Selectmen Work to Wrap Up Agenda Prior to Annual Town Meeting

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At their February 4 meeting, the Selectman reviewed the proposed Community Preservation budget, heard a presentation from the Planning Board on the Zoning Bylaw Amendment for Accessory Dwelling Units, and addresses an Open Meeting Law complaint.

Community Preservation Budget Presentation

Community Preservation Committee Chair Christina Wilgren presented the Committee’s proposed FY21 budget to the Selectmen. The Committee estimates available funds totaling 2,680,976, between the CPA surcharge, state fund distribution, interest, and the FY2020 undesignated fund balance. The FY2021 budget calls for $1,973,115 in appropriations, thus leaving the $707,861 surplus as an unrestricted fund balance.

In addition to the many on-going projects, the Community Preservation Committee recommends that the FY21 budget include funding for administrative costs, affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space and recreation.

Within those costs, the Community Preservation Committee aims to support many of the upcoming projects in Bedford. As part of historic preservation, the Committee hopes to appropriate $159,550 to renovate and rehabilitate Old Town Hall, potentially providing space for a future Bedford History Museum Under open space and recreation, the budget fully funds the Hartwell Town Forest Boardwalk, totally $420,000, restoration to the Skate Park, $18,000, improvements at Springs Brook Park, $36,050, and maintaining fields and school grounds, $100,000.

This budget will be voted on at Annual Town Meeting under Article 7, Community Preservation Budget-Fiscal 2021.

Planning and Zoning Warrant Article Presentation

Planning Board member Mark Siegenthaler along with Planning Board director Tony Fields addressed the Selectmen on Article 22, the Zoning Bylaw Amendment – Accessory Dwelling Units.

Article 22 aims to make the construction of ADUs more applicable to modern-day Bedford. This objective is in response to the decrease of affordable housing in Bedford and the growing population of senior citizens. More can be read about Accessory Dwelling Units here.

Since the Article failed to receive a two-thirds vote at Special Town Meeting last November, the Planning Board has sought resident’s feedback. More can be read about the January 14 Planning Board meeting here.

In addition to the changes from Special Town Meeting, the Planning Board proposed two additional changes based on feedback from January 14. The first of such changes is increasing the rear yard setback for detached ADUs from 15 feet to 20 feet.

The second proposed change responds to concerns over the process for ADUs. To construct a detached ADU a site plan review is required that includes abutter notifications. Internal  accessory units will remain by right

Robert Kalantari, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, asked why the site plan review of ADUs will be under the Planning Board, rather than the current Zoning Board.

Siegenthaler explained that the Planning Board regularly examines and monitors the construction and use of lots across the town. This function, explained Siegenthaler, makes the Planning Board better suited to handle the permitting process for Accessory Dwelling Units. Creation of an accessory dwelling unit on a nonconforming property remains subject to the provisions of Section 7.1 (nonconforming uses), which involves the Zoning Board of Appeals.

However, Siegenthaler further explained that while the Zoning Board of Appeals could be designated to conduct the review, the Planning Board’s recent work with ADUs make them more prepared to address any issues.

Open Meeting Law Complaint

Resident Ann Kiessling filed an open meeting law complaint against the Selectmen in response to a violation of Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law regarding an appearance by the Conservation Commission at the Selectmen’s meeting on October 7, 2019.

Kiessling’s complaint stemmed from the Selectmen’s failure to approve minutes for the October 7 meeting until December 3, some 57 days after the meeting in question. Furthermore, the complaint states that the minutes were not posted to the Town’s website until January 8 — 35 days after they were approved, and 92 days after the October 7 meeting.

The complaint also charged that the Selectmen’s minutes did not mention the names of the participants in the discussion, the accusations discussed, or other legal documents presented. The Bedford Citizen’s coverage of the October 7 meeting is available by clicking this link.

Chair Mike Rosenberg explained that the delay was not intentional and assured that all future minutes would be approved and posted in a timely manner.

The Selectmen voted to approve Town Counsel’s response to the complaint.

Editor’s note ~ 13 February 2020: This article has been revised for clarification and accuracy since its original  publication