Letter to the Editor: How Big is a Fire Station?

~ Submitted by Don Corey

Bedford Town officials have been reluctant to share information regarding basic features of a proposed new fire station at 139 Great Road.  Therefore, an informed understanding of the scope of such a project requires a look at neighboring community’s fire stations.

The attached photos show Lexington’s 4-bay Fire Station at Bedford Street & Worthen Road and Concord’s 4-bay Station on Walden Street near the Court House.  Burlington has two 3-bay Stations – one on Cambridge Street and one on the Middlesex Turnpike.  It is understood that a 4-bay station is planned for Bedford.  A scaled projection of the Lexington Station onto 139 Great Road shows that it would occupy almost the entire width of the lot, with a concrete pad replacing the existing landscaping and front wall to permit off-street turning and backing of all vehicles except the ladder truck. With its communication antennas projecting upward, the Station would dominate the surrounding neighborhood.

None of Bedford’s abutting communities has its Fire Station within immediate proximity of any historic buildings within the centers of their Historic Districts, and none has demolished a historic building to accommodate their fire stations.  Concord’s old Fire Station on Walden Street in the Center was closed many years ago, and the building has been incorporated into the Historic District as seen in the photo. Bedford demolished the early 19th Century Bedford House Hotel for its present Station, and it may potentially have to demolish the early 19th Century building at 139 Great Road for its new Station.

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Margaret Donovan
March 29, 2022 12:07 pm

Thank you Don for making it crystal clear how inappropriate 139 Great Road would be as the site of the new fire station. Even without a historic home or historic district, it would be a massive scar on the beautiful approach to the Center. I don’t see how the HDC could possibly approve it. It would be a complete dereliction of their duty.
And yet, I’m sure there is not a resident of Bedford who doesn’t want the town’s firefighters to have everything they need and deserve as soon as possibly possible.
Even as a 50-year resident of New York City, I will always have only one hometown, and the “Hobson’s Choice” being offered to Bedford’s townspeople is very distressing. If the only real alternative to this site is the TD Bank location then the only legitimate option to permanently disfiguring the town would be to make that work. It was the obvious solution pre-pandemic because it is the obvious solution.
Even though the eminent domain process would be challenging, the cost to Bedford of spoiling the Great Road hill is not simply a matter of dollars and cents. The historic district is held in trust for future generations. The difference between the fair market value of the commercial TD site and the price of 139 Great Road certainly matters but the Historic District Commission only exists to protect the town from letting near-term urgencies compromise the character of the town itself. That matters more.
But there is another way to look at the problem. It is common here in New York to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in towers that are built on ground leases. Half of London is built on 99-year ground leases. When TD Bank moved to their present site, foot traffic into banks was far greater. Today, the TD parking lot and the bank itself seem almost empty whenever I’ve gone in. If the Town gave it a good deal to move to a suitable location, the landlord would quite possibly consider a long-term ground lease as an ideal way to maintain ownership and have long-term guaranteed income. The demolition and site preparation would be far quicker and less disruptive than at 139 Great Road and the tax dollars that would start coming in once the Radiance Laboratory is sold would be the icing on the cake. 

Nancy Wolk
March 26, 2022 10:35 am

Isn’t the main Burlington firestation in the center of town by all of the historic buildings?

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