The Planning Board this week moved a little closer to approving a proposed 92-unit assisted living facility on South Road at the corner of Evergreen Avenue.
Board Chair Jeffrey Cohen advised LCB Senior Living and its attorney, Pamela Brown, to continue drafting a proposed section of the zoning bylaw that would include assisted living definitions. He noted that more than half of the board is in support of that approach.
Brown outlined two options for zoning assisted living: creating a stand-alone bylaw that would allow special permit use, without town meeting approval, when certain criteria are met; or a special permit section that would require town meeting approval to begin a project. She said the developer prefers the first option and noted that “this is what we’ve done” when zoning planned residential developments, Carleton-Willard Village and Page Place.
Amy Lloyd of the Planning Board agreed, saying that requiring town meeting approval “is just too onerous for any business.” Board member Jeff Cohen voiced his agreement.
Lloyd raised the question of how the facility would be taxed. Brown said that, while LCB is commercial, the facility would fall under the residential tax rate. Member Jacinda Barbehenn added that she would like to see the facility be economically beneficial to the town, noting that the LCB team estimates $250,000 in annual taxes. Brown said the current tax impact is $27,000.
Barbehenn said any special permit created should be made for a broader set of projects, not centered around this specific situation. Lloyd later seconded this sentiment, saying that “there’s going to be innovative solutions proposed [for assisted living] and I would hate to ‘define out’ these different solutions.”
Cohen later mentioned that having additional detail surrounding the proposal aids the Board in seeing the potential of the site. Lloyd concurred, saying that “this is a reasonable path that new uses generally take.”
Lee Bloom of LCB noted that this situation is fairly normal for development of their facilities, having as much information on hand as possible before going into a project and providing communities with transparency surrounding their projects. Brown added that she has been working with Planning Director Tony Fields and Town Manager Sarah Stanton to see if the site could be looked at for rezoning before working with LCB.
Brown’s proposal lists a two-acre minimum lot size for the proposed special permit, with minimum frontage of 150 feet, front and side yards at 5, and rear space of at least 25. Brown said the minimums could be enlarged for unique circumstances. The LCB facility site is contiguous to Minuteman Bikeway.
The maximum floor-area-ratio under the proposed permit would be 0.50, with both maximum lot landscaping and coverage falling at 50 percent. LCB’s proposal has a total floor area of 91,150 gross square feet, for a 0.484 floor-area ratio on the site. The proposed structure also sits at 16.6 percent lot coverage, which does not include all impervious surfaces.
The height of facilities under the permit would be capped at 37 feet, which, as Anthony Vivirito of LCB pointed out, is two feet more than the highest part of the planned facility. Brown pointed out that with additional setbacks, the building can be a greater height, similar to the limited business district on The Great Road.
Maximum residential density would be capped at 25 bedrooms per acre. Brown noted that, when compared to the amount of single-family homes that would take up the same space, the density is not much greater. The LCB proposal is estimated at 23.6 bedrooms per acre.
Brown said that for the evaluation criteria, it would be simplest to draw from the current zoning. These include design, site suitability, amenities proposed, low impact design, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), open space, connection to public land and public benefits, visual impact, fiscal impact, municipal impact, and architectural details.
Later, Brown noted that under the current zoning bylaw, there are no definitions for “assisted care”, “memory care facility”, and “lot landscaping”. In Section 10 of the bylaw, Brown noted the definitions used for the Carleton-Willard facility, including “nursing/special care facility”, “hospital facility”, “congregate living facility” and “independent living facility”.
Catherine Perry, assistant planning director, said that, while the industrial zone targeted for most of the new development might be suitable, other industrial zones might not be as hospitable and the option may be best limited to residential areas. For example, she said, Wiggins Avenue is replete with truck traffic and “lack of connection to the community.” The commercial area east of Route 3 is far from Bedford’s emergency services.
Perry later clarified that the site proposed by LCB is an anomaly due to its current zoning as industrial use, and that a rezoning would remedy this issue. In response, Brown proposed the possibility of defining restrictions on “industrial areas” instead of “industrially zoned areas.”
She posed a possible restriction of the proposed permit to residential areas, possibly higher density areas including residential areas B and C. She notes that the Planning Board has already allowed assisted living facilities along Great Road in the limited business district, yet would not fit well with this case.
Fields noted that the reason that the current site is zoned industrially is due to the foundry that was located there before the establishment of zoning. He elaborated that the site is not optimal for any purely industrial or commercial use, and is therefore not a factor in economic planning for the town. A contiguous residential property is also part of the LCB plan.