Housing Trust Gears up for Reconsideration of Pine Hill Zoning at Annual Town Meeting

By Dot Bergin

The Municipal Affordable Housing Trust (the Trust) met on January 3 to strategize about the best way to keep the Pine Hill Crossing Condominium project moving forward when the rezoning issue comes up again at the March Annual Town Meeting.

Several important dates to keep in mind for January:

  • On January 10, the Trust will hold a public information session at 7 pm in Town Center’s Multi-Purpose Room regarding the Pine Hill Crossing redevelopment of the former Coast Guard site. Residents are encouraged to attend and to ask questions they may have about the project.
  • On January 16, the Planning Board will hold a working session to consider changing the zoning bylaw (Article 7, the “Military Housing Reuse Overlay District” article, that was defeated at the November Special Town Meeting), possibly to make the zoning “site-specific.” The reasoning is, there are no more “military” sites available for redevelopment in town.
  • On January 23, the Planning Board will hold an open hearing on the zoning issue, with public comment invited.

The Trust welcomed their newest member, Mark Siegenthaler, former Selectman for 21 years. As a Selectman during the years when the Coast Guard housing redevelopment project evolved, Siegenthaler brings a wealth of knowledge to the current discussion.   He joined Trust members Irma Carter, Ed Pierce, Town Manager Rick Reed, Mike Rosenberg, and Christina Wilgren in a more than two-hour review of the informational slides designed to bring voters up to speed when the Pine Hill issue is introduced again in March.  Assistant Town Manager Mike Rosen, Liz Rust, Regional Housing Services Office, and Shawn Hanegan, Planning Board liaison to the Trust, also participated in the discussion. Fran DeCoste, project manager for TR Advisors, developer of the Pine Hill project, was present to answer specific questions.

Getting Up to Speed with Pine Hill Crossing – An Overview

The Citizen has provided extensive coverage of the Pine Hill Crossing redevelopment, beginning with the two charrettes that residents participated in four years ago.  Readers can use the ”Search” button on The Citizen’s Home Page to pull up all relevant articles.

To recap briefly, townspeople and town administrators, for well more than a decade, had expressed concerns about the 15 vacant homes – the former “Coast Guard” housing – along Pine Hill road, Mickelson Lane, and Lewis Road.  As the town realized, “doing business” with the federal government on the acquisition of property is fraught with difficulty.  After the 2014 charrettes, in which residents had a chance to create a vision of what they would like to see on the site, the Selectmen unanimously voted and signed a Resolution at their July 21, 2014 meeting to “support adoption of a new zoning provision for the Coast Guard property so that a developer could implement the type of housing and style of neighborhood consistent with the town’s vision….” A draft Request for Proposal was drawn up and the Town arranged for an initial appraisal of the property. The General Services Administration (which oversees disposal of federal property) also had an appraisal done, which was not shown to town officials.  The Town’s actions indicated to the GSA that Bedford was serious in its desire to work with the government to acquire the property

In early 2016 the GSA notified town officials that it was interested in a direct sale to the town.  The draft RFP was revised and released in October 2016, with a response date of December.  Four proposals were received; three did not meet all the requirements of the RFP.  TR Advisors was selected as the developer in January 2017.  Note: all documentation can be found on the Town’s website: https://www.bedfordma.gov/municipal-affordable-housing-trust

The Municipal Affordable Housing Trust was the “purchaser” of the five-acre property from the government, for $3.9 million.  Within minutes, the Trust sold the property to TR Advisors. According to Massachusetts law, the Trust is the only entity with the power to buy and sell property.  TR Advisors moved quickly to renovate 12 of the homes; three were too damaged by storms to be worth salvaging and these units are now available for sale.  Contingent on voter action at the Annual Town Meeting, TR Advisors plans to go ahead with construction of 17 cottage style units on the property.  Passage of rezoning is key; if the article passes, the developer’s plans will then be subject to review by the Planning Board, as would happen with any development in town.

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