Architect Offers Some Options after Commission Denies Firehouse Plan

January 23, 2024
The Fire Station Building Committee reviewed changes to the proposed fire station design (pictured) on Monday and agreed to present them to the HDC at its next meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7. Image: Rendering by Kaestle Boos Associates

The architect who designed the proposed fire station plan for 139 The Great Road is bringing modifications to members of the Historic District Commission (HDC).

The Fire Station Building Committee reviewed the changes on Monday and agreed to present them to the HDC at its next meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Chief designer Sean Schmigle of Kaestle Boos Associates said he has yet to explore the possible operational impact with firefighters.

Since the address is in the Bedford Center Historic District, the HDC has jurisdiction over the exterior of the buildings and grounds.

After four months of back-and-forth with the committee and the architect, the HDC on Jan. 3 voted 3-2 to deny the town’s request for demolition of the existing building and construction of the fire station.

The Select Board has followed up with a request for reconsideration and also plans to file an appeal of the decision in Middlesex Superior Court.

Although the HDC did not stipulate the reason for its decision, Building Committee members surmised, based on HDC comments, that the objections were based on the size of the building compared to surrounding structures, the replacement of green space with a concrete apron, and installation of retaining walls to accommodate the change in grade.

“I don’t think there are major issues with the design of the building,” Town Manager Matt Hanson said. “If we were going to try to focus on some sort of redesign, we would have to take one or two, if not all of those elements on reconsideration.”

Schmigle presented preliminary drawings that replace an emergency driveway on the west side of the lot with green space that would reduce the size of an adjacent retaining wall. This would necessitate relocating designated ambulance space by adding a fourth bay to the front of the building, and moving the training tower from the front to the rear of the site.

“The biggest challenge is to get the Fire Department on board operationally and with the program,” Schmigle said. “We have to have a working session with the department, flesh out the plan a little bit more, make sure the department is comfortable with operations.”

Hanson briefed the Select Board on the changes after Monday’s Building Committee meeting. “We don’t know if [those changes are] enough to sway the vote,” he said.

Before the denial, the Select Board planned to ask Town Meeting in March to approve a construction bond. Select Board members agreed on Monday to leave a placeholder on the warrant. Schmigle said the projected project budget will have to be revised in time for review in February.

Hanson said the chair of the HDC told him the group would hear the case for reconsideration. He noted that the commission was planning to spend the Feb. 7th meeting assembling the letter of denial. If there is any progress on Feb. 7, Hanson said, a required public hearing could take place later in the month.

Some building committee members were pessimistic. “I don’t really know how much there is we could do without jeopardizing the program,” said Chair Jeffrey Cohen.

Member Angelo Colasante said, “It’s a shame that we are here today.” He said the commission “was within their duty to make sure a building went in there that was historically appropriate. I think that’s what everybody was aiming for. The non-starter is a retaining wall? That’s a negotiation in bad faith.”

Hanson encouraged the group to try. “If we want to get through the HDC, adding green space and doing something with heights of walls could change one or two votes. It’s a meaningful enough change to go back and say, ‘We heard you.’”

Schmigle projected a design of the revised apparatus floor. Interim Chief Paul Sheehan said the layout was “awkward,” and Capt. Mark Sullivan added, “There are several issues,” such as parking the backup ambulance behind the ladder truck. 

The architect said that overall, “All the program is still within the space.” But with the details, “There are still a lot of things to be resolved,” such as relocating storage areas to accommodate the new ambulance bay.

‘It sounds like these are things that probably could be figured out without having to make major changes,” Hanson said. 

“We can’t change the footprint. There are some things we can’t do,” Cohen said.

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January 23, 2024 7:27 pm

Is there a reason why they never considered memorial park? Then move memorial park up to where present fire house is??

John McClain
January 23, 2024 11:11 pm
Reply to  Anne

Veteran’s Park (at the corner of Bacon and Great Road) has deed restrictions that prevents its development.

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