Community Preservation Makes Recommendations for November Town Meeting Vote

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) held a public hearing on September 17 to discuss project submissions for recommendation for this fall’s round of Community Preservation funding. Five approved projects resulted from the meeting that have still to be vetted by the Selectmen before they are finalized for inclusion in the warrant article for the November 4 Special Town Meeting.

A total of eight projects came before the Committee and, although all were deemed viable, three were recommended either for postponement until spring Town Meeting or for funding by another method.

The list of five CP-recommended projects currently includes:

Bicycle Master Plan – $ 40,000

As submitted by the Bicycle Advisory Committee, this project would hire a consultant to create a detailed Bicycle Master Plan for the town that can be used as a “policy document and conceptual plan for the development of safe, functional, convenient, and attractive bicycle facilities.” It would also “serve as a community resource for planning purposes,” and “serve as a tool for obtaining Bicycle Friendly Community status with the League of American Bicyclists.”

The project submission says that the proposed “bicycle system will provide key linkages between existing neighborhoods, parks and open spaces, schools, shopping, local and regional trails, employment centers and community destinations” and will include input from citizens, organizations and businesses as well as from Town Departments.

The motion to recommend the Bicycle Master Plan project passed by a vote of 8-0.

Fawn Lake Conservation Area Management Plan – $ 50,000

This proposal was submitted by the Conservation Commission to address “immediate and continuing” problems with vegetation, shoreline erosion, and trail maintenance.

  • Fawn Lake was man-made in the 1880’s to create a water-oriented resort area. To maintain open water—calculated at a depth of 4-5 feet— the Town funded “hydro-raking” projects in 2003, 2004, and 2010 that removed aquatic plants and their roots.  Afterward, the Lake was treated with herbicide for three years.

Current concern is that failing to deal with the resurgence of encroaching aquatic vegetation will allow the pond to be overtaken and turn it into a marsh, resulting in the loss of one of Bedford’s few bodies of open water.

  • Canada geese are also an issue; with habitat re-design, the problems that they present could be mitigated.
  • Trail systems should be analyzed and re-established to provide access to select stretches of shoreline that will deter wide-spread erosion.
  • The dam on the Springs Road side of the Lake has been rated in poor condition and will eventually require investment.

The idea behind developing an area management plan is that, once a comprehensive study has been completed, all long-term maintenance alternatives will be spelled out and accessible in one place.

The motion to approve $50,000 for the study passed 7-1, with Christina Wilgren’s dissenting vote based on her sense that continuing to dedicate funds to perpetuating Fawn Lake as open water was, in effect, “fighting nature” and would be committing to a path of ongoing expense.

 Depot Building Exterior Renovation – $ 73,400

This proposal originated from the Facilities Department’s Director Richard Jones who has been coordinating ongoing phases of the Depot building renovation.

The Town received $60,000 funding from a grant through the Massachusetts Historical Commission to help with the cost of renovating half of the Depot building exterior. Last spring, Annual Town Meeting approved funding from Community Preservation of $100,000. However, the estimate for renovating half the exterior of the building came in higher than expected ($233,400) and the Massachusetts Historical Commission grant was $40,000 less than anticipated.

To make up the difference, Director of Facilities Richard Jones— who has coordinated the Depot renovation— requested the remaining $73,400 so that the project can move forward.

The Committee voted 8-0 in favor of using $73,400 from the CP’s historic preservation reserves. However, it is expected that the Committee will recommend repaying the sum to the historic preservation reserves in the future, similar to the temporary withdrawal and repayment of funds from historic preservation reserves that allowed completion of the Wilson Mill Dam project.

Housing Authority Life Management Pilot Project  – $ 76,000

This pilot program will provide life management skill training and support through a contracted social service provider in order to “guide [affordable housing residents] toward increased employment and economic independence” using “assessment, specific goal setting, and financial incentives.”  The initiative is designed to provide a continuum of services that “integrates the components of many existing federal and state agency programs to ensure families are connected to all the resources necessary to stabilize their living situation and improve their quality of life.”

Asked to judge whether Bedford would be permitted to use affordable housing CP funds for non-bricks and mortar purposes—essentially forging new ground for CP fund use—Town Counsel firm Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane determined it is legitimate to use CP funds in “support of community housing” that is defined as “low and moderate income housing for individuals and families, including low or moderate income senior housing.”

As envisioned, the pilot program will at first focus on a small number of willing participants who will be determined through a survey administered by the Bedford Housing Authority. The first year of the two-year pilot is expected to include services such as individual family assessment, case management coaching, adult basic education, GED/ESOL classes, post-secondary training, career readiness, financial literacy, and good tenant workshops administered through a contracted social services provider.

The Committee voted 5-3 to approve this project. Reasons for dissenting votes by Robin Steele, Margot Fleischman and Cathy Cordes centered upon concerns that the climate in the community is currently opposed to affordable housing, largely because residents are unclear how affordable housing is calculated by the State and because they don’t understand why Bedford continues to add affordable units in new developments if the town already has more than the State benchmark of 10%. There is also fear that some in the community are confusing the Bedford Plaza homeless situation with the affordable housing issue.

The dissenters emphasized that they were not opposed to the program; instead, they were uneasy with the timing of the proposal before there was adequate opportunity for community education around the subject of affordable housing. Plans to hold a community forum were preliminarily discussed.

Don Corey, voting in favor of the proposal, voiced his belief that this project, like other controversial CP projects, would be worked through by Town Meeting voters just as other difficult issues— such as the synthetic turf field— had been, and that the exercise in democracy is ultimately healthy for the community.

Ashby Place Elderly/Handicapped Housing Window Replacement – $88,272

The Bedford Housing Authority operates Ashby Place—a low income housing development that was built in two phases: 1969 and 1974. It is the only publicly owned low-income elderly/handicapped housing in Bedford.

The project, which includes asbestos and lead abatement, would help to make Ashby Place more energy efficient and comfortable for residents.

The total cost of the project is $403, 272 with $315,000 coming from the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

The Committee was unanimous in support of this project.

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September 24, 2013 6:54 pm

I wonder what “affordable housing” costs in Bedford?

Stan G
October 19, 2013 4:56 pm
Reply to  oldwiz65

We need to look at voting out the community preservation act until the citizens know how much of the CPA is being spent on subsidized housing? We need to stop this run away train !!!