Planning Board releases Volume 3 of Comprehensive Plan

By Marya Dantzer

Comprehensive Plan CoverFollowing several weeks of feedback from town citizens, boards, and committees, as well as two sparsely attended public comment sessions, on February 25 the Planning Board approved the 43-page third volume of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, The Bedford We Want: Shaping Our Future. The third volume documents comments received from individuals in writing and orally; minutes of the two public sessions; and official responses from officers and committees— all organized by contributor rather than by subject, since several contributors addressed multiple topics. All responses received were published. The document is posted on the Planning Board’s website, at https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/bedfordma/files/file/file/comment_volume.pdf  and in hard copy at the Town Hall and the Bedford Public Library.

In the publication, a two-column format pairs comments with responses and explanations from the Planning Department and Planning Board. Also included is a section described as an “appendix within an appendix,” which provides information about Bedford’s recent history of residential growth, existing housing inventory, and future housing strategy, as well as traffic and green space. The penultimate section, “Additional Relevant Material,” consists of a short report by David Sukoff (representing  the Outdoor Recreation Area Study Committee, ORASC) covering options for large rectangular fields; a “fact sheet,” presented in a frequently asked questions (FAQs) format, responding to questions  concerning residential development and population.  The volume concludes with a page listing errata identified in Volumes 1 and 2.

Nearly all of the comments received focus on quality-of-life issues. Several respondents endorsed the Comprehensive Plan’s goal to achieve Complete Streets in Bedford—that is, to improve upon the connectedness of sidewalks and trails for pedestrians, support safety measures for bicyclists, ease congestion for drivers, and improve public transit options. Some residents expressed support for economic development. Others voiced concern about retaining open space.

The following is a sample of comments and responses:

  • To address concern about “mansionization”:  State law prohibits restrictions on the interior floor area of single-family houses. Perhaps paradoxically, family size in Bedford has declined in recent decades, while the average number of bedrooms per single-family houses constructed has risen.
  • Achieving the goal of a more walkable town is a lengthy and legally complex process, but one that can be gradually addressed. The Transportation Advisory Committee endorses the Comprehensive Plan’s action items to ease the traffic circulation and increase the feasibility of non-vehicular transportation options.
  • Similarly, planning for housing provisions for elder residents, whether income-independent, “empty nesters” or seniors who are income-eligible for subsidized housing, requires more study to determine needs.
  • There is interest in increasing coordination among existing committees and groups to protect historic properties.
  • The Planning Department favors the creation of more parks and playgrounds.
  • School population and performance issues lie outside the purview of the town planning function. No data supports a cause-effect relationship between multifamily residential development and the  education-system.  FY2012 data indicate that 500 units of multifamily or townhouse developments have contributed 0.18 students per unit, or a total of approximately 30 students.
  • Bedford’s subsidized housing inventory (SHI) increased rapidly between 2002 and 2007 to be in compliance with Massachusetts Chapter 40B law and other state mandates for affordable housing. Properties owned and managed by the Bedford Housing Authority, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, and the Veteran’s Administration also contribute to fulfilling the Chapter 40B requirement.
  • Bedford is taking steps to rebalance the commercial and residential tax burden by strengthening the business base— among the many measures outlined in the Comprehensive Plan are future zoning modifications to provide incentives for developers to revitalize aging job centers, and hiring an economic development coordinator.

At its February 25 meeting, the Planning Board expressed its intention to address action items in the Comprehensive Plan in a systematic, ongoing fashion.


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