Planning Board Hears Community Concerns About Accessory Dwelling Units

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At their January 20 meeting, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the proposed Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), heard information on the Hosmer Way planned residential development off Springs Road, increased fees to the Planning Board, and proposed changes from the Board to the Town Charter.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Public Hearing

Despite being stricken down by the voters this past fall, the Planning Board is once again moving full steam ahead by bringing the Zoning Bylaw Amendment back for a vote at Annual Town Meeting. More information can be learned about the ongoing debate over Accessory Dwelling Units here.

This amendment, although different, remains similar to the proposal that was voted down by a small margin at Special Town Meeting. The major difference is that a proposed ADU would require a site plan review by the Planning Board.

Planning Board member Jeffrey Cohen addressed changes to the law since Special Town Meeting in November and how such alterations make the proposed amendment more appealing.

Planning Board member Amy Lloyd raised her personal perspective on the issue by explaining the difference between allowing an individual citizen to construct an ADU rather than allowing a corporation or business.

Jim O’Neil, a frequent critic of the amendment, questioned the board on various aspects of the project. O’Neil raised his intention to propose an amendment during Annual Town Meeting to raise the minimum size of a lot to 30,000 sq. ft in order to construct an ADU.

The Planning Board bounced a few ideas around before giving O’Neil a complete answer that such an amendment could not be proposed at Town Meeting since it further regulates the proposed Article.

Another resident raised concerns with the reduction in setback length of ADUs from 30 to 15 feet. The individual explained his worries that if an ADU was built 15 feet closer to another lot, more problems would rise from nearby property owners. The individual persisted that an ADU should conform to building standards like every other building.

Planning Director Tony Fields explained that the Board desired to decrease the setback length to 15 feet due to the existing setback distance for separate structures, like a detached garage.

Several times, the Planning Board appeared to be unprepared for questions from the audience, which dissatisfied some members of the audience as the Board was holding a Public Hearing.

When a resident asked the Board what the definition of “Short-Term Rental” was, the Board was unable to give an answer. After many minutes of searching around on the Internet and through various papers the information that the individual requested from the elected body was not delivered.

After discussing various other aspects of the proposal, the Planning Board began weighing the proposed “amendments” from the public.

Planning Board member Cohen proposed that the Board amend the current proposal to reduce the setbacks of ADUs to 20 feet to help meet the requests of attending residents.

Planning Board member Lloyd disagreed with Cohen’s suggestion, arguing that further regulation of accessory dwelling units would greatly decrease the plausibility of construction in Bedford.

The Planning Board ultimately did not vote on any amendments.

Development Session

The Planning Board approved a bond reduction for the Planned Residential Development on Hosmer Way.

Increase to Planning Board Fees

The Board began working towards increasing Planning Board Fees and will look to hold a public hearing on such increases in the near future.

Proposed Changes to Town Bylaw

The Planning Board discussed advocating for a member of the Planning Board to be added to the Conservation Commission as a voting member. Planning Board member Mark Siegenthaler announced his displeasure, due to the educational requirement and amount of work required to be an effective member of the Conservation Commission.

Conservation Commission Vice Chair Steve Hagan, who was in attendance, agreed with Siegenthaler’s disapproval of such a measure. Ultimately the proposal was dropped, and the Planning Board will not advocate for a member to serve on the Conservation Commission.

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