Submitted by Margaret Donovan
This Wednesday the Historic District Commission will hear from the fire station Project Manager and designers as the final HDC hearing in January nears. Having closely followed this project, I am sure that most of the people who support the current project believe it is for the best — but given its enormous importance, I have never understood the resistance to squarely evaluating underlying problems.
The Special Act of the Legislature that authorized the Bedford Historic District in 1964 is precisely worded. Before leading the town into the current expensive and time-consuming thicket of challenges at 139 The Great Road, Town officials should have explained to voters why they believed that there was a decent chance that the provisions of the Act would allow for the Commission’s approval.
Town bylaws state that the purpose of the Commission “is to administer and to enforce the provisions of the Special Act, as amended.” Therefore, identifying which provision(s) might permit deviating from the body’s manifest mission would have allowed for that rationale to be examined and encouraged or discouraged from the start. However, the Town’s due diligence before bringing the matter to Town Meeting did not include a single consultation with the HDC!
Those who want to look further into the specifics will find them at SaveOurBlock.org. Beyond the uncertainty of the Historic District ruling is the matter of the utility poles. That was another piece of due diligence that was not addressed by the Town Manager in the lead-up to the March 2022 vote. A Public Records request revealed that the DPW was never consulted ahead of time. And the February 3, 2022, presentation to the Joint Finance and Capital Expenditures Committees failed to disclose yet another potentially disabling complication.
Finally, Michael Seibert’s presentation at last month’s Town Meeting explained the glaring inequities that would be perpetuated by leaving the substation out of the equation. The many possible consequences of ignoring a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make this a true solution include overbuilding and an ATM funding defeat.
Happily, the firefighters themselves have pointed the way to a successful outcome. Just as the perfect is often outed as the enemy of the good, so can the perceived good be the entrenched enemy of the better. Here’s hoping that 2024 will finally bring Bedford the superior firehouse that the rescuers and townspeople have a right to expect. Because much better is clearly beckoning.