HDC to Hear Proposed Fire Station Design Revisions

February 6, 2024
One of the slides from the June 7, 2023, fire station project team meeting with the Historic District Commission showing 139 Great Rd site in the Historic District. Source: Bedfordma.gov

The Fire Station Building Committee on Wednesday will attempt to resurrect the proposed facility with some design revisions presented before the Historic District Commission.

The monthly commission meeting will be held in the Reed Room of Town Hall. The fire station portion of the agenda is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

On Jan. 3, the HDC voted 3-2 to deny certificates of appropriateness requested by the town to demolish the current structure at 139 The Great Road and replace it with a fire station. Since the location is within the Bedford Center Historic District, the HDC has jurisdiction over external appearance.

The decision was a setback – perhaps a fatal one – for the proposal, which began when the property hit the market two years ago and purchase and design funding were approved by successive annual town meetings.

After last month’s ruling, Town Manager Matt Hanson, on behalf of the Select Board, asked in writing for the commission to reconsider its decision. After an executive session discussion with the board and town counsel, Hanson noted in his memo that the commission did not provide reasons for its decision, as required by its 1964 local HDC enabling act.

So, the first item under the fire station portion of Wednesday’s agenda reads, “Discussion and review of members’ inputs for the denial of certificate of appropriateness to Town of Bedford at 139 The Great Road.”

During the discussion leading to the Jan. 3 ruling, member Alan Long said that the proposed fire station is incompatible with its surroundings because of its size. Karen Kalil-Brown also said during discussion that the building and adjacent retaining walls had the look of a “fortress.” Sal Canciello, who cast the deciding vote, asked some questions during the hearing, but did not offer an opinion. 

The second listing on the fire station agenda for Wednesday reads: “Revised design discussion with Town of Bedford staff and Fire Station Building Committee.”

The project’s design firm, Kaestle Boos, led by lead architect Sean Schmigle, is expected to present some revisions Wednesday “to address some of the concerns,” said Building Committee Chair Jeff Cohen. “We’ll see how the discussion goes,” Cohen said.

At a meeting following the HDC decision, Schmigle offered some options to the Building Committee, such as reducing the size of the largest retaining wall. That would result in relocating the ambulance bay to the front, facing The Great Road, and moving the planned training tower to the rear.

The Select Board also plans to appeal the HDC ruling in Middlesex Superior Court.

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Kathryn Rifkin
February 8, 2024 10:26 am

Sounds like reasonable changes.

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