversified housing inventory.

The proposal encompasses a 40-acre site – most of it wetlands – less than one-half mile west of North Road. The project comprises 120 housing units, 72 of which would be for sale and 30 of which would meet the state standards as “affordable.”

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Plans call for nine single-family houses fronting the street, and seven duplexes, 39 triplex units, two 8-unit townhouse buildings, and a three-story, 42-unit apartment building along an interior loop road.

DeVellis also wants to build a three-story, 52-unit senior apartment building on 14 acres behind the store at the fork of North and Carlisle roads. Most would be studio and one-bedroom units, he said, and 39 would be market rate. That portion is awaiting approval from the state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities; Dellis said he expects that before the end of May. The state has signed off on the larger parcel.

Asked by Board of Appeals member Angelo Colasante if the two parcels could be approved separately, DeVellis pointed out that the decision to separate was in response to the Select Board’s recommendation. Any modification to the LIP would require Select Board consent.

The developer, who acquired rights to the land in 2021, said his proposal is in response to priorities expressed in the 2013 comprehensive plan and the 2019 townwide housing survey. He said he is planning housing options for “all ages and backgrounds,” providing the “missing middle” that allows residents to downsize and remain in Bedford.

Little has been done since the studies calling for housing options, DeVellis noted. “The town wants and needs this.” 

He added, “The people who come out are the people who are against it – and they should. We will address all these concerns. We are not in a rush, but this is a response to the town’s desire.” He added later, “Direct abutters are always going to differ from the focus of the town as a whole.”

DeVellis said he hopes the layout, infusing a central green, presented “a sense of scale and walkability” and “a community where people get to know each other.” Image: devellis.net/

Presenting some ground-level renderings, DeVellis said he hopes the layout, infusing a central green, presented “a sense of scale and walkability” and “a community where people get to know each other.” 

Bobbi Tornheim, a member of the Arbor Resources Committee, said there aren’t enough trees. DeVellis said he plans to provide a “detailed planting inventory with some screening options,” as well as a sidewalk to North Road and parking for an adjacent trailhead.

“This is a proposal that town has to take very seriously,” said board Chair Robert Kalantari. “I need information to show how this type of development could impact the town and how it could benefit the town.” He said the board should hear from municipal departments and the schools.

Kalantari questioned a summary DeVellis submitted a couple of years ago showing how the housing would provide a net financial benefit to the town. That report predicted 27 school-age children, and Kalantari, pointing out the number of bedrooms proposed, said, “To me, it sounds far-fetched.”

Even if there’s only one school-aged child per unit, he said, the result would be a $2 million financial blow to the town based on per-pupil costs. “If anybody is buying a three-bedroom unit, they are most likely going to have two children,” he said.

DeVellis said he will ask his land-use planning consultant, Mark Fougere, to explain his calculations to the board. Attorney Pamela Brown, representing DeVellis, noted that there are 39 school-age children residing in 200 units at the Village of Taylor Pond on Middlesex Turnpike. 

“Whatever the number is, we want to make an informed decision,” said Kalantari.

Associate member Karl Winkler noted “significant” morning inbound traffic on Carlisle Road. Neighborhood resident Keith Backman, who said he supports the project, noted that the only solution to daily backups would be signalization at Carlisle and North. DeVellis said he would be willing to pay for a traffic study needed to require that, but felt that his project wouldn’t generate enough trips to make a difference.

Winkler also asked about the possibility of alternative access connecting to streets off North Road, but DeVellis said state environmental agencies would veto that because of wetlands intrusion. 

In answer to a question from Kalantari, DeVellis said “it’s our desire to absolutely make this a local preference opportunity.” However, he said the way to do it needs input from attorneys. 

Colasante said he would like to see preference for town employees and local veterans, and disabled persons. “We need to talk about this as a benefit to the town.”

In answer to a question from member Kay Hamilton, DeVellis said there will be a residents’ association with the rental building “owned by an entity of this development.”

A 52-unit senior apartment building is awaiting approval from the state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. Image: devellis.net/

Winkler was concerned that the renderings with “so many gable ends,” indicate that the buildings aren’t conducive to solar panels. DeVellis said the design will accommodate them.

The board invited public comment, and William Barnett, who resides across the street and has publicly battled the proposal for more than two years, told the board, “I think this project is way too dense for the area.” He also predicted that resulting drainage would adversely affect neighborhoods to the south. 

Jeff Porter and John Litchfield, among other neighbors, also foresaw drainage issues.

Kalantari stressed that concerns like drainage will be addressed by town departments as they are required to meet local and state codes. 

“If this project is going to be approved, it’s going to be done right,” he said. 

Anne Bickford noted that the apartment building, if granted the variance sought, would be 10 feet higher than the maximum height under zoning. She also challenged the traffic projections presented to the board. 

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