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Bedford voters may be asked to let council decide zoning

BEDFORD — Voters may be asked to allow the Town Council to rule on which zoning amendments will become town law in the future, without amendment proposals going on the ballot.

The change in the zoning ordinance process was first brought to voters in March 2010 but was rejected. That proposal had been recommended by the town’s Economic Development Committee in 2009. If the Town Council and the Planning Board agree to put a similar zoning amendment on the March 2014 ballot, voters would be asked to authorize the Town Council to approve future zoning amendments, which is within the council’s purview under state law and the Bedford Town Charter, said Town Manager Jessie Levine.

A decision has yet to be made, but the Planning Board is expected to revisit the discussion in December and present its recommendation to the council, said Planning Director Rick Sawyer.

The issue has been brought to the Planning Board’s attention, and six of the seven councilors support the change. Councilor Kelleigh Domaingue said she is against the proposal because zoning changes should go to public vote. Councilor Bill Dermody and Chairman Chris Bandazian met with the Planning Board on Sept. 23, and most board members seemed in favor of the zoning amendment process change.

According to the proposed 2010 zoning amendment, the Town Council would have made all future zoning amendments after at least two public hearings — one by the Planning Board and one by the Town Council. If the Planning Board agrees to put the proposal on the March ballot, the same guidelines could be followed, Levine said.