ZBA okays Bedford Road barn replacement

by Karina Coombs

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approved the restoration project for 21-23 Bedford Road, the property across the street from Gleason Library, on January 13. Eric Adams, co-founder and partner at Adams and Beasley, Inc. and co-owner of the property had requested both a variance and special permit so he could begin to rebuild the barn that once stood on the site and extend the existing home. After extensive discussion, the voting members of the board agreed unanimously to approve both.

Adams’ business partner and co-owner Angus Beasley had appeared before the board on December 11 to request a variance for the project. Early in the proceedings it became evident that the property would also require a special permit under Zoning Bylaw 6.3, Extension of Non-Conforming Use. With both the expansion of the house and addition of the barn, the already non-conforming building was going to increase its footprint making it more non-conforming (see, “Zoning Board of Appeals questions Bedford Road barn project,” December 11, 2013). 

Much of the discussion at both meetings concerned the wording of the bylaw itself. Bylaw 6.3 states that the board may issue a special permit for “… the extension or other enlargement of a non-conforming use of a building, structure or land, provided that no such extension shall be made which increases the total of all floor area plus open ground area devoted to such use by more than 50% over the total so devoted at the time the use first became non-conforming.” Specifically, the board was concerned that in order to comply with the bylaw the barn would have had to, at one time, be considered finished space or living space. The members asked Beasley to return in January and to find anecdotal information about the barn’s past use.

During the January 13 meeting, both Adams and ZBA member Marty Galligan provided anecdotal information about the barn’s history including as a tack shop, mechanic shop and housing a software development business to show it had been in use. Building Commissioner John Luther suggested that instead of trying to determine living space, the board should just look at gross space—the original footprint of the home and barn—and then consider the expansions proposed. Aware that their decision would affect the board for years to come, ZBA associate member Steve Hinton added, “That’s why you see us being particularly thoughtful.”

Galligan asked ZBA Secretary Peggy Wang if she had received any correspondence from abutters and she had not. He also asked Adams if he had a smaller development plan in the event the board did not approve the larger plan. Adams explained that he would need the barn considered as living space to obtain financing for the project in both the short and long term. “We are not millionaires,” he added, noting he was trying to build a structure his company would be proud to put its name on. 

As a self-described “6.3 junkie,” Board of Selectman Doug Stevenson offered some comments on the bylaw at the conclusion of the hearing, noting he was pleased to see something being done with the property. Explaining that he had been collecting research on the bylaw for 20 years, Stevenson noted that boards had consistently struggled with the bylaw’s use language and said it was poorly written. “My observation is that ZBAs in the past have gotten themselves tied in knots [over this].” Stevenson explained that a bylaw revision had been brought to an earlier Town Meeting but had been voted down.

Ultimately, the board agreed to the larger plan and determined the original footprint of the property, including the former barn, was 5,464 square feet. “Throughout history and at the time the building became non-conforming, we believe [it was] used for some kind of occupancy. Therefore we’re going to accept the calculations on the plans as being our best understanding of the way the building was in the 1930s,” said Hinton. “Forever more the historic size of the building will be 5,464.” The board approved Adams’ request to add to the existing living space and bring the project up to 8,101 square feet. Adams also noted that discussion on adding an accessory apartment to the original home has been put on hold. Neighbors have 20 days to appeal.

Marijuana regulation

In other business, Chair Lisa Davis Lewis gave a brief update on the work of the Medical Marijuana Subcommittee and polled the board for their thoughts on the subcommittee’s proposed bylaw change to allow a medical marijuana dispensary in business district outside Town Center assuming certain other restrictions are met (see related article, page 1). The board supported the proposal.

Benfield opening in March

It was noted that the move-in date for the Benfield Farms affordable housing on South Street has been pushed out until closer to March, because the developer is waiting for the power company to install permanent power. ∆