HDC Invites Select Board to Begin Fire Station Talks

September 8, 2022

The Historic District Commission wants to be included in the incremental process leading to the design of a new fire station, and this week formally encouraged the Select Board to collaborate even before a complete set of plans is submitted.

Commission members Wednesday wordsmithed and approved a letter to the board, pointing out the frequent meetings the Facilities Department held with the HDC while the architects were still drafting police station expansion plans.

The commission represents the sole potential obstacle to the project, which is targeted for the Bedford Center Historic District at 139 The Great Road. The HDC has regulatory authority over the exterior of buildings and grounds in the district.

When the Select Board revealed this site option last winter, some commission members expressed skepticism about whether a firehouse could be appropriate at that site. They also emphasized that the commission cannot grant a demolition permit allowing removal of the existing current structure until it also accepts the fire station design.

But if Wednesday’s offer was an olive branch, Emily Mitchell, Select Board chair, accepted it. Mitchell, one of five residents attending the commission’s in-person meeting, said, “We’re on the same page. We want this to be a good project.” She added that the Select Board looks forward to working with the commission.

She said if the letter is submitted in time, it can be acknowledged at Monday’s board meeting when members are scheduled to appoint an owner’s project manager. That will soon be followed by the appointment of a building committee, Mitchell said, adding, “I don’t expect we are going to adhere to our original schedule.”

Two of the five HDC members who approved the letter are alternates recently appointed by the Select Board. Ali Hon-Anderson, who drafted the letter to the board, was filling in for Chair William Moonan, recused from the issue as an abutter to the property. Also, Jennifer McClain was seated in place of Karl Winkler.

As they fine-tuned the wording, member Alan Long acknowledged that “conversation about the location has been contentious.” Member Salvatore Canciello said, “I don’t think there’s anything controversial” about the commission’s letter.

McClain said the commission hopes the Select Board will “share information and get feedback throughout the process.” She emphasized that even before there was a specific proposal, the Facilities Department was on the HDC agenda to lay the groundwork, “and we certainly enjoyed that interaction. They value our opinion and we value what they are doing for the town.”

The letter, which was not read publicly, points out that cooperation and shared information are advantageous for the town.

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

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