The Planning Board, at its March 23 meeting, took community feedback and offered its plans to expand the police station.
If funding for the project is approved by annual town meeting in May, the team behind the plan will be back in a few months with details. The total cost estimate is $6.4 million; the bond issue is for $4.1 million.
Jeff Shaw, the project’s principal architect, outlined the proposed additions. He was joined by Taissir Alani, Director of Facilities, as well as the civil engineer associated with the project and other consulting team members.
Shaw said the changes are largely designed to address a lack of space, limiting the ability of the police to operate currently, and create new services for the town.
The police station was originally known as the Stearns Building and served as the Bedford Free Public Library until the late 1960s. For several years it was known as the Administrative Office Building, housing planning and other departments along with the selectmen’s meeting room. The building has been the home of the Bedford Historical Society since its opening.
The proposal is composed of three parts. One addition is on the side of the building facing Mudge Way, while the other is on the opposite side, adjacent to the current parking lot. Additionally, there will be a connection made between The Great Road and the current parking lot for police vehicles in case of emergencies.
Shaw noted that the last addition to the building, over 20 years ago, created a main entrance on the rear of the building facing away from The Great Road. However, the previous entrance on the original front of the building remained, a source of confusion.
The proposed plan would do away with walkways leading to that entrance, connecting the lawn sections on the north side of the building, and rerouting the sidewalk to the back of the building. The original entrance will be removed.
The proposed addition along Mudge Way will be one story from grade, with a flat roof to maintain current roofing on the station. The smaller addition adjacent to the parking lot will also be one story with a flat roof to allow current windows to continue to be used.
Planning Director Tony Fields noted that the police station, as a municipal building, is largely exempt from the traditional site-plan review process. However, the board’s judgment is still appreciated and confirms that the project is both beneficial and financially reasonable for the town.
Board member Amy Lloyd expressed her concern about having a large number of traffic elements overlapping on The Great Road in a small area. As she pointed out, the proposed egress from the parking lot, on the east side of the station, would open between a traffic light and a pedestrian crossing.
Police Chief Robert Bongiorno noted that the second means of egress from the property has been in the works for years and that he would be open to making the exit a right turn only. Additionally, the egress will add a few parking spaces to the somewhat meager parking lot.
Shaw pointed out that vehicles coming out of the proposed exit would not be moving at high speed since officers reacting to emergencies are often in cars around town. Moreover, the path will be used only as an exit.
Resident Jan van Steenwijk noted that the exit from the parking lot could be dangerous for oncoming cars. He pointed out the current grade of the property at that location is fairly steep, making it difficult to see someone exiting the property.
Van Steenwijk also asked if the exit would be limited to emergency use. Shaw responded, saying that the exit will not be limited to emergency use, although he expects that limiting the exit to on-service police officers will remedy any issues.
Member Jacinda Barbehenn raised the idea of creating a greater public space on the property, possibly at the corner of the property. Shaw pointed out that the team did not see the lawn as a space that can be used for large gatherings due to its proximity to the street; however, the plans do include a space with two 6-foot-long benches and a half-circle wall that are at seating height.
Lloyd noted that the greenspace without seating on the north edge of the property would likely go unused by the public in the current plan. She instead suggested creating little pockets shooting off the path, including benches backed by hedges.
She added that a change to the signage around the area could be beneficial to the overall accessibility of the area. Shaw responded, saying that the issue seemed to be one that could be addressed in a separate project.
Papa Gino’s Site Plan Review Continued to April 13
Also on Tuesday, it was noted that the team behind the 310 Great Road development (the former Papa Gino’s) has requested that the site-plan review be continued to April 13, when the developer will be seeking a special permit for dimensional relief. This will allow the site-plan review, public hearing, and special permit process to take place at one meeting.