Letter to the Editor: Reader Questions Save Our Block

Submitted by Erin Sandler-Rathe

Margaret Donovan once again wants to stop the fire station project. You’ve probably seen some of her efforts already. She’s promising more with a booth at Bedford Day, her Save Our Block project, and her intention to introduce articles at Town Meeting. As you hear her, I encourage you to equally weigh the information provided by the Town throughout this process.

Over the next several months, you will hear her and her supporters argue many things. For example, you will hear that a full search was never done for appropriate sites — that is false. The Town website shows all the sites that have been considered over the years. Properties have been deemed unsuitable due to a variety of factors: meeting response times set by national standards; avoiding taking land by eminent domain; and historic district considerations.

Historic preservation is one of this group’s alleged motives. However, the sites they propose also sit in the historic district and would also require HDC approval. If they think approval for those sites, like at the current fire station location or the Bedford Motel, would be easier to obtain, that begs the question why the HDC would approve changes there, but not at 139 Great Road. Historic preservation is a red herring.

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You will also hear accusations of improper conduct by Emily Mitchell and Sarah Stanton. I encourage everyone to read these accusations, for which she offers no proof, themselves on Margaret’s blog, For example, her assertion that they “misappropriat[ed] earmarked Federal funds” rests solely on her interpretation of ARPA. Given how frequently the Town has consulted with legal counsel in this process, you can be sure all actions have been reviewed thoroughly before, during, and after their execution.

Finally, you will hear that Margaret’s and her friends’ standing in Bedford justifies their efforts. The Moonans’ collective years of service will be invoked. Margaret has already boasted of her family’s contributions to the “health and wealth” of Bedford. She insists that people have moved to Bedford for the past 50 years for the vision her family held for the Town. Those of us who currently live here know that Bedford’s charm doesn’t depend on the buildings in it. Our future cannot be held hostage by people who believe that their years of service and social positions in Bedford entitle them to override the rest of us in deciding what Bedford should be. 

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Catherine Van Praagh
September 24, 2023 12:03 pm

Thanks Erin – This issue has been discussed, debated and litigated ad nauseam. Repeatedly, the voters of Bedford have approved of this project by an overwhelming margin. Our intentions, family history or length of residency should never be seen as reason enough to subvert the democratic process of the town’s people.

September 22, 2023 10:58 pm

I’m glad I opened tonight’s Daily Digest. I almost didn’t, because 4AM is coming too soon. But some quick responses:

I run a website and do the paperwork that I hope will help lead Bedford’s firefighters to the station they deserve and that everyone can be proud of. — There should have been a Plan B from the start and the lack of any contingency was irresponsible and questionable, to say the least. — The Select Board has an ethical duty to “represent the entire community at all times.” — Going forward, the positions Erin promotes as gospel will be examined. I am very happy to let the chips fall where they may. — I was startled to learn that anyone would wonder why the Bedford Motel would be less of a problem for the HDC than 139 TGR. And by the claim that Bedford’s current residents “know that its charm doesn’t depend on the buildings in it.” Twisting my words regarding my family to try to stir the “entitlement” pot was not in good faith. Arguments should rely on how successfully the merits are presented. I’ll be happy to discuss the issues with anyone who stops by Booth 108 and knows how to disagree without being disrespectful. Otherwise, please stay away.

Timothy Orlean Bennett
September 24, 2023 2:08 pm

The issue with arguing that there should be a “Plan B” is that it is completely disingenuous when “concerned citizens” like yourself represent the largest barrier to Plan A.
As to the merits, as soon as you can demonstrate why any of sites dismissed by the professional study have a better case than the current site (which was bought and paid for without needing to exercise eminent domain), without needing to argue why two buildings in the same HDC should be treated differently, you may have a leg to stand in.

September 27, 2023 12:47 pm

If Plan A had actually been “discussed, debated, and litigated ad nauseum,” and if there had really been a professional study there would be no reason for a Plan B because it would have collapsed under the weight of its own preposterous assumptions. Just claiming those things does not make them so.

Nancy Wolk
September 25, 2023 9:33 am

The Bedford Motel is a huge example of Americana which was part of the 1940-1960s when American families traveled the country in cars to see places they previously couldn’t get to.

But I’ve always suspected that the suggestion of Bedford Motel was to eliminate the people who stay there. You know, people who can’t afford a mortgage or 3 months of rent up front to secure an apartment.

The truth is Bedford Motel is just as, or perhaps more important than 139 Great Road to our town.

The HDC should be working with the planning commission to get this project done quickly, and tastefully.

Seth Cargiuolo
September 25, 2023 10:53 am
Reply to  Nancy Wolk

I’m with you, Nancy. I’m pretty sure The Bedford Motel is the only remaining example of commercial Mid-Century Modern design in Bedford, possibly in the whole area. Should not the HDC be moving to ensure this building is also protected, cherished and revered? MCM was a truly amazing movement and period of design and innovation. History doesn’t stop in 1780, 1812, or 1865. It’s a living thing, and it continues to this day. I would submit that if 139 Great Road isn’t useable because of it’s “historical nature” (despite actual historians & experts saying in effect ‘no, it’s nothing special, it’s just old’), then the Bedford Motel is equally non-viable as a firehouse site.

September 27, 2023 3:39 pm
Reply to  Seth Cargiuolo

Maybe there should be a Mid-Century Modern Preservation Commission, but that is not the Historic District Commission’s legal mandate. The fallacy that the HDC commissioners can do whatever they want to do is widespread.

There are specific criteria for ruling on “appropriateness” or for making exceptions and it is not looking likely that they can be applied to this project. In that case, to ignore that would nullify the law and be a disastrous slippery slope.

Recognizing the distinct possibility that the HDC will not be able to approve the current plan and adapting what has been done so far to a viable site ahead of the current schedule is the purpose of Article 7.

September 27, 2023 1:21 pm
Reply to  Nancy Wolk

Nancy: What you’ve “always suspected” is inflammatory innuendo that undercuts an otherwise good point. The problem with your conclusion is that the HDC is clearly working with the planning committee but, nevertheless, after seeing the preliminary designs it doesn’t seem likely that the project can get done quickly or tastefully at that location. That is the whole reason for Article 7.

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