2021 Master Plan for the Town of Bedford, New Hampshire
Every New Hampshire community seeking to regulate the use and development of land is required to develop and have in place a master plan describing the community’s vision for the future. NH state law requires the adoption of a master plan in order to exercise basic land use controls, including to adopt a zoning ordinance (NH RSA 674:18) and the continued and consistent updating of the master plan is best practice to ensure that the community is responsive to current conditions. Bedford has a long history of land use planning, with its first Master Plan adopted in 1962. Since then, several comprehensive planning efforts have been undertaken and completed, including four community master plans. These planning efforts have helped shape the Town’s current character and general form.
The 2021 Master Plan is a continuation of earlier efforts. The process brought together residents, members of the business community, volunteers and community organizations, and elected officials to have their views heard and ideas presented. The Plan represents a blueprint for long-term, responsible land development and preservation in Bedford.
The Master Plan seeks to address change in order to both protect and enhance the community’s high quality of life and leverage its many assets. To achieve this goal, the Plan embraces a sustainable approach to land development that reflects Bedford’s unique character and local values. The Plan is intended as a framework to guide future modifications to the Zoning Ordinance and Site and Subdivision Regulations, the Capital Improvement Plan and future short and long range plans. As such it becomes a valuable tool for evaluating development applications, amending ordinances as necessary and recognition of the need for, as well as control of future capital expenditures, and helps to ensure that choices are consistent with achievable future goals.
Since 2010, when Bedford’s Master Plan was last updated, the community has seen development and redevelopment, particularly along the Route 101 and South River Road corridors. Several other planning documents have also been developed in the past decade, including the Pedestrian & Bicycle Connectivity Plan (2014), the Open Space Plan (2009), and the Hazard Mitigation Plan. These studies supplement this updated Master Plan.
Since 1970, Bedford’s population has increased nearly fourfold from 5,589 to 23,233 in 2020. Although population growth rates have declined significantly from those experienced prior to 2000. The annual population growth has averaged approximately 1% per year over the past decade and has numerically reached growth levels not experienced since 1960. Although population growth has stabilized, Bedford continues to enjoy a vibrant housing market and demand for all categories of housing in Bedford exceeds visible supply. Today’s challenges include increased pressure on the Town’s transportation infrastructure, increased demand for housing and declining affordability, loss of agricultural lands and open space, and an increasing cost of services and infrastructure maintenance.
Bedford’s growth has also generated a variety of positive outcomes: better access to amenities and services, additional jobs available for residents, a large selection of attractive and desirable residential neighborhoods, and a larger and more diversified tax base to support the School District and other Town services. This Plan will be an important tool for land use planning in Bedford and maintaining its positive qualities. While only a small amount of land in the Town remains undeveloped and available for new building, changes on some of these sites could greatly impact adjacent neighborhoods or the character of Bedford. Redevelopment opportunities also represent an important consideration.
It is important for the community to visualize how Bedford could evolve. What will Bedford look like in ten to twenty years? What will Bedford feel like? What will define Bedford’s identity as a community? The Plan analyzes existing conditions and has gathered input from all sections of the community to form recommendations for guiding the Town’s future development and redevelopment.
Maintain Bedford as an outstanding community to live, work and play
Foster a healthy and active, multi-generational, and socially connected community
Preserve open spaces, rural and historic character, and existing neighborhoods
Conserve the natural environment and manage change
Support innovation, entrepreneurship, and a vibrant and dynamic local and regional economy
Advance transportation and infrastructure connections
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