The property at 139 The Great Road was approved for purchase by Annual Town Meeting in March, but a group of residents, led by Carol Amick and her husband Bill Moonan, who live adjacent to the site, has challenged the legality of the agreement between the town and the current owner, Utah State University.
The plaintiffs contend that the town disregarded state procurement law in selecting the location and have asked the court to invalidate the purchase-and-sale agreement. But that sale is scheduled to be executed Tuesday, leading to the “short-order” motion for a preliminary injunction.
The hearing was originally scheduled for noon Monday but was postponed after it was announced that Judge Howard Wilkins had a “conflict” in his relationship with the town’s law firm. Both sides agreed to the postponement, “status quo.”
Judge Cathleen Campbell is scheduled to preside at the hearing Tuesday morning in the Woburn courthouse of Middlesex County Superior Court.
Earlier Monday the Select Board issued a statement claiming “a small group of residents, led by abutters to the property, are taking extraordinary measures to subvert the will of town meeting.”
The statement said, “the plaintiffs’ allegations of procurement violations have no merit.” The board alleged Amick and Moonan’s attorney contacted the university after the town meeting vote to “question the procurement process,” which was “an attempt to seed doubt around the town’s action.” Moonan was a member of the Select Board until March 12.
Amick first questioned the procurement in a statement several weeks before Annual Town Meeting and predicted that the purchase would be followed by a taxpayers’ suit.
The Select Board statement also pointed out that Amick and Moonan offered to purchase 139 The Great Road at a higher price than the $1.55 million agreed in negotiations between the owner and the town. “No resident should be able to leverage personal affluence over the public good or the will of voters just because they disagree with the outcome,” the statement read.
The location was one of seven identified as a potential fire station site after a detailed analysis. The board in 2019 focused on 175 The Great Road as a preferred location, but Town Meeting never had a chance to discuss it because the pandemic resulted in a streamlined 2020 warrant. The proposed acquisition was expected to be an eminent domain process.
When town officials early this year learned that the university wanted to sell 139 The Great Road, they pivoted to that option. After the two sides reached an agreement the board voted that the property is unique for its intended public purpose, which would exempt it from the procurement law.
Another variable is the Historic District Commission. The property is within the Bedford Center Historic District, and the commission must approve not only demolition of the existing structure but also whatever is proposed to replace the razed structure. Moonan is chairman of the commission but has recused himself from any discussion of the issue.