By Meredith McCulloch
The Planning Board had a preliminary discussion on May 19 about whether to review the definition of building height in the current zoning by-law. It may seem like a detail, but it can impact how a newly constructed building affects its neighbors, especially when a teardown is being replaced. Taller buildings, especially if built on raised ground, can shadow houses on either side, which is a frequent complaint about “mansionization.”
Chair Amy Lloyd researched the method used in other towns and found a variety of methods for measuring. Bedford’s current maximum is 37 feet, whereas many towns use 35 feet. Concord Town Meeting voted recently to change their method of measuring in some zoning districts in an effort to prevent taller buildings in an established neighborhood.
Concerned about how the measurement is taken, Board member Shawn Hanegan stressed, “I want a precise meaning of ground height and concrete language about height measurement prior to any grading or mounding.”
The Board agreed that further data collection on the possible impact should be done and that the committee should continue to look at a possible change. Planning Director Glenn Garber said that height measurements are not routinely collected in the United States, making analysis difficult.
Members agreed that the next step should be to consult Code Enforcement. Going forward, the Board said it would be important to seek input from builders, realtors and the general public.