Great Road Zoning Project

Great Road Zoning Project Street

The Great Road Zoning Project 2016 to 2018

This project was overseen by the Planning Board and led by consultant RKG Associates. They conducted a comprehensive review and rewrite of zoning for Bedford's main business corridor along The Great Road, including the intersection of North and Carlisle Roads. The focus is on business uses (including retail, personal and professional services, restaurants, banks, gas stations, and others), which were previously mainly covered by the Limited Business and General Business zoning districts. The project also reconsidered the two Mixed Use Overlay Districts in the area.

The Limited and General Business zones ('base zoning') were in place for several decades and some aspects were questioned in recent years. A limited adjustment to the rules on unit sizes was made in 2016 but the town's consensus was that a broader review would be beneficial. The Zoning Project was authorized with an appropriation of funding at the 2016 Annual Town Meeting. Zoning is an important tool by which the town can influence the development and help to achieve the vision set out in the Comprehensive Plan.

18 Month Process

The 18-month process was assisted by Planning staff and a broad working group. There were many opportunities for public input and discussion, beginning with a visioning session to develop and capture ideas for the types of land use, built form, and supporting elements people want to see in various parts of the corridor. The consultants also collected and analyzed data and interviewed a range of stakeholders (interest groups, property owners, etc.) affected by the zoning. In addition, they were able to draw on a Market Study produced by Fine Point Associates. The project culminated in zoning amendment recommendations for Annual Town Meeting in 2018 (Articles 8, 9, and 10). The great majority of the recommendations were approved.

Articles 8 and 10 created the new Great Road Zoning District, consisting of four subdistricts with detailed rules tailored for each. They are named Shawsheen, Marketplace, Center, and North Road. The provisions include new sets of allowed uses, dimensions, and parking regulations, and there is more emphasis on desired design features but more flexibility on uses. Zoning district boundaries were adjusted to follow lot lines rather than being fixed distances from the road. Article 9, which was a specific provision to allow greater height for mixed-use developments in the Shawsheen subdistrict by special permit, narrowly failed to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority vote.

For more information on the scope, geographic area, process, and timeline, as well as a summary of background documents, points raised in the initial interviews, and materials used in the first public forum, please view the presentation dated March 4, 2017.

More Recent Amendments

At the fall 2018 Special Town Meeting and the 2019 Annual Town Meeting, most of the remaining references to the old Limited Business District and the General Business District were deleted. The rules governing restaurants in the Great Road District were adjusted to enable larger establishments to be allowed by Special Permit.

At the fall 2019 Special Town Meeting, horizontal mixed-use was added to the uses allowed by Special Permit in the North Road subdistrict, and drive-throughs were prohibited in all Great Road subdistricts.

At the fall 2021 Special Town Meeting, several amendments were approved, including enabling the fourth story to be approved by Special Permit, for certain mixed-use developments in the Shawsheen subdistrict; modifying the dimensional waiver provisions; allowing horizontal mixed-use by Special Permit in the Center subdistrict; allowing restaurants in mixed-use developments; clarifying the standards for sidewalks and landscaping, and adding to the Purpose statement.