By Eliza Rosenberry
Despite plan redesigns, residents again spoke out against a Planned Residential Development (PRD) off Fox Run Road and Buehler Road at an August 30 Planning Board meeting.
Residents suggested the high density development would disrupt their neighborhood’s character, and questioned the validity of the PRD as the plan has two distinct areas of development. Many expressed preference for a conventional residential development instead, which would reduce the overall number of new units but would forfeit affordable housing as well as the significant Planning Board oversight required by the PRD.
The public hearing was continued from the Board’s August 3 meeting and will be continued once more to September 27.
On behalf of developer David Bernstein, attorney and landscape architect Brian DeVellis outlined a redesigned plan for the property, which stretches from Fox Run Road to Buehler Road and includes acres of wetlands between the two areas of development.
A total of 10 new homes will be built under the current plan, down from 12 originally proposed at the August 3 meeting.
Eight units of approximately 2,100 square feet are proposed for a cul-de-sac street off of Fox Run Road, where the developer also plans to incorporate an existing house for a total of nine homes. The Bedford Housing Authority will inspect the existing house to determine its suitability for use as one of the PRD’s two proposed affordable units. Two new units of approximately 4,000 square feet are planned for a shared driveway off the existing Buehler cul-de-sac.
DeVellis also showed plans for a landlocked park along the existing rail trail, which would have benches and some landscaping. The Planning Board would consider this park a public benefit of the development; other such benefits could include an access path through the property to the rail trail.
DeVellis said the homes will be marketed to starter families or seniors, a point he made at the August 3 meeting, and suggested, based on census data, that the town could expect around four new school-aged children from the PRD. But residents and Board members disagreed with his assessment of the potential impact on Bedford’s already crowded schools.
“I think if you were to be transparent and err on the side of caution, you would say that there’s going to be 20 to 24 children coming into these units,” said Board member Lisa Mustapich, who said the three-bedroom homes would certainly appeal to families with children. “We’ve been stung so many times in the past by developers doing fuzzy math and underestimating the number of kids.”
DeVellis defended his intention, but promised to recalculate using a narrower demographic framework.
“I’m not opposed to families and children, I have some myself. I’d love to see more in the neighborhood,” said Fox Run Road resident Jeff Venuti. “What I do disagree with is doing something in a fashion that is not tax base responsible. What I mean by that is creating an element that encourages families and children to move in, that’s not going to recoup the cost it would take to educate them or expand the school systems. We’re busting at the seams already.”
Almost 20 residents asked questions at the microphone, read prepared statements or wrote letters to the Board about the development’s potential effects on their neighborhood. Many challenged the notion that the two areas of development could constitute a single PRD, given that they have separate entrances, are not directly connected by pedestrian paths or roadways and are linked only by acres of wetlands.
“I have a hard time believing that this is what Bedford had in mind when they created the concept of the PRD,” said Venuti.
Concerns about low water pressure, flooding, snow removal, and utility access were raised and addressed by DeVellis or members of the Board. Several residents asked the Board to consider a bond which would give homeowners increased confidence in the development.
Buehler Road resident Carolyn Carbone hoped the developer might consider building one unit instead of two on that street. “[One house] cuts down on the traffic that we’re all concerned about, it cuts down on the number of children we’re concerned about and it is in keeping with what we’ve purchased and what we expect to have,” Carbone said.
Conventional Residential Developments
Following a previous request from the Board, DeVellis showed a conventional residential development design for the Fox Run Road area to compare against the PRD plans. The conventional development would likely include four lots with 4,000 square foot homes.
PRDs allow developers to build more units on smaller lots with the goal of preserving shared open space, such as wetlands, and encouraging a range of housing types including affordable units. In exchange for allowing denser developments, the Planning Board has extensive input on issues like tree clearing, road alignment, and public benefits.
By contrast, a conventional residential development gives developers much more freedom in design and land use. Board member Amy Lloyd pointed out that the Planning Board would have some oversight of lot size and frontage but not much else. Board Chair Jeffrey Cohen confirmed to The Citizen that the town does not require affordable housing in conventional residential developments.
At the start of the meeting, Board member Shawn Hanegan asked residents in attendance to consider whether they preferred the PRD design or the conventional residential development. Over the course of the public hearing, almost all residents spoke in support of the conventional development, saying the lots and home sizes would be more in keeping with the neighborhood.
The Board will continue the public hearing on the proposed PRD on September 27. At that time, DeVellis will be asked to show ground-level renderings, provide a new calculation of expected school-aged children, and offer a conventional residential development design for the Buehler area.
Also at the August 30 meeting, the Board reviewed Zoning Amendments which will be brought for a public hearing September 13. The Board was unable to address the Evergreen Meadows PRD as indicated on the agenda because materials were not ready for review.