Hearing on Housing Plan Features Calls for Local Preference 

May 30, 2024

Brian DeVellis says he is proposing 171 housing units on two Carlisle Road sites as a response to a 2019 housing study showing local support for a broader range of places to live. 

The proposal is a Local Initiative Project under state law, which means that it is exempt from zoning density limits because 25 percent of the units meet the state definition of affordable. The plan has arrived on the agenda of the Zoning Board of Appeals, which under the law is the final destination, a comprehensive permit.

Last Thursday, the ZBA hosted its second session on the proposal. The topics included traffic, grading, and architecture. 

But after more than two hours of presentations and questions, ZBA Chair Robert Kalantari asked if is possible to give Bedford residents preference on buying or renting new units. Otherwise, he wondered, how does this address the inventory issues raised by the housing study?

The plan for the 40-acre site less than one-half mile from North Road includes 10 three-bedroom single-family houses facing Carlisle Road, and eight duplexes, two eight-unit townhouse buildings plus triplexes and a three-story apartment building. The plan also includes a 51-unit apartment structure for older residents on 14 acres near the corner of Carlisle and North roads.

DeVellis said he has consistently supported the concept of local preference, but is unsure whether that approach is legal except in the case of the affordable units. 

“The intent of this is to be a legacy project for Bedford,” he said. 

Select Board Chair Shawn Hanegan said the development will attract purchasers and renters regardless, but member Angelo Colasante said he feels the philosophy of a LIP is to prioritize local needs. 

“Every town needs housing, so we can’t just have a blanket statement on need,” Colasante said.

Todd Crowley, Planning Board chair and former Board of Appeals member, earlier had quoted from that board’s rules for comprehensive permits. He said there is only one reason to deny it and that’s if the plan is “not consistent with local needs.” 

But Colasante contended that “the town has done a great job” addressing the need, most recently voting to accommodate a state law requiring multi-unit housing by right on 50 designed acres. 

“I look at needs versus the impact on town services,” he said, adding, “We can’t look at this in a vacuum.”

Hanegan said he was involved with the earlier housing study. 

“We are really missing a certain type of housing in Bedford,” and that affects not only older residents who want to downsize, but also a younger cohort looking to buy or rent. What we’ve become is a town where you either have to qualify for affordable housing or have a very high income,” he said. “That has a lot of ramifications to the fabric of the town. We really need this type of housing and there aren’t a lot of places to put it anymore.” 

Resident Seth Cargiulo pointed out that if a permit is denied, the land owner can, by right, build “eight homes priced between $1.2 million and $2.5 million. That is what will happen.”

Last week’s discussion was almost entirely about the westerly site. The development itself comprises about eight and one-half acres. Several members of the Board of Appeals walked the site on May 18. 

“We knew from day one that there are traffic issues,” DeVellis acknowledged. His consultant presented data indicating that the proposed development won’t greatly exacerbate an existing problem. Several members of the board were skeptical, and requested that DeVellis seek feedback from the town’s traffic engineer. 

Daniel Dumais, a senior project manager with the Marlborough firm MDM Transportation Consultants, told the board that a survey of the street during peak morning and evening commuting time on Dec. 14, 2023 showed a volume of 725-740 vehicles per hour, primarily eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening.

The total daily volume on Carlisle Road is about 7,000, he said, with median speed between 38 and 41 miles per hour.

Kalantari said that a single day of counting is not representative, but Dumais said the practice is considered “industry standard.” The counts always take place on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, he said, considered more “average” days. 

“Several days of data are not going to significantly change the outcome,” he said.

Board member Thomas Flannery, after calling for additional counts, suggested asking the “town traffic engineer” about a meaningful survey. 

“My sense would be three days,” he said. 

Alternate member Karl Winkler said the “constant stop and go” will affect traffic coming to or leaving from the new complex. 

Carlisle Road resident Jeff Porter said recently it took him 38 minutes to drive from the Concord River at the town line to his house during the morning commute. 

William Barnett, who lives across the street from the site and has maintained that the area can’t handle the density, added that he interviewed drivers who said it took an hour to get from the town line to his driveway. 

But Cargiulo maintained that the housing will increase flow by no more than 4 percent, and, “If you don’t build this, the traffic will still get worse.”

DeVellis said he will try to get input from town staff to share when the hearing resumes on June 13. That agenda also will include the developer’s economic impact forecast, including projected school-age children.

Dumais said projections on the amount of traffic the complex will generate were based on the various types of housing, how many residents will need to leave or return during peak hours, and number of vehicles per unit. The estimates of 54 departing in the morning and 63 returning were met with surprise. 

“You are adding 260 bedrooms and you are saying how many cars? My eyes say different,” Kalantari said. 

DeVellis replied that the Avalon apartment complex on Concord Road would be a good basis of comparison. Colasante suggested housing on Middlesex Turnpike. 

“The engineer will be glad to meet with the DPW and go over his methodology,” DeVellis said.

Also on Thursday, Carlton Quinn, civil engineer with Allen & Major Associates, reported on everything from drainage and grading to the width of walkways, fire apparatus navigation, and public trailhead parking. Board of Appeals members’ questions and concerns centered on drainage.

Quinn said tests showed that water volume and pressure were good. He said all electric lines will be underground, and the development will be connected to the town sewer. 

There will be no natural gas service. That elicited a comment from Kalantari who said home heating by gas is much more energy efficient than using gas to generate electricity.

Colasante asked to see renderings that show “how the single-family houses present” on Carlisle Road. He was concerned that “the site is completely permeable. My concern is if you find you can’t install certain systems, what’s the plan B?” 

DeVellis told Colasante that “we did 25 test pits and we are pretty familiar.”

Architect Jeremy Baldwin addressed the “specialized stretch building code,” other energy codes and fire safety codes, as well as accessibility and sustainability. 

“The whole premise of this project is to be able to age in place,” he said, noting that town house units will have a ground-floor bedroom and “at least one zero-step entry.”

Baldwin pointed out that the apartment building, central in the project layout, will be set back 250 feet and not visible from the street because of grade and intervening buildings. Colasante asked for drawings to scale. Member Jeffrey Dearing asked about storage and laundry, and Flannery recommended traffic calming.

Quinn said a buffer of existing trees along road will be preserved. Barnett said that new plantings along the roadside will have to fight to survive. Two members of the Arbor Resources Committee, Jaci Edwards and Molly Haskell, called for planting native deciduous trees and preserving mature trees. 

“As a landscape architect, I absolutely hear what you’re saying,” DeVellis said.

There also was acknowledgement of many abandoned vehicles and other solid waste deposited over the years when the land was under previous ownership. 

“What I saw there is unbelievable,” said Colasante. 

Porter said that “hundreds of truckloads of fill have been brought in.”

DeVellis said, “This site is secured. The only way this gets cleaned up is if we take control of it, and it will be cleaned up as part of this.” 

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John McClain
May 30, 2024 9:12 pm

Using efficient combined cycle natural gas turbines to make electricity to run air source heat pumps is more energy efficient than burning the gas directly in homes. The trade-off becomes even better as more and more wind and solar electricity sources come on line.

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