Updates from the Planning Board’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Workshop

Article 10 allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) failed to gain the two-thirds vote required for a bylaw amendment at November’s Special Town Meeting. The vote was 130 in favor and 80 opposed. The Article sought to amend zoning bylaws for ADUs, which are small housing units created as an additional unit on existing properties. The Planning Department prepared a Q&A on ADUs for more information, click this link to read The Bedford Citizen’s article about the Q&A.

Article 10 proposed amending the bylaw to guarantee property owners the right to build ADUs. Many of those who spoke against the proposal were concerned that it gave abutters little say in their neighbors’ creation of an ADU and how it might impact their property.
To address these concerns, the Planning Board held a workshop open to the public. One of the  Planning Board’s goals is to allow more affordable housing options, particularly for young people and elders.

The Board is working towards creating a new amendment for allowing ADUs, and the workshop was one of the initial steps of this process. Discussions at the workshop centered around finding a balance between the Board’s goal of an amendment which allows for the creation of ADUs and the concerns expressed at the last town meeting about Article 10. There were three primary ways the Board considered formatting the new proposition:

  • By right, which would allow property owners to build freely on their own property. Article 10 was along these lines and was what the Board hoped for.
  • Limited site plan review, which would require proposed ADUs to be reviewed by a board before being approved. Neighbors on abutting properties would be notified of the hearing and would be able to attend to express their concerns or support, giving a platform for their voices to be heard. There was discussion over whether the reviewing board would be the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • Special Permit, which would be the strictest of the three possible processes for those hoping to build on their property. A special permit implies property owners don’t necessarily have the right to build and would require a special permit to do so.

The workshop concluded with no definite plan, with much of the Board favoring the Limited Review. Further steps will be taken towards creating a more definitive proposal and will be discussed at the next meeting.

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