September 10 Public Hearing will Consider Accessory Dwelling Unit Zoning Proposals

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The Bedford Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, starting at or after 7:30 PM in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room in the Town Hall, 10 Mudge Way, Bedford, MA, to review proposed amendments to the Zoning Bylaw:

  • To amend Section 4.2.9 and related references elsewhere in the bylaw, concerning Accessory Apartments: to substitute the term Accessory Dwelling Units; to allow detached units as well as internal/attached units, and to alter the conditions and requirements applicable to all types of units;
  • To amend Section 6.2.10, concerning Height, to lower the height limit for accessory buildings in the Residential Districts.

It is anticipated that these amendments will be placed on the Warrant for the November 4, 2019, Special Town Meeting.

All residents or interested parties are welcome to attend the hearings and offer comments. Questions may be addressed to Planning staff on 781-275-1548 or at the office in Town Hall.

Details of the proposed zoning and background materials may be viewed at the Planning Department in Town Hall during normal business hours.

Legal Notices

Background Information

Details of the Accessory Dwelling Units forum and other background materials can be viewed by clicking on earlier News and Announcements items on the right of the Planning webpage and on the Residential Development tab on the left. A video of the forum compiled by Bedford TV can also be viewed from the Planning Board Meeting Videos tab on the left or via YouTube.  Click this link to visit the Planning Board website.

The first proposal involves changes to the rules governing Accessory Apartments, which will be renamed with the broader and widely used term Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). They are small dwelling units that are allowed on the same lot as a single-family house, with an owner presence required. The proposed changes include: allowing detached units, subject to certain dimensional and design rules; modifying the rules for allowing internal/attached units; and reducing the parking requirement. Accessory dwellings are seen as making a contribution to addressing the need for more moderate-sized housing units in response to demographic and economic changes and offering flexibility for people to adapt to different life stages, without significantly changing the appearance of neighborhoods. A public forum on the subject was held on May 13, with afternoon and evening sessions, and the Planning Board has reviewed the many comments received.

A second bylaw amendment which was spurred partly by the first is to limit the height of accessory buildings in residential districts to 25 feet and 1 ½ stories. Currently, the height limit is the same as for the principal building: 35 feet and three stories. Click this link to read a draft of the bylaw.

The next amendments relate to the zoning introduced in 2018 for the Great Road business districts. They would make two limited changes: one to allow “Horizontal Mixed-Use” by special permit in the North Road district where it was not previously allowed, and one to explicitly prohibit drive-through service in all the Great Road districts. Click to read the ‘No Drivethru’ bylaw draft.

Mixed-use under the Great Road zoning can include retail, personal services, office, and multi-family residential uses. The Horizontal designation allows it to be in more than one building, whereas Vertical Mixed Use which is already allowed by right in the North Road district requires a single building with the office or residential uses located above the ground floor. Click this link to read these draft changes.

The final amendment for review at this public hearing concerns the “Base Elevation” which is used in applying height rules in residential districts and makes only minor changes. The concept was introduced in 2016 as part of an effort to address concerns about houses being built that loom over their neighbors, and it has been applied with few difficulties since then. However, the ZBA (which hears special permit requests for adjustments of more than two feet) considers that clarification of some aspects would be helpful. The proposed amendment adds language expressing the intent, makes it explicit that an adjustment of up to two feet needs the Building Inspector’s approval, and amplifies the reasons for which adjustments may be granted (drainage, soils or topography). Click this link to read the draft Base Elevation bylaw.

Looking Ahead

A further zoning amendment, concerning temporary accessory buildings on non-residential properties, is planned for a public hearing on September 24. Details will follow in due course.

Correction on 9/5/2019: The proper title for the hearing is Accessory Dwelling Units, not Auxiliary Dwelling Units as initially published.