Community Preservation Recommends Adding $600,000 to Bolster Housing Trust; Allocates $1.5M to Minuteman Bikeway Extension

January 13, 2022

The Community Preservation Committee last week voted to recommend approval of adding $600,000 to the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, intended to facilitate the opportune acquisition of additional affordable housing.

The recommendation was one of several that will be discussed with the Select Board and Finance Committee later this month, en route to the 2022 town meeting warrant.

Separate from any specific plan, “the money will be used in some capacity for affordable housing in the next couple of years,” said the committee’s Planning Board representative, Jacinda Barbehenn, who wondered whether $600,000 would be enough. There is already almost $300,000 in the trust’s balance earmarked for affordable housing.

“Actually, my fear is that it’s not enough,” said Christina Wilgren. “The towns that are the most effective have well-funded housing trusts.” Wilgren represents the Housing Partnership on the committee, but she advanced this proposed allocation as an individual. Her colleagues on the housing panel are “supportive of the idea,” she noted.

Community preservation funds are raised locally as a surcharge on annual property tax bills, and a percentage is matched by state money. The committee’s conservative estimates factor in a 12 percent state match; Margot Fleischman, Select Board representative on the committee, said the more reliable estimate would be 39 percent.

Robin Steele, who represents the Recreation Commission on the committee, voted against the housing allocation because the funding isn’t targeted to a specific purchase or project. “There are a lot of unknowns here; I have a lot of doubts,” she commented. “If we do this, we had better be prepared to answer a ton of questions.”

Fleischman acknowledged that the funds are not “project-specific, but a way for us to invest in affordable housing possibilities that are vetted through the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust.” She added that affordable housing is part of the charge of community preservation funding.

The committee also voted to recommend approval of a $1.5 million community preservation allocation to purchase easements facilitating construction of the Minuteman Bikeway extension.

Steele cast a negative vote; “I think I’m on an island here,” she laughed. Steele said residents are under the impression that the entire project would be covered by state funds. “People are going to be surprised,” she said.

The original estimate for the easements was much less. Additional land-taking along the route of the planned Railroad Avenue shared path as well as rising property values are responsible, said Fleischman.

Representatives of the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Transportation Advisory Committee expressed support for the expenditure, as it will help clear the way for bikeway construction. According to the state Transportation Improvement Plan, work is scheduled to begin next fall.

There have been some objections during the planning process that paving the current trail, which is an abandoned railroad bed, would be a liability for some runners and hikers. Bedford Public Works Director David Manugian noted that, when not flush against wetlands, the finished bikeway will feature three-foot unpaved shoulders on each side of a 12-foot paved bikeway.

The committee unanimously supported the following proposed community preservation expenditures:

  • Administrative costs $10,000
  • Regional Housing Services Office $34,000
  • Housing Authority life management program $36,715
  • Digitizing early town records, $24,690
  • Freight house painting $40,500
  • Depot building decking $217,726
  • Skate park repairs $16,400
  • Shade structures at Springs Brook Park $43,709
  • Tennis court rehabilitation $120,000
  • Play structures and fence and other repairs at tot lot and E Field $315,000
  • Trails infrastructure and stone dust $10,000

The committee also voted to recommend continuing payments on bonded projects totaling $936,365. The long-term projects are purchase of acreage at 350A Concord Road, Town Hall mechanical overhaul, playing fields off Liljegren Way, refinancing of Bedford Village, and Fawn Lake rehabilitation.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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