By Dot Bergin
The Municipal Affordable Housing Trust (MAHT- usually called the Trust) met on November 28 to consider ways to best address the issues brought up by opponents of Article 7 (Municipal Overlay) at the recent Special Town Meeting. In addition to interested citizens, Planning Board Director Tony Fields and Planning Board members Shawn Hanegan-who is Planning Board liaison to the Trust-and Tim Gray attended the meeting, along with Fran DeCoste, project manager for TR Advisors (TRA), the developer of Pine Hill Crossing, and William (Buzz) Constable, General Counsel for TRA.
Town Manager Rick Reed gave a detailed presentation on the evolution of the Pine Hill housing project-formerly known as the “Coast Guard” housing-and on progress to date. Reed stated that the Trust is the responsible party and the lead body on this project. The purpose of the meeting was to figure out how best to move forward, presumably to another Town Meeting, following defeat of Article 7. As this was not a public hearing, no questions were taken from the audience.
The Citizen has covered the “Coast Guard” housing story extensively over the past several years; if you would like to read in depth, please go to our home page, TheBedfordCitizen.org and search Coast Guard housing. All official documents relating to the project, including the Executive Summary of the 2014 Charrettes, the Request for Proposal, the Development Services Agreement, and the four proposals that were received in December 2016 are available on the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust website: https://www.bedfordma.gov/municipal-affordable-housing-trust
It’s important to note here that the Trust is an unusual entity: by state law, it has the authority to purchase and sell land without approval of Town Meeting. In this entire process, the Trust acted as the intermediary, purchasing the 5.2-acre property from the Federal government for $3.9 million and then immediately turning around and selling it to the developer.
As Reed noted, three of the four proposals received failed to meet the minimum requirements as specified in the RFP; TRA met those requirements and was selected to redevelop the property. The Development Services Agreement, executed in February 2017, outlines the responsibilities of the Trust, the Selectmen, and TRA and is legally binding on both the town and the developer.
Where we are today: Reed noted, “If by some chance, during the period that ends in December 2019, the zoning approvals do not go through, the fallback option is the developer is released from any obligation to pursue the vision that the town had and he has the right to reuse the units on the property as they are today.”
The Trust members readily acknowledged that they were taken aback by the extremely vocal opposition at Town Meeting. There had been no hints of this opposition at the public hearings held by the Planning Board and Trust members said they were unprepared to respond to questions that came up on accessibility of the rehabbed homes, density, setback, and related issues. They agreed to review opponents’ points in detail and prepare a fact sheet to clear up certain pieces of misinformation that surfaced on the floor of TM. Members agreed it was important to “hear” and respond to residents’ concerns.
At the upcoming December 7 meeting, the Trust will discuss the Pine Hill Crossing Redevelopment and will prepare for a potential zoning Bylaw Amendment at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting. Please note: although this meeting is open to the public, as are all Trust meetings, there will not be a public hearing.
Planning Director Tony Fields said the Planning Board will schedule public hearings on Pine Hill Crossing in late January and early February. Watch for announcement of these dates.