At their January 28 meeting, the Planning Board discussed the future of 40B housing at 330 South Road, voted to continue a Site Plan Review at 18 North Road until February 25, and discussed the Board’s outreach strategy for the Accessory Dwelling Unit vote at Annual Town Meeting.
Housing Proposal at 330 South Road
As part of the town’s push to include an increased number of affordable housing opportunities, the Planning Board heard a proposal by 330 South Road owner and developer Steven Soillis. The proposal was met with questions from members of the Planning Board and concern from members of the audience, many of whom are neighbors to the property.
Existing buildings on the two-acre property would be converted into a total of 24 rental units, of varying sizes. One new building would be constructed but the old barns (there are two) and an existing house would be preserved and renovated. This is proposed as a Local Initiative Project, or LIP, and would provide for 25% of the units (6) as affordable.
Planning Board Questions and Reactions
Planning Board member Shawn Hanegan shared his concerns over the possible impacts that the proposal would have on traffic, and asked Soillis why the proposal lacked a traffic study at the intersection of South Road and Summer Street.
Planning Board member Amy Lloyd also voiced her support for a traffic study, echoing Hanegan’s concerns. Lloyd explained that the addition of this housing would not necessarily worsen traffic, but rather worsen the intersection at the property’s main access road.
Soillis confirmed that there had not been traffic study, but agreed for one to be conducted in the future.
Planning Board member Mark Siegenthaler raised worries over the density of the proposed housing. He advised Soillis to find information that presented the comparison of density between the proposed construction and the surrounding neighborhood.
Soillis responded that he will gather the data and report on the density between the proposed housing and the surrounding area.
Planning Board clerk Jeffrey Cohen also voiced his worries that Building D (seen on the map above) could negatively affect existing housing on Eliot Road. Building D is at the rear of the property on a hill overlooking Eliot Road.
Lloyd, echoing Cohen’s worries, highlighted the importance of carefully examining the impact that Building D would have on housing on Eliot Road. Lloyd also spoke of her possible support for higher density housing but stressed that such properties must go further than just serve as housing. She explained that such property would need to include a village-like feel with more green space, creating a community at 330 South Road.
Lloyd also supported more single-level homes to better suit those with mobility issues. She also said there are seniors in town who wish to downsize and are underserved in Bedford’s current housing market.
Soillis acknowledged Lloyd’s concerns and explained that he would look into the effect the proposed building would have on Eliot Road homes.
Siegenthaler encouraged Soillis to create a list of waivers so that the town and Planning Board could better understand what would be required to make this proposal successful. Siegenthaler explained that in his mind this lot not only would require a density waiver, but also a setback waiver, as well as possibly others depending on the future of the proposal.
Audience Questions and Reactions
Resident John Pimentel who lives on Genetti Circle, the street which lies behind Building A and Building B, explained that the lot is too small for the proposed construction. He voiced frustration with the proposal due to the many issues that he believed existed with the proposal. Pimentel emphasized his opposition — he believes it would greatly increase traffic and cause many other issues in the intersection. He asked: “Why are we here [tonight]? We are not getting any answers.”
Planning Board Clerk Jeff Cohen outlined the process for bringing a proposed development to completion. Ultimately, the developer would need to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals and apply for a Comprehensive Permit. Up to now, Cohen said, these sessions [such as tonight] are informal, for the purpose of gathering information. “The process for a Friendly 40B requires that this Board listen to the developer, consider comments from the public, and then ask ourselves ‘Should this be a Friendly 40B’ and write a recommendation to the Selectmen.”
Theresa Stevens, Summer Street, repeated concerns over the increase in traffic, and worries about the impact that traffic would have on neighborhood children walking to the bus stop. She explained that her son currently crosses many of the nearby roads to ride the school bus every day. There are no sidewalks on Summer Street or South Road.
Another resident questioned other possibilities for the future of the lot if this proposal doesn’t work out.
Soillis explained that there were two possibilities: return the parcel to what it has been: renting to small businesses which he said “wasn’t working” or take everything down and put up single houses. The lot is zoned Residence C, which would permit construction of three single-family homes.
Heather Randhahn, a resident of Fayette Road, raised concerns about the transient nature of rental properties. She echoed similar concerns as other residents with the increase in traffic, issues with school busses, and impact of the increase of students in the school district.
Armen Zildjian, resident of Hartwell Road, asked if the findings of a traffic study would be made open to the public in a transparent fashion. He also asked the Board what level of density in the housing would lose their support.
Planning Board member Shawn Hanegan agreed that the traffic study should be transparent. Hanegan said he expected that the increase in traffic would be only a percentage, but may cause more issues with the safety of the intersection.
Ultimately the Planning Board did not feel comfortable with making any decision on the proposal since many questions, both from the board and residents, remained unanswered. Member Mark Siegenthaler reiterated that the Planning Board’s role is to determine if the project is a “Friendly 40B.” If this determination is made, the Board will recommend approval to the Selectmen, who will then make their own determination, to approve or not. Ultimately, the issue comes to the Zoning Board of Appeals which may or may not issue a Comprehensive Permit. There are still opportunities for residents’ concerns to be heard.
Soillis thanked the Planning Board and the residents for their feedback and announced that he would return at a future date with answers to the many questions and concerns raised during the meeting.
209 Burlington Road
CMT Realty Partnership reviewed a site plan for a proposed parking lot expansion in support of Industrial Mixed Use at 213 Burlington Road.
The proposed expansion would add 37 new parking spaces and landscaping to replace the destroyed greenery.
The proposal was approved unanimously.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)— Outreach strategy
A revised bylaw for ADUs is on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.
The Board discussed strategies to encourage voters at Annual Town Meeting to support the article. Planning Board member Shawn Hanegan encouraged individuals who supported ADUs to post on social media, write letters to the editor supporting the proposal, and speak to other voters urging their support.
The Planning Board also discussed their joint meeting with the School Committee on March 10. Planning Director Tony Fields supported presenting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to the School Committee as a possible solution to the teacher-housing shortage.