First Parish Solar Panel Litigation Settled

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Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

First Parish on Bedford Common – Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

The Town of Bedford shared the following statement regarding the resolution of a legal case brought by First Parish in Bedford, Unitarian Universalist, to permit the installation of solar panels on their meeting house.

The Bedford Citizen then reached out to First Parish, the Selectmen, and the Historic District Commission for their comments.

Statement from the Town of Bedford

Bedford’s Board of Selectmen has voted to withdraw its appeal of the Superior Court’s decision in the First Parish Church v. Historic District Commission litigation.

This litigation involved an appeal to the Superior Court by the First Parish Church from the Historic District Commission’s denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness for the First Parish’s proposed solar panel installation on the historic Meeting House roof.  The Superior Court reversed the Historic District Commission’s denial, and ordered the Commission to issue the requested certificate of appropriateness for its proposed solar panel project as presented to the Commission during the hearing of June 1, 2016.

The Board of Selectmen initially authorized the appeal of the Superior Court decision.  The Board of Selectmen has now voted not to continue to litigate this appeal.

The First Parish Solar Panel Team – Dan Bostwick, Spokesperson

“After more than 2 years, we’re glad to be done with the difficult and unpleasant litigation. By installing the proposed solar panels, we are excited that our church will reduce our carbon emissions and thereby reduce the harm we are doing to the climate and especially to the most vulnerable who are disproportionately affected by climate change in this world.

“We are grateful to be allowed to live by the values of our religion’s 7th principle: respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

“We value our relationships with fellow townspeople and will continue to honor our role as stewards of this historic centerpiece on the Town Common.”

The Bedford Selectmen – William Moonan, Chair

“The majority of the Selectmen felt that the 300 or so residents who attended the recent Special Town Meeting had made it clear that solar panels should be allowed in the Historic District without restrictions.  Therefore, the majority felt, continuing to appeal a decision that would do so was contrary to the will of the Town.”

The Bedford Historic District Commission – William Moonan, Chair

“The Historic District commissioners were very troubled by the Selectmen’s decision.  The Selectmen initially had decided to appeal the judge’s ruling, because it had nothing to do with the issue of whether solar panels should be allowed on the church or in the district (which are already allowed under HDC guidelines), but rather on the appropriateness of a judge substituting his opinion for that of a local board.  Town Counsel found this a very bad precedent that could impact future decisions of other boards, such as the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.  The Historic District commissioners, including me, feel that such lack of support is a bad precedent in that it might encourage future suits by applicants who don’t get the results they want.  It also sends a negative message to the volunteers who make up our appointed and elected boards as to the value the Town places on their work.

“With the continuing changes in technology and a little patience, this entire confrontation might have been avoided, saving both the Town and the church the subsequent costs, both in personal animosity and expense.”


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