Chris Gittins: Candidate for Planning Board

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Chris Gittins, candidate for Bedford Planning Board

My name is Chris Gittins and I am seeking your vote for a seat on the Planning Board.  As a member of the Conservation Commission and a previous member of the Arbor Resources Committee, I understand how facts, opinions, and the law must be harmonized in order to make good decisions.

As a member of the Planning Board, I would seek to build on the good work that it’s done over the years:  to sustain the infrastructure which makes Bedford such a great place to live, to help us navigate the planning and development challenges we currently face, and to better position us to address the challenges we can expect to face in coming years.

I’ve been a Bedford resident for twenty years but my memories of town date back to the 1970’s when my parents and I would drive in from central MA to visit with my grandparents.  I am fortunate to live here in their former home, but now with my wife and two children, both of whom are in the Bedford school system.  Bedford has undergone a dramatic transformation over the decades I’ve known it.  I have come to appreciate that we must be pro-active in our long-term planning so that we’re not continually reacting to the world after it has changed around us.

As a member of the Planning Board my priorities will include:

  • Expanding middle-income housing options,
  • Making it easier and more appealing to walk and bike around town,
  • Supporting policy and infrastructure which helps local businesses succeed,
  • Promoting redevelopment of vacant and underutilized commercial properties, and
  • Incorporating climate resiliency in new construction.

I’ll elaborate on each of those priorities:

The median home price in Bedford has risen substantially faster than inflation for many years.  Our stock of middle-income-affordable homes is shrinking as houses built in the middle of the last century are torn down and replaced with ones 2-3 times the size.  While teardowns are unavoidable, through selective changes to our zoning bylaws, we can promote creation of housing options for people for whom Bedford has become harder to afford; in particular, young people, families looking for a starter home, and seniors.  Toward that end, I support bylaw changes that will make it easier for homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units.  I believe that through the judicious use of Overlay Districts and other zoning tools, we can support the construction of new housing –  e.g., senior-oriented apartments and assisted living facilities – that is respectful of current neighborhood character.

Good connectivity between neighborhoods and between Bedford and surrounding towns strengthens our community and improves our quality of life.  I’m pleased to notice more people out walking and biking over the past year and will encourage the implementation of infrastructure recommendations from Bedford’s Bike—Pedestrian Master Plan to make it easier and more appealing to bike and walk around town.  I will do all I can to ensure that new commercial and retail construction is easily accessible by foot or bicycle, not just by car.  When we can bike or walk to destinations it not only reduces local traffic but we’re less inconvenienced by whatever traffic there is.

Bedford is a great place to live in part because we have a vital commercial and retail sector.  This ensures that we have a diverse property tax base and creates opportunities to work in town as well as to live here.  We can support local business by making our commercial areas more amenable to walk-in customers.  We can ensure that zoning allows retail and commercial space sized to meet the needs of local businesses.  Many commercial properties were built decades ago and aren’t well-matched to the current and future needs of growth industries in eastern MA, e.g., biotechnology.   I will support the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized commercial properties as necessary to attract growing industries.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resiliency to climate change, and improving energy efficiency are core issues for me.  These concerns are not solely environmental, but critical to sensible fiscal management in the coming years as well. Local planning should be integrated with state-level climate-related initiatives.  For example, EV charging infrastructure needs to be built out to meet increasing demand; working for more carbon-neutral (“net-zero”) improvements in buildings and infrastructure will reduce long-term costs and build our resilience to climate change.  The Planning Board should encourage net-zero construction in new developments and work with developers to minimize barriers to implementation.

I am deeply committed to addressing Bedford’s current and long-term planning challenges.  Bedford residents have a tremendous amount of creativity, goodwill, and ability to solve tough problems.  I would welcome the opportunity to serve on the Planning Board to achieve our vision for Bedford’s future together.  Thank you for your consideration.  I ask for your vote in-person on March 13 or by mail if you’ve requested a mail-in ballot.

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