by Kim Siebert MacPhail
An agreement has been forged between the Town of Bedford and Massport allowing an expansion project at The Edge Sports Center on Hartwell Road to go forward. The recreation facility plans to construct two soccer fields—one covered by a “bubble” structure to allow for winter recreation use—plus a parking lot. The agreement was necessary to the project due to the fact that the proposed expansion site is situated on state-owned land controlled by Massport, which is adjacent to The Edge.
A now-settled dispute between the town and the state agency Massport, centered on which of the two entities exerted regulatory control over the property. Both parties had claimed jurisdiction and The Edge found itself in the middle of a local and state government tussle.
The problem came to light when The Edge started the necessary approval process for its expansion plans. At issue was the question of whether Massport could supersede town bylaws when it came to leasing land to the sports facility. According to the minutes of a Bedford Selectmen’s meeting on May 21, 2012, so long as the activities on the state-controlled land are related to the airfield’s primary purpose—aviation—Massport’s authority is dominant and it can make unilateral decisions without consulting town regulations. However, if the proposed use falls outside of what could be called regular airfield activities, the town’s bylaws must be adhered to.
Initially, Massport claimed that the lease of the land to The Edge would provide beneficial income to the agency, and that, since it provides “an essential government function,” Massport would hold the dominant claim. The Town, on the other hand, supported the concept of expansion but reasoned that The Edge’s activities on the land would not be in keeping with the purpose of the airfield, and that therefore the project would be subject to town zoning and development bylaws.
Ultimately, a legal agreement to this effect between Massport and the Town was reached and announced at the July 2nd Selectmen’s meeting. The agreement further stipulated that this one-time waiver of the town’s jurisdiction rights did not constitute a precedent for potential future property disputes, with either Massport or with any other entity.
Approval of the project by the Bedford’s Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and acceptance of a storm water management plan is already in hand. The Edge must now overcome one final hurdle: Massport’s review of the plans. Barring any obstacles identified during that process, the company plans to proceed quickly with construction and the purchase of equipment.