Special Town Meeting Draws a Nearly-Full House, Approving All Four Warrant Articles

Organizers needn’t have worried about a quorum for Monday’s Special Town Meeting: Voters waited in line when the meeting opened at 7:30 pm – Image (c) JMcCT, 2018 all rights reserved

By Jeffrey Epstein

With a full house that easily exceeded the 100-voter quorum requirement, Bedford’s Special Town Meeting passed all four of the articles on the July 30 warrant, giving Selectmen the tools they requested to address the rescheduled General Services Administration (GSA) auction of the Navy hanger located south of Hartwell Road.

  • Article 1, the rules of the meeting, passed on a voice vote.
  • Article 3, to rezone the 16-acre parcel at issue to Residential C, passed by two-thirds on a hand count of 288 to 40.
  • Article 2, the authority for the Selectmen, and by agreement considered after Article 3, passed by two-thirds on a hand count of 256 to 26.
  • Article 4, moving $12,835 in Town funds to implement a labor agreement, passed unanimously on a voice vote.

Once the original auction date had been delayed through an injunction sought by the Town, Selectman Michael Rosenberg has encouraged support for the warrant articles over the past several weeks. At the end of Monday’s meeting, he said he was “delighted” with the outcome. Accepting congratulations and handshakes, Rosenberg thanked the voters who took time from their summer plans to turn out on Monday evening.

“This gives us an arrow in our quiver,” said Selectmen chair Bill Moonan after, noting it was “very unusual” for Bedford to have to respond so rapidly to a real estate opportunity that is increasingly rare in Bedford’s highly-developed environment. He also expressed gratitude for the meeting’s implied vote of confidence in the Selectmen to represent Bedford’s interests.

The articles were taken out of order, with rezoning under Article 3 intended to limit the options for the use of the property, and therefore lower its market value before Article 2 came to a vote.

Planning Board chair Amy Lloyd explained that rezoning the hangar parcel to Residential C would not necessarily mean quick residential development. That particular zone was suggested by the Planning Board, Lloyd explained, because other Residential C parcels are nearby and because Residential C offers a tactical advantage compatible with the Town’s overall strategy.

As noted above, Article 3 passed on a counted 2/3 vote.

Responding to voter questions when Article 2 was considered, Rosenberg confirmed that the Selectmen will not make an initial bid when the auction opens, and hope not to bid at all. The spending authority granted under Article 2 is $2 million (against an appraised value of $1.7 million for the newly-rezoned parcel). Rosenberg reassured voters that the tactic is intended to provide leverage for a possible eminent domain move in the future, rather than an eagerness for Bedford to directly purchase the parcel.

A multitude of questions arose during the proceedings, as residents struggled to comprehend the Town’s strategy. One amendment to Article 2 was offered; it would have vacated the Selectmen’s purchasing authority in the event Bedford was found liable for remediation of historical or environmental issues at the site. While the proposal found some favor, several voters noted that it would essentially hamstring the Selectmen, removing in principle much of the authority voted in Article 2.  The amendment failed on an uncontested voice vote.

Article 2 passed on a counted 2/3 vote as noted above.

The GSA, which is brokering the disposition of the property for the Navy, will be informed of the Selectmen’s new authority. Town officials do not expect any immediate actions or negotiations prior to the public auction that is expected to open on August 13.

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