Letter to the Editor: BARC Appeal for MBTA Zoning – Protect Trees

Submitted by Molly Haskell, Chair, Bedford Arbor Resources Committee

As the Planning Board hones Bedford’s MBTA zoning plan, BARC urges the Town to take two measures. First, maintain curb setbacks to protect and preserve Bedford’s Publicly-owned Shade Trees. Second, we urge that Planning stand by its goals from 1990 for new construction that emphasize both preserving existing trees and robust planting of new trees. 

MBTA zoning seeks to provide housing for people who ordinarily couldn’t afford to live in Bedford. We should avoid creating neighborhoods with unnecessary hardscape heat islands. Everyone in Bedford deserves the environmental benefits of shade.

 Zoning that encroaches on Public Shade Trees amounts to de facto pre-approval to remove them. There must still be a Public Shade Tree Hearing, where state law allows a single objector to halt the removal. Nevertheless, the conclusion on appeal to the Select Board will be foregone. Such zoning prioritizes developer concerns over preserving a healthy, environmentally important amenity for new neighbors. 

Trees are crucial to the fight against global warming. A large and ever-growing body of research attests to the significant environmental, economic, social, and health benefits of trees. Mature trees deliver exponentially more benefits than young trees. Thus, it is superior to preserve mature trees than to remove them and replant with saplings. At best, saplings take 30 or 40 years before the community regains these benefits.

The idea that we must remove trees to build dense housing is a false dilemma. Arlington, Cambridge, Somerville, and Concord all have stringent requirements to preserve trees. These Towns complete important projects for housing, commercial space, and transportation, while developers work around trees. The number of Commonwealth communities taking such measures is increasing.

 Bedford can do the same, and our voters have shown ample political will for it. With the intention of tree preservation, Bedford voted overwhelmingly to make BARC a standing committee, to fund the Master Tree Plan, and to pass the Tree Preservation Bylaw. Voters have been clear: protecting Public Shade trees and improving Bedford’s tree canopy are priorities. 

We appeal to the Planning Board to include up front planning, now, to protect and preserve Public Shade Trees as you develop proposals for the MBTA zoning. Voted unanimously by Arbor Resources, February 1, 2024. 

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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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