By Lizzie Seibert
For an overview of Bedford’s Annual Town Meeting–night one, please reference: https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2017/03/annual-town-meeting-2017-night-one-review/
The Community Preservation Committee presented a budget of 15 projects totaling $1,600,598 and a request for a $3,000,000 bond authorization to support 48 affordable housing units in Bedford Village to voters at Annual Town Meeting.
The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) receives matching funds from the state for open space, affordable housing, historic preservation, and recreation projects. There was an animated discussion of the Bedford Village project, which in the end passed with a unanimous vote. One question was if at a future town meeting, the CPC would want to allocate more funding to Bedford Village as additional units expire. Another resident asked for clarification on what a bond is and how a bond keeps housing units affordable.
Finally, residents expressed concerns over how economical affordable housing really is, and if this project would be enough to help Bedford Village’s residents. Selectman Margot Fleischman answered these questions, saying that after this year, the problem of expiring units would no longer happen–these units would be affordable for as long as they exist. Next, she explained that a bond is borrowed money that the CPA would pay back using its funds. Ultimately, the bond would buy a restriction on the Bedford Village developer’s ability to charge higher rents on these affordable properties. She expressed sympathies that often times affordable houses are not practically affordable, but assured Bedford residents that these units would be, for as long as the development exist She said that these are rental units and the State Housing Department sets income limits on affordable housing and specifies how much a tenant has to pay. In this case, Bedford would be in compliance with the state regulations.
On a similar note, Bedford residents also expressed concerns over the affordability of the housing provided by CPC’s Coast Guard Site Redevelopment Project ($330,000). Residents wondered why only 4 of the 29 units in this project would be affordable, and whether or not the rates for the units would be practically affordable. A resident argued against this project saying, “We need more affordable units than this.” Selectman Fleischman replied that the CPC needed permitting from the state to keep the units affordable forever. Despite wishes for additional affordable units, residents unanimously voted to pass the project.
Other CPC Projects discussed at shorter length were: Historic Properties Preservation Fund ($75,000), Jenks Trail/Safe Routes to School, ($57,000), Boardwalks, Pedestrian Bridges, Bog Bridges, Stone Dust Trails & Signage ($45,000), Community Gardens Feasibility Study ($20,000), Minuteman Wayfinding Signage ($10,465), and Skate Park Rehabilitation ($18,000).
The Finance Committee recommended disapproval of the Historic Properties Preservation Fund, arguing that the fund is presently high enough and a $75,000 addition to it was unnecessary. Selectman Fleischman explained that this fund exists because of historic neglect to these properties and helps to reclaim historic buildings that are falling apart. Residents voted to approve this project with a majority vote.
In discussing the Jenks Trail project, residents wondered if it was really necessary and if the trail is truly used. Proponents of the project argued that the area was going to be rebuilt anyway as part of the Great Road project and this would be an opportunity to rehabilitate the landscape historically, with specific trees. Residents ultimately voted to approve this project with a majority vote.
After discussing what types of Boardwalks the project would create, (small bridges for pedestrians–not motor vehicles,) residents unanimously voted to pass the Boardwalks, Pedestrian Bridges, Bog Bridges, Stone Dust Trails & Signage project.
The Community Gardens Feasibility Study and Minuteman Wayfinding Signage passed with majority votes. Some residents voiced that they did not see the existing community gardens being used, and did not see a need for an additional study. Other residents wondered if the consultant for the project would be able to determine if trees could be planted around town, and whether a plot of land might be polluted.
Selectman Fleischman answered that the existing community gardens have seen a resurgence of use over the last 20 years and in fact all of its plots have been taken for this year. She added that the consultant would be able to assess if land can be developed and what a plot’s constraints are. She hoped that the consultant would be able to gather information from potential garden users about what they would like to see. Residents concerned about the Minuteman Wayfinding Signage Project noted that the grade at some street crossings and continuations of the Minuteman Bike Trail are not conducive to heavy use, and hoped this would be addressed in the project. The Transportation Advisory Committee shared this hope but also felt that the signage would encourage use of the trail and encourage trail users to come into Bedford and shop.
CPC projects that passed on a majority vote without discussion from Bedford residents were: Administrative costs ($10,000), Affordable Housing Consultant ($33,000), Bond Payment – Town Center ($177,775), Bond Payment – 350A Concord Road ($440,963), Bond Payment – Town Hall MEP Project ($104,550), Bond Payment – Liljegren Way/Mudge Way Athletic Fields ($128,845), Bedford Housing Authority Life Management Program ($40,000), Skate Park Rehabilitation ($18,000), and Affordable Housing Reserves ($110,000).
Bedford Town Meeting concluded at 11pm on March 28. There will be a special town meeting this fall to re-discuss town finances, including Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liability and free-cash.