By Dot Bergin
Bedford residents had a chance to weigh in on the Pine Hill Crossing Condominiums at the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust public hearing on January 10, although only a modest number turned out for the meeting. After the presentations by the Trust, Planning Board, and the developer, the meeting opened for public comment, with several residents questioning the developer on pricing, accessibility of the units, and related issues such as parking.
Fran DeCoste, the project manager for developer TR Advisors, told The Citizen that two of the renovated units have now been rented and occupants will be moving in within a few days. He anticipates further rentals soon. DeCoste said financing of the TRA proposal was contingent on “adaptive re-use of the existing homes, to help keep the price point down.” That is why the 12 homes were renovated during 2017, so the developer could realize income before proceeding to the construction of an additional 17 units, (assuming a rezoning article passes Town Meeting in March.)
Trust member Mike Rosenberg reviewed the lengthy history leading up to the Trust’s acquisition of the Pine Hill Road property from the federal government in 2016. Longtime residents may recall that the units were built in the 1960s to house officers staffing the “Nike” missile site on Davis Road.
Other federal agencies used the homes for housing after the Nike work ended. The most recent occupants were Coast Guard personnel until they moved to housing on Hanscom Air Force Base. When word came that the federal government wanted to divest this property, town officials reached out to see if Bedford could acquire the houses (a complex process, when dealing with the federal government.)
Rosenberg spoke of the importance of the two 2014 Charrettes- “seminal” events spearheaded by Gene Clerkin (then a member of Bedford Housing Authority) in which townspeople had the chance to offer a vision for the property. Ideally, redevelopment of the Coast Guard housing would create a small community that would serve a variety of needs: over 55 housing, workforce housing, opportunity for young families to buy a home in Bedford, and some affordable units. In July 2014, the Selectmen and the Planning Board passed a resolution supporting two of the options coming out of the Charrettes. The town needed to find an agency to convey the property to the town, as there was no precedent for this. The Municipal Affordable Housing Trust was selected as it had independent resources which would enable it to purchase the property. Under Massachusetts General Laws, the Trust has authority to purchase and sell property.
Mark Siegenthaler then picked up the story, detailing the arduous negotiations with the government, the property appraisals, and drafting of the Request for Proposal for developers to meet the town’s goals: minimum of 15 units and maximum of 35; affordable units, diversified and multigenerational housing, universal design and high density.
Four proposals were received, with TR Advisors’ proposal deemed highly advantageous to the town. Three did not meet the minimum financial requirements of the RFP, primarily because they could not assure the town they would be able to complete the project within the very tight timeframe set by the government.
Next speaker Shawn Hanegan, Planning Board, pointed out the consequences if the proposed Zoning Bylaw is not adopted:
- the opportunity to create four affordable housing units will be lost;
- 17 new cottage style homes with first-floor living will not be built
- tax revenue from new homes (estimated to be in a range of $185,000 to $215,000 annually)
- the town vision for the site will not be realized
Important Planning Board Dates
The Planning Board will consider the Zoning bylaw amendment at its January 16 meeting and a public hearing will take place on January 23.
Hanegan said it is likely the Planning Board will re-write the article that went down to defeat at the November 2017 Special Town Meeting, to make the rezoning “site-specific,” rather than a Military overlay zoning. If the rezoning article passes, a special permit process will follow. At this point, the Planning Board–and the public–will have input into review of the site plan, as is customary with all housing developments.
Hanegan hopes that many residents will attend the January 16 and 23 meetings, so their voices will be heard. The Warrant for Annual Town Meeting closes on February 12, which means that discussion and revision of the rezoning article must be completed by that date.
Trust chair Christina Wilgren then opened the meeting to public comment.
Lee Vorderer, an advocate for accessibility, queried DeCoste about the hallway and door opening clearances: DeCoste said he had followed guidelines used by the Oregon Lifelong checklist. There will be a 40-inch clearance in the hallways and doors will have 36-inch openings. The bathroom will have a 60-inch circle (turning radius). She also asked where the four affordable units are located – all four have not yet been identified but one is on Pine Hill Road (3 bedrooms, one bath) and one on Lewis Rd (3 bedrooms, 1-1/2 half baths); two of the four affordable units will be accessible. DeCoste said he is willing to work with potential buyers who may have special needs.
Joann Santiago, is a member of the School Committee but said she was speaking as a resident, had several comments. She said this has always been described as an affordable project, but she felt this is misleading (as many at Town Meeting apparently felt).
Santiago wondered if parking would be an issue, particularly in bad weather, since there are no garages and residents must walk from the central parking areas to their homes. Would there be extra parking, particularly for the three-bedroom homes? She had concerns that residents with more than one car might end up parking on the street. Otherwise, Santiago said she strongly supported the project as a way of providing homes that are not prohibitively expensive.
Lewis Putney, chair, Bedford Housing Authority, stated he felt the price of the 12 rehabbed homes now available for sale “would not work for him.” He said he needs smaller, not more expensive.
Resident Thomas Kinzer said, “my wife and I have looked at these and think they would be a good match for us, as we try to downsize.” He questioned DeCoste on who maintains the driveway and walkways. DeCoste said clearing the street would be done by the condo association, but owners would maintain their own walkways and driveways. The goal is to keep the condo fee low (set at $202/month).
Because the unit owner owns the “envelope” of the condo, Kinzer wondered about putting an addition on to a house. DeCoste said as far as additions to the houses, that would be subject to the rules of the condo association.