Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

From 2019 to 2021, the Planning Board and staff worked on a revision of the zoning bylaw that governs residents' ability to have a second or "accessory" dwelling unit in conjunction with a single-family dwelling in Bedford. The previous bylaw, in place since the early 1990s, allowed such units in the form of "accessory apartments" within or attached to the main house. It set out rules for various aspects such as the presence of the owner on the property and the size, appearance, and parking arrangements.

The Board was interested in expanding the contribution that accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can make to meeting housing needs and giving homeowners the flexibility to adapt to different life-cycle stages. Its outlook was informed by the town's Comprehensive Plan, Senior Needs Assessment, and Housing Study, and its research included a comparative study of other towns' bylaws and experiences.

The main bylaw change under consideration was to allow a detached ADU to be built in the yard of a house, subject to further suitable rules about size, placement, etc. The rules governing internal/attached ADUs were also re-examined.

The Board held a public forum on May 13, 2019, in two sessions to allow for different schedules, and received many comments covering all aspects of the bylaw. Following the forum, the Board formulated a bylaw amendment, held a public hearing over two meetings, and presented the proposal at the November 2019 Special Town Meeting. The vote was 130 in favor and 80 against, which did not achieve the two-thirds majority needed for a zoning amendment.

The Board then drafted a revised bylaw amendment which includes a provision for a site plan review for detached ADUs with abutter notification. This version was the subject of a public hearing on January 14th, 2020. With further adjustments to increase the rear setback for a detached unit and to clarify other aspects, the amendment was placed on the Warrant (PDF) as Article 22 for the 2020 Annual Town Meeting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that Town Meeting was held outdoors in July with a streamlined agenda, and Article 22 was one of the matters that was postponed. The Board then brought this matter to the 2021 Annual Town Meeting, holding a new public hearing on January 26, and continued on February 9, 2021. View the draft text (PDF) initially reviewed at the hearing. Because of new zoning legislation passed by the state as part of the Partnerships for Growth Act, the Board decided to slightly modify the wording and to divide the proposal into two articles for the 2021 Annual Town Meeting Warrant (PDF).

The amendments were passed by Town Meeting on May 15, 2021, and approved by the Massachusetts Attorney General.

A new application form (PDF) has been created for the site plan review required for detached ADUs. The Planning Board's Rules and Regulations (PDF) for site plan review have also been amended to set reasonable expectations for these particular applications.