Warrant Review ~ Special Town Meeting ~ November 1 at 7 pm ~ In the BHS Auditorium

Editor’s Note: Although the November 1 Special Town Meeting warrant is compact, with just eight articles, each one is important.

Warrant articles are gathered in this review with four articles highlighted—the zoning amendments in Article 8, the Finance Committee Reserve Fund transfer in Article 2, the  Community Preservation budget in Article 4, and an adjustment to the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School assessment in Article 5—followed by the balance of the articles.

Let’s get started!

A Video Introduction to Special Town Meeting

Select Board Chair Margot Fleischman has recorded a video introduction https://youtu.be/GZRAVQ8At4s.  The Town and The Bedford Citizen thank Bedford TV for assistance in preparing these Special Town Meeting 2021 videos.

The clips comprise a series of monologues that seek to replace live presentations, in an effort to abbreviate Town Meeting in deference to Covid-19.

Article 8 ~ Zoning Bylaw Amendment—Section 22 Great Road District

The Planning Board would like Town Meeting to amend the zoning bylaw and allow a fourth story on buildings in the Shawsheen subdistrict of The Great Road business zone. That change highlights several proposed amendments to the business zone that comprise article eight of the special town meeting warrant.

Planning Board Chair Shawn Hanegan detailed Article 8 in a video at https://youtu.be/V_eB71ihPdc

Hanegan describes Article Eight as a series of amendments to The Great Road zoning district, which encompasses four geographic areas of business and mixed-use properties.

The zone was established by Town Meeting in 2018. Hanegan explained that “whenever the Planning Board receives a large-scale zoning change, we feel it is good practice to revisit the new laws,” taking into account feedback from experiences as well as public opinion.

He added, “And we want to be responsive to changes in our community and the regional economy.”

Hanegan said the fourth-story proposal, which fell short of the required two-thirds majority in 2018, is being resurrected “to incentivize desired types of development.” He explains that the fourth story is proposed with limited conditions:

  • The additional floor would only be allowed when set behind one or more smaller buildings. That means the four-story structure could not be built contiguous to the street.
  • Only two current sites are large enough to accommodate a four-story building: the Great Road Shopping Center and the Mead property at The Great Road and Shawsheen Avenue.
  • Only residential use would be allowed on the third and fourth floors.
  • A fourth story would require a public hearing and a special permit.

In answer to a follow-up question Thursday, Hanegan said that although he is not aware of specific inquiries about building on the two large parcels “commercial real estate brokers are aware of the prior recommendation of our consultants that a fourth story may be needed to incentivize desired types of development. Sometimes it takes one good development to spark a revitalization of an area.”

There are several other components with Article Eight. One would give the Planning Board more discretion in modifying dimensional criteria, which it is hoped would streamline projects by avoiding a routine hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals. Height and landscaping criteria cannot be modified, he adds.

Another provision would allow horizontal mixed-use in the Town Center business subdistrict, which Hanegan says would be consistent with “multiple existing structures that have been historically used for residential purposes,” including some barns. Horizontal mixed-use, which extends over clustered buildings, is allowed in the rest of the business zone.

Article 2 ~ Finance Committee Reserve Fund

Here’s an idea.

Go to Special Town Meeting on Nov. 1. It starts at 7 p.m. in Bedford High School’s Buckley Auditorium.

And if Article 2 is approved, go crazy. Have a blast!

The article proposes reducing the fiscal 2022 reserve fund by $700,000.  According to Finance Committee Chair Stephen Carluccio, it’s money that will not have to be raised by taxation.

Celebrate. But not too much. Get an ice cream. Or a Sunday Times. Or half a pizza. Because according to Finance Director David Castellarin, the $700,000 translates to a tax impact of $9.11 for the average residential property.

Carluccio summarizes Article 2 in a video message at https://youtu.be/ivpsLqM9uUk.

The purpose of the annual reserve fund is to allow the town to address “unanticipated or unknown expenses” based on departmental needs or requests, he explains

The expanded reserve fund for the current fiscal year was based on “concerns that due to the unknown trajectory of Covid-19, schools and other departments may encounter higher levels of unanticipated expenses.”’

Now, more than a quarter of the way through the fiscal year, it has been determined that the town can “responsibly” reduce the amount by $700,000, the chair says.

Julie Kirrane, Director of Finance for the schools, noted that “The schools continue to meet regularly with the Finance Committee and the Town to share information, coordinate, monitor expenses and optimize relief funding.” Nevertheless, “There has been no change since the schools projected lower Covid-related expenses in September,” and “From the school’s perspective, there is no need for changes to the warrant article on the reserve.”

Article 5  Shawsheen Valley Technical High School

Special Town Meeting Nov. 1 will vote on an additional $84,506 to the current budget for Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, to cover seven additional Bedford students who have enrolled there compared to last school year.

If approved, Article Five will bring Bedford’s total allocation for Shawsheen Tech for the current year to $859,598.

The enrollment at Shawsheen Tech for which Bedford is being billed is 41. The school, whose district also comprises Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury, and Wilmington, has a total student population of around 1,300.

Nancy Asbedian, who with Brian O’Donnell represents Bedford on the Shawsheen Tech School Committee, obtained data illustrating that the budget share is more than just enrollment-based. Bedford is responsible for 10 percent of the annual budget even if it enrolls no one; there is also an assessment for capital projects, and that combined total is $681,290. The remainder is an enrollment-based formula, she said.

Emily Mitchell summarizes Article 5 in a video message at  https://youtu.be/7j7t_o7eyss

Article 4 Community Preservation Budget

Article Four on the warrant calls for Town Meeting to transfer $99,601 in Community Preservation funds to the Historical Properties Preservation Fund. This would ensure compliance with the Community Preservation statute, which requires at least 10 percent of revenues to be earmarked for each of three categories: affordable housing, open space and recreation, and historic preservation.

The shortfall results from Annual Town Meeting in May’s decision to indefinitely postpone plans to renovate the entrance to Old Town Hall, which was to be funded through Community Preservation.

Margot Fleischman summarizes Article 4 in a video message at  https://youtu.be/zsrNcQ7Sb4I

Also on the Nov. 1 warrant

Article 1 ~ Debate Rules

Margot Fleischman summarizes Article 1 in a video message at https://youtu.be/soS8vnPH5jk

Article 3 ~ Community Preservation Surcharge—Effective July 1, 2022

An article to sustain the annual community preservation surcharge of 3 percent of the property tax bill.

Margot Fleischman summarizes Article 3 in a video message at https://youtu.be/t1opIQC7lhA

Article 4
~ Community Preservation Budget

This article would transfer $99,601 from the Community Preservation Fund to the Historic Properties Preservation Fund reserve account, in order to fulfill the Town’s obligation under state law to spend or reserve ten percent (10%) of Community Preservation Act dollars on historic preservation. The funding would increase the amount of funds in the Historic Properties Preservation Fund reserve account to $793,291 from its current balance of $693,690.

Margot Fleischman summarizes Article 4 in a video message at https://youtu.be/zsrNcQ7Sb4I

Article 6 Appropriate Funds for Bedford Police Supervisors Association Collective Bargaining Agreement—FY2022–2024

An article to fund any retroactive changes resulting from a new agreement between the town and the police supervisors union. That agreement is still being negotiated. Changes will be retroactive to July 1.

Emily Mitchell summarizes Article 6 in a video message at https://youtu.be/NpbOv99OVY8

Article 7 PEG Access and Cable Expense Related Budget—Fiscal Year 2022 Additional Appropriation

A proposed additional $35,000 allocation to the cable television and PEG access account, because of an inadvertent omission from the total approved at Annual Town Meeting. The funding is from a special account, not the tax levy.

Emily Mitchell summarizes Article 7 in a video message at https://youtu.be/5RM1N2Qr0mE

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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