~ Submitted by Shawn Hanegan, Chair of the Bedford Planning Board
I am writing to support the hiring of a full-time Sustainability Director for Bedford. In November 2017, Town Meeting voted to establish a goal of achieving an 80% reduction in Bedford’s greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century and to fund the development of a report on how to achieve this goal. One of the key recommendations in the Net Zero final report is the creation of the position of a Sustainability Director to coordinate Bedford’s sustainability efforts. The recommendation of the Energy and Sustainability Committee is for this position to be a line item on the Select Board’s operating budget, which will be discussed as part of the budgeting process over the next few months and voted on by Annual Town Meeting in March 2022.
Many of our neighboring towns have been convinced by the benefits of having a Sustainability Director. Acton, Concord, Lexington, Arlington, Winchester, Chelmsford are some of the nearby towns to have hired a Sustainability Director. Experience from these towns shows that the position pays for itself many times over in terms of grants received, rebates and incentives, and energy savings that would otherwise not have been realized without a Sustainability Director.
From my perspective as a member of the Planning Board, a Sustainability Director would bring many benefits to town planning. A Sustainability Director could advise the Planning Board about ongoing policies and initiatives in relation to construction proposals, and advise the applicants on the resiliency of buildings, energy efficiency, and waste reduction. This would bring direct financial benefits to the town and to property owners.
The timing of a Sustainability Director hire would be beneficial to the Planning Board in terms of long-term planning. Roughly every ten years, the Planning Board works to collect feedback from the citizens and other stakeholders of the town to create a vision for how the Town will grow and adapt to opportunities and challenges. The next such Comprehensive Plan will likely be started around 2023, and such a position could help infuse sustainability and climate adaptation into the document and therefore into town planning.
Finally, some of the work proposed for a Sustainability Director is now being done by staff. During my time on the Planning Board, I have always been impressed with the high quality of staff we have in Bedford. However, there is a lot of technical detail and shifting federal and state policy background involved in energy and emissions. A separate position could complement the staff’s work by having the capacity to apply for grants, conduct public outreach/events, etc. that staff is not able to take on at this point. This would also free some time for staff to dedicate more time and resources to other work on behalf of our town.
Please join me in supporting the hiring of a Sustainability Director for Bedford.