By Eliza Rosenberry
Following months of hearings and plan revisions, some Planning Board members this week clashed with the development team over aspects of a proposed Planned Residential Development (PRD) off Fox Run Road.
Seeking what he called a “lukewarm conceptual approval” from the Board, attorney Brian DeVellis presented a slightly updated design in which the primary revision was an uncontroversial T-turnaround at the end of the private road in place of a cul-de-sac.
When presented at the last hearing on September 27, the design — which proposes five new homes off Fox Run of around 3,200 square feet each, two new 4,000 square foot homes off Buehler Road, and one existing house to be converted into an affordable unit — had been met with a general consensus of approval from neighbors and the Planning Board.
But Board member Amy Lloyd this week stood firm in her position that smaller homes would be preferable in this project, because one of the purposes of PRDs is to provide a greater variety of housing types. The proposed homes, Lloyd contended, weren’t dissimilar from other houses being built throughout Bedford; she challenged developer David Bernstein, observing from the back row of the audience, about the average size of houses he usually builds to underscore this point.
“I’m not interested in looking at another large house development of the same type that we see everywhere else in Bedford,” Lloyd said. “It is not an alternative type… It’s just the same thing that we’re seeing.”
“With all due respect, that’s where we started,” DeVellis said, referencing his original proposal of nine 2,000 square foot homes, which received pushback from neighbors who favored fewer houses and were less concerned about house size. “The smaller number of units, the larger those units need to be.”
DeVellis and Bernstein have focused on appeasing neighbors who have vocally opposed the project. At previous hearings, more than a dozen neighbors lined up to speak passionately against the development, but after months of private meetings and compromises, only two residents spoke this week, and not in opposition.
“I actually like the size of the home, it actually probably is addressing a bit of a need in this town,” suggested resident Aaron Bourret, a newcomer to Bedford who recently went through the house-hunting process here.
During a straw poll, Sandra Hackman was the only Board member who spoke in agreement with Lloyd.
“The way houses have been for fifty years is not the way they’re necessarily going to be for the next fifty years… I think it’s really important to have alternative styles of housing, because the bylaw asks for it and because people need it,” Hackman said, though she acknowledged it was likely too late in the process to renegotiate home size. “We closed that door, I think, a couple of meetings ago. So this is where we are.”
Lloyd also advocated for minimizing or reorienting garages to emphasize the development’s human scale, and Assistant Planner Catherine Perry raised concern about a zoning bylaw requiring a duplex or other housing type to be included in a PRD.
The Fox Run development has reportedly prompted residents to lobby Planning Board members outside of public hearings, an indication of the high tensions around new development in Bedford. Issues raised at this week’s hearing demonstrate Bedford’s ongoing grappling with the purpose and appropriate implementation of PRDs, which are intended to promote preservation of open space and encourage a variety of housing types.
The development team will present a detailed plan on November 15 at the next continuation of the hearing.