By Debra Parkhurst
At their meeting on September 19, the Selectmen awarded a contract to RKG Associates, Inc. to study the potential for re-zoning The Great Road Business District. Town Manager Rick Reed explained that following approval of $120,000 for the study at the 2016 Annual Town Meeting, staff worked with the Planning Board to develop an RFP (Request for Proposal).
The Town received two RFPs: one from RKG, and one from MAPC. Both proposals were highly rated, according to Planning Board Chair Jeff Cohen and member Amy Lloyd. However, during the interview process it became apparent that RKG had the edge, particularly as to the size and issues of the communities they had worked with.
In particular, “RKG appears to have conducted more background research specific to Bedford…suggesting that certain segments of the corridor were ripe for redevelopment.” RKG also “had better concepts for engaging the public in the process.”* While not engaging in a full “charrette,” as the Town has done in recent years, they will engage the community as widely as possible.
Cohen said the end goal is to re-write the zoning for the business district along the Great Road corridor using available data and input from the community. Another goal is to make doing business in the town “less onerous” from a zoning standpoint. Lloyd added that RKG would conduct a series of public meetings and broad outreach to find out “what Bedford is about.”
While the Planning Board members could not speculate regarding any enlargement of the business zone, they will look at what currently exists, and make adjustments. Lloyd added that the zoning is old, and should better reflect the current Town wishes.
Selectman Margot Fleischman added that some of the recent “overlay” zoning is not producing the desired results. The 50 to 60-year-old zoning patterns are not working, and Fleischman hopes that improved streetscapes, aesthetics, and human scale development will result.
*from Great Road Business Rezoning, RFP Evaluation Report, dated September 16, 2016