Accessory Dwelling Units - ADUs

Since early in 2019, the Planning Board and staff have been working 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 current bylaw, in place since the early 1990s, allows such units in the form of “accessory apartments” within or attached to the main house. It sets out rules for various aspects such as the presence of the owner on the property and the size, appearance and parking arrangements.

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

The main bylaw change under consideration is to allow a detached ADU to be built within a house lot, subject to further suitable rules about size, placement etc. The rules governing internal/attached ADUs are also being 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 is being placed on the Warrant as Article 22 for a vote at the Annual Town Meeting on March 23, 2020.