Letter to the Editor: HDC Member Explains Why She Voted to Support Fire Station

Submitted by Jennifer McClain, Historic District Commission Member

Last week, the Historic District Commission did not vote to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition of the existing buildings at 139 The Great Road for construction of a new fire station. I made the motion for approval and wanted to share why I voted in support of it.

Failure to approve the application would involve a “substantial hardship, financial or otherwise to the applicant.” The costs associated with pursuing a fire station on another site would be significantly higher. Not granting the application for this project on this site would cause significant delays to a new fire station; time our firefighters are without decontamination facilities, critical to protecting them from health risks like cancer, and sufficient space for training and housing staff.

“[S]uch an application may be approved without substantial detriment to the public welfare.” Approving the application would greatly benefit the public welfare.  A modern fire station allows for equipment to be stored in one place, under cover, not spread all over town, under tarps or other temporary structures. This allows the right equipment to be deployed quickly.  A new station would be sized appropriately for modern trucks, and configured to allow vehicles to return to the station without blocking The Great Road.

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Approval will not result in “substantial derogation from the intent and purpose of [the enabling] act.” “The purpose of [the] act is to promote the educational, cultural, economic and general welfare of the public through the preservation and protection of buildings, places and districts of architectural and historical significance through the development and maintenance of appropriate settings for said buildings, places and districts as sites and landmarks compatible with the historic traditions and architecture of the town of Bedford.” The project architect and the Building Committee have worked together for months to develop a plan in keeping with the Historic District. They have heard and incorporated feedback from the Historic District Commission and worked to maintain an appropriate setting for our Historic District.

The above quotes are all from the act that created our Historic District. I followed these guidelines in voting to support this project, and voting to support the present and future needs of Bedford.

A Historic District is not a museum. It is one piece of a living, breathing community, and we need the flexibility to evolve and care for it.

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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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January 9, 2024 1:20 pm

The carefully reasoned letter above depends on all of Ms. McClain’s stipulations being true. It would have been helpful if she had made her comments during the hearing so that her interpretation of the text and intent of the Act could have been debated by the commissioners in public.

An act of the legislature is a law and respect for the law is the highest public good. So, if the Town decides to pursue the Act’s remedy by appealing the decision to Middlesex Superior Court, that would have the benefit of sorting out the bedrock facts from the swirl of assumptions.

In the meantime, it would be good for people to withhold judgment and give all concerned the benefit of the doubt that those on both sides of the issue are motivated by honest efforts to promote public safety and the public good.

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