At their September 22 meeting, the Planning Board endorsed the latest iteration of the proposed “Friendly 40B” development at 330 South Road, although the Board stopped short of offering a “blanket” approval, saying that certain details still need to be worked out.
Board member Jacinda Barbehenn moved, “The Planning Board expresses a general sense of approval with this project, substantially as proposed, feeling that it meets many of the [housing] goals we have set out, assuming that certain details are worked out before it becomes an official LIP [Local Initiative Plan] application.”
Member Steve Hagan seconded the motion and it was approved by a 4:0 vote. Chair Jeff Cohen was not present at the meeting but had earlier communicated his reservation about a blanket approval and concerns over the density of the project. Members Amy Lloyd and Shawn Hanegan also were reluctant to approve without reservations.
Acting Chair Hanegan said he was pleased that a traffic study requested by the Board at an earlier meeting indicated minimal impact and that the planned residential use would generate fewer trips than the existing commercial use. Hanegan observed that although there were still details to be worked out, the project meets many of the goals outlined in the 2019 Bedford Housing Study, including the need for smaller-sized rental units.
The property is located at a difficult intersection of South Road and Summer Street. The developer is proposing secondary access, with a driveway that crosses two private properties. This led to lengthy questions from the Board about the driveway that loops through the property. Attorney Brown argued that this detail should not be a stumbling block to the approval of the project. Board members Jacinda Barbehenn and Steve Hagan spoke forcefully for “finding a way” to solve the driveway access issue. “This is a beautiful example of an infill project,” said Barbehenn, “and of how to preserve existing structures and incorporate more people in town. We need to find innovative adaptations and not let driveways stand in the way.”
Attorney Pamela Brown represented the developers, Steve Soillis and Jennifer Soillis, who first proposed a multi-family rental housing project on the site more than two years ago. Brown first appeared before the Planning Board in August 2018 with a “concept” to replace the existing commercial buildings with housing units. In the intervening years, as Attorney Brown reviewed, the developer has appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission and the Housing Partnership; both these boards approved the concept. The HPC applauded preserving and repurposing the existing two barns and a house on the property. The Housing Partnership lauded the Friendly 40B aspect, which now includes six affordable units out of the total of 24 units in the plan.
Although the Planning Board is not the approval entity for this project, the Board’s endorsement is a necessary step before the developer requests an appearance before the Select Board, to gain support before an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Since the project was initiated, several public hearings have been held, giving abutters and neighbors the opportunity to voice concerns and make suggestions. At the September 22 (virtual) meeting, no residents offered any comments.
In summary, the 330 South Road redevelopment, if approved, would include two barns and a house that will be repurposed into individual units. One new building, at 2800 sq. ft., will replace two garages and woodsheds, which will be demolished. The 24 units will range in size from a 400 sq. ft studio to 1400 sq. ft. three-bedroom-plus-den units The distribution will be one studio, two one-bedroom units, 14 two-bedroom units, and seven three-bedroom units. The six affordable units will be dispersed among the four buildings and unit types.
The Citizen has published several articles on this project: