The plaintiffs asked the Superior Court to order the town to refrain from purchase until it complies with the procurement requirements.
Town meeting approved purchasing the property for a firehouse and financing project management and design of the facility by better than a two-thirds margin at Annual Town Meeting on March 29. Any delay would kill the project since the owner intends to sell the property before summer.
The Select Board is scheduled to meet Friday, May 6, at 8:30 a.m. and move into an executive session to discuss a formal response.
Carol Amick, the former state senator whose property on Crescent Avenue is contiguous to the site, said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the legal challenge was predicted by her attorney in a Feb. 14 letter to the Select Board.
“All of the plaintiffs in this suit agree strongly that the Town needs a new fire station. But they are contesting the actions of the Select Board as unlawful, due to the Chapter 30B violations,” wrote Amick and the other lead plaintiff in the suit, her spouse, former Select Board member William Moonan.
The main objections have centered on the location within the Bedford Center Historic District. Opponents – none of whom disagreed with the need for a new fire station – have said the plan would disrupt the architectural character of the district.
Indeed, the Historic District Commission ultimately could stop the project in its tracks by denying a petition for demolition of the current structure at 139 The Great Road.
The statement from Amick and Moonan alleged that demolition “will lead to irreparable damage to the eastern end of the town’s Center Historic District.” But the litigation focuses solely on the procurement process, not aesthetics.
If a property is deemed “unique” for a public purpose, it falls under an exemption to Chapter 30B. The Select Board approved that status for 139 The Great Road. But the suit contends that “there were other properties identified as ‘finalist sites’ that also satisfy the criteria identified in the uniqueness vote for 139 The Great Road.”
“Even giving the Select Board the benefit of the doubt, its vote indicates only that it was not aware of a property that would be better than 139 The Great Road. But that is precisely what the public bidding process is designed to determine,” read the statement from Amick and Moonan.
Town Manager Sarah Stanton said the litigation was sent to the current property owner, Utah State University, which forwarded a copy to town leaders.
Wednesday afternoon the Town Manager’s office released a statement from Select Board Chair Emily Mitchell, which said in part, “It is deeply disappointing that a small handful of residents are attempting to delay and undermine this critical project for Bedford’s first responders, a project that will vastly improve efforts to keep our residents, staff, and property safe.
“The complaint contains numerous inaccuracies, and Town Legal Counsel is confident the Town will prevail in this frivolous lawsuit,” Mitchell’s statement said. She concluded, “We expect to file a formal response in Court soon. Until then, it would be inappropriate for Town leaders to comment further on this ongoing litigation.”
Some of the other signers of the complaint didn’t know the details of the legal argument but maintained opposition to the plan. Jan van Steenwijk, longtime volunteer leader of the Bedford Historical Society, said he “absolutely approves” of the need but is “totally against” the location.
Terry Gleason, former chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, said he “could not understand why the town would be looking at139 The Great Road” instead of 30 North Road, the location of the Bedford Motel, which has not been investigated as a possible location.
Other plaintiffs included other abutters or close neighbors of the location; Daniel P. Carroll, recent Select Board candidate whose business is two lots west of the site; Gayle Lewis, who lives close to the current fire station; and Jon L. O’Connor.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763