2-Family Dwellings:  Zoning Bylaw Amendment

The Planning Board and its staff worked throughout 2022 on a revision of the Zoning Bylaw governing Two-family Dwellings. While the old bylaw listed Two-family Dwellings as an allowed use in all residential districts, its detailed rules could rarely be satisfied.

The Comprehensive Plan produced in 2013 identified concerns about ‘mansionization’, with construction favoring increasingly large single-family dwellings. It noted the growing difficulty for moderate-income households to find suitable housing in town, and also the trend toward smaller household sizes.

The follow-on Housing Study of 2019 (led by the Select Board) examined housing needs in more detail and recommended a number of regulatory strategies, of which the first is “Ease zoning restrictions for two-family dwellings”. The Planning Board saw this as having potential to help maintain or improve balance in the housing stock.

The Board saw a need to set dimensional constraints so that a two-family dwelling would roughly equate to the alternative large one-family house on a site (rather than being like two of them joined together). Therefore it studied the application of Floor Area Ratio and Lot Coverage metrics and tested them in different scenarios. It also examined the application of rules to nonconforming properties, with a view to streamlining the process for conversions that would involve little physical change and giving more guidance to the Zoning Board of Appeals on cases that would still need to go before it.

The Board publicized its thinking through a Bedford Day booth, website ‘news flashes’, articles in the Bedford Citizen online newspaper, and social media links, and invited public input.

A public hearing was held on the draft amendment, commencing on October 25, 2022 and with further sessions on November 9, December 13, January 3, and January 24 to allow many opportunities for comment.

Following the hearing, the Board made minor revisions to the wording of the amendment and sent it forward for inclusion in the Warrant for the March 27, 2023 Annual Town Meeting.

On March 27, Town Meeting voted, by more than the required two-thirds majority, to approve the article as written in the Warrant. Paperwork was sent to the state Attorney General's office for final approval, which was given on June 15. The amendment is deemed to be in effect from the date of the Town Meeting vote.