By Elizabeth Hacala
A large crowd gathered in the Bedford High School auditorium once again on Tuesday for the second night of town meeting. Among the articles voted on were three related to Community Preservation: Articles 15, 16, and 17.
Article 15: Community Preservation Surcharge Authorization
Article 15 re-authorized the Community Preservation Surcharge for another year. Each fall attendees at Special Town Meeting are asked to re-authorize this surcharge. When the town adopted the Community Preservation Act the Selectmen assured the town they would return each year for affirmation that the Town wanted to continue the surcharge. Article 15 was passed on a voice vote.
Article 16: Community Preservation Budget
The Community Preservation Budget was presented in Article 16 and consisted of four new projects as well as a change in funding of the Bedford Village Project (approved in Article 21 of the 2017 Annual Town Meeting).
The four new projects are:
- $20,000 to conduct a strategic study of housing in Bedford;
- $25,000 to support a dog park;
- $4000 to support a historic home appraisal for a preservation restriction; and
- $10,000 to fund preparation of an application for listing a portion of Concord Road on the National Register of Historic Places.
The housing study funds and reduction in the bonding to the Bedford Village Project were passed. The other three projects were voted on individually after being held during the initial presentation of the article.
The dog park funding project that attracted the most comments. Several residents came to the microphone with concerns about property values, noise, maintenance costs, and other possible issues resulting from the construction of the dog park.
Moderator Cathy Cordes clarified that the purpose of this article and this vote was to decide whether Town Meeting would authorize the appropriation of $25,000 of Community Preservation funds to support a grant application which could fund the construction and design of the dog park, not to debate the dog park itself. After considerable discussion with residents coming forward to speak in favor and against the dog park, as well as in favor and against the specific motion, the project was approved on a voice vote. The Dog Park Task Force can now go forward with the grant application. The location and specific design of a dog park will be covered at Task Force and Selectmen’s meetings as well as at a public hearing. If the project does not go forward the funds will be returned to the Community Preservation fund.
The second project consisted of a request for $4000 to support the appraisal of one of Bedford’s few remaining homes over 200 years old. The appraisal compares the value of the structure as a historic property in its current form with what the property would be worth if new construction were put on the current lot. The homeowner can then apply for a break in their state and federal taxes based on the difference in value. One resident asked why we were proposing to spend $4000 to support a historic preservation restriction on a private home. Historic Preservation Commission and Community Preservation Committee member Don Corey shared that we have very few of these 200 – 300-year-old homes in town. He went on to say that the town invests money for other permanent land restrictions, so it made sense to invest this money in helping a homeowner, especially one who might be house rich and cash poor, maintain and preserve one of the historic structures that helps give Bedford its unique character. The project was approved on a voice vote.
The final Community Preservation project was a request to authorize $10,000 to begin the establishment of a historic district on Concord Road in the vicinity of Hartwell Avenue and Concord Road. A few residents in the area were concerned about how such a district might affect their property and that they were not previously notified. Corey explained that the authorization of funds was the beginning of the process and that the exact borders of the district would be established during the process. He also assured homeowners that this historic recognition did not place any burden on them. The article passed on a voice vote.
Article 17: Rescind Prior Bond Authorization
The final Community Preservation related item was article 17, which asked town meeting to rescind $1.5 million in bond authorization for the Bedford Village project (Article 21 of the 2017 Annual Town Meeting) to reflect the approval of $1.5 million from the Community Preservation funds and Affordable Housing Reserve Fund. This change keeps the funding level for the Bedford Village project the same, while greatly reducing the bond costs. The article passed on a voice vote.
Editor’s Note, 11/12/2017: This article has been corrected to show that Don Corey is on the Historic Preservation Commission, not the Historic District Commission, and the Community Preservation Committee.