By Eliza Rosenberry
Carleton-Willard Village appeared again before the Planning Board on April 11 to finalize a request for zoning bylaw amendments that would authorize the retirement community to expand.
Though the Planning Board was receptive to the proposed amendments, members took the opportunity to challenge Carleton-Willard about common open space on their property.
“It says very clearly, more than once in the bylaw, that this area should be readily accessible… But I actually think you guys have subtly, actually, tried to make it less accessible,” said Planning Board member Tim Gray. Gray said that trailheads on Old Billerica and Old Stagecoach Roads are difficult to locate, and that Carleton-Willard blocked access to a trailhead on Myers Lane with a fence.
Representatives from Carleton-Willard said they would not be opposed to posting trailhead markers, and explained it had never been specifically requested before.
“I would like to see more than just a sign,” added Board member Amy Lloyd. She said that a commitment to trail maintenance from Carleton-Willard, in the “spirit of the law,” would make it easier for people — including Carleton-Willard residents — to walk around town and utilize the open space.
Common open space throughout Bedford includes conservation land, land owned by the town and by the state, and some private land.
Carleton-Willard hopes to create a new residential street with up to a dozen cluster-style houses. The street, to be called Arlington Court, will be located on the southern side of the retirement community’s property. The project depends on the Planning Board’s willingness to amend the zoning bylaws.
Existing bylaws restrict how many residents can live at Carleton-Willard based on non-wetlands acreage, as well as the percentage of those residents who can be in independent living units compared to those in nursing care accommodations. Wetlands on the Carleton-Willard property have expanded since these restrictions were originally put into place decades ago, which has affected the resident-per-acre ratio. No other existing facility in town falls under the nursing care zoning bylaw.
Changes to zoning bylaws require approval at town meeting. Planning staff will work to draft proposed bylaw amendments and schedule a public hearing, and the resulting amendments will likely appear before town voters in the fall. If they are approved, Carleton-Willard will still need to receive approvals from the Conservation Commission, the Selectmen, and the state legislature before moving forward with the expansion.