By Eliza Rosenberry
Planning Board members and local residents voiced support of the latest development proposal for Fox Run Road on Tuesday, marking the third public hearing for this project and at least the fourth design presented by the developer. The hearing will be continued to October 11, when the developer will provide a status update and a detailed design plan, and continued again to November 15 for further public input.
The new Planned Residential Development (PRD) design proposes five new homes on a private way off Fox Run Road, reduced from eight in the previous proposal, and gives the Board an option to keep an existing home on the property for affordable housing. The new units will be around 3,200 square feet, up from around 2,100. The south end of the PRD area remains unchanged and includes two 4,000 square foot homes off a driveway on Buehler Road.
Speaking on behalf of developer David Bernstein, attorney and landscape architect Brian DeVellis explained that the new plan forgoes an additional unit, to which it is entitled under zoning bylaws, in an effort to decrease density and no doubt to appease the neighborhood after a lengthy public input process that has included hearings as well as private meetings.
Since its first public hearing almost two months ago, the Fox Run Road development has been met with considerable pushback from neighbors seeking to preserve the quiet, wooded character of their neighborhood, while Board members challenged Bernstein and DeVellis to compromise on density.
Faced with an apparent inevitability of development, neighbors acknowledged a preference for the new redesign over previous versions of the PRD, and over the conventional subdivision sketch — which some residents implied was purposefully ugly. Many continued to speak out about water pressure and flooding in the neighborhood, while others focused on conservation and plan details like the location of a proposed bike access path.
“Of course, I’d rather you guys go away,” Fox Run Road resident AnnaLisa Madison admitted to the development team. “I think everybody on Fox Run has heard people in Bedford say, Fox Run is one of the prettiest, if not the prettiest street in Bedford. So if you keep it that way, and then other builders learn that around town, maybe then they’ll all stop clear-cutting and changing the character of Bedford. So you could start it on Fox Run.”
The Board found the new PRD preferable as well, with all five members asking the developer to build out the new design in more detail for the next public hearing, likely featuring a T-shaped road in place of the cul-de-sac which the Board deemed unnecessary for only five units.
Board member Lisa Mustapich asked the developer to be diligent in his plans for clearing the lots.
“Would you be willing to… sell these as wooded properties that must remain wooded in perpetuity?” Mustapich asked DeVellis, suggesting the buffer zone should remain heavily wooded — not landscaped — and trees on the lots shouldn’t be clear-cut but rather selectively removed, “like an ice-cream scoop.”
DeVellis was open to this approach but warned that some additional trees may need to be come down due to safety concerns.
Compared to a conventional subdivision, a PRD allows a developer to build houses more densely on smaller lots, but requires they work closely with the Planning Board on design and public benefits like affordable housing and shared open space. PRDs also help the town diversify the types of housing available to residents.
Town bylaws require PRDs to offer more than one type of housing, including apartments, duplexes, townhouses, or single family homes. In previous versions of the design, two units were attached as a duplex to meet this requirement, but the new design only offers free-standing homes. DeVellis commented that neighbors requested the duplex be eliminated because it would be out of character with the neighborhood, and the Board indicated they would likely forego enforcement of this particular bylaw.
Zoning Board member Michelle Puntillo voiced concern during the public hearing that lot sizes were too small for residents to build decks, and requested the Planning Board keep such zoning concerns in mind throughout their consideration of the proposal.
“Before the Planning Board makes its decisions, I just wanted to bring something like that up, because there’s a trickle-down effect through the town,” Puntillo said.
Some residents wanted the existing house on Fox Run Road torn down and replaced with a wooded lot, thereby eliminating the PRD’s sole affordable unit, but Board members asked the developer to keep the existing house. Mustapich — who also serves on the Housing Partnership — worried the home’s age could saddle qualified home buyers with higher maintenance and upkeep costs. She asked DeVellis to attend an upcoming Housing Partnership meeting to review the matter.
“I think this development team is not like other development teams, in that they do listen and they do hear the comments,” observed Board Chair Jeff Cohen when concluding the meeting, “and they are willing to work with the neighbors and the Board to tailor things, to address the comments.”