Letter to the Editor: The Town is Attempting to Subvert the Democratic Process

~Submitted by Carla Brown

The Town is preventing the Conservation Commission from reviewing Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB)’s proposed modification of the construction plans for the Minuteman Bikeway Project. The Commission’s responsibility is to perform such a review and it cannot allow applicants to do it for themselves.

The Notice of Intent (NOI) produced by VHB and approved, in error, by the Conservation Commission in January 2022 includes plans to do construction in priority habitat. We see this as a violation of State endangered species protections. This violation was identified in early October by a private citizen and reported to VHB. In response, VHB proposed a significant modification, purportedly to reduce the limits of work and resolve the issue. 

The Town has asserted this change does not warrant a review by the Conservation Commission because the Conservation Commission Administrator determined the change to be minor. Indeed, the Conservation Commission was informed the issue cannot even be discussed in public meetings.

We believe these assertions fly in the face of Bedford Bylaws, Bedford Wetlands Protection Regulations, the Order of Conditions for the project, and MassDEP DWW Policy 85-4: Amending an Order of Conditions. 

Order of Condition #23 from the Orders of Conditions DEP File 103-0895 Minuteman Bikeway Extension:

“Any change made or intended to be made in the plans or documents shall require submission to the Commission for review. The Commission shall determine whether a change is substantial enough to require a new filing or Amendment to the Order.”

The Conservation Commission — not the applicant, the Conservation Chair, or the Conservation Administrator — has the authority and responsibility to assess changes to previously approved activities. Even if the new proposal is beneficial, the Commission’s review is still mandated and must by regulation occur in public meetings. We believe this is entirely appropriate: the Commission’s main responsibility is to perform such a review and it cannot allow applicants or Conservation staff to do it for themselves.

Bypassing the Conservation Commission is not just illegal, it’s wrong.

For the good of the Town, we believe this issue must be put on a published agenda before the Special Town Meeting to allow Commission review and public comment at an open meeting. Anything less would subject the Town to legal hazard. 

Please contact the Select Board and Town Manager to demand they follow the legal process.

Signed,

1. Steven Dahlgren, 383 South Road
2. Patricia Dahlgren, 383 South Road
3. David Radlo, 2 Richard Road
4. Rachel Field, 380 Concord Road   
5. Linda Kovitch, 78 North Road
6. Valerie Franks, 9 Selfridge Road
7. Thomas Spaulding, 9 Selfridge Road
8. Andrew Spaulding, 9 Selfridge Road
9. Julie Brill, 5 Warren Avenue
10. Gabriel Miano, 5 Bonnievale Drive  
11. Daria Miano, 5 Bonnievale Drive  
12. Deb Edinger, 37 Hancock Street
13. Dan Carroll, 1 Hilda Road   
14. Tara Carroll, 1 Hilda Road  
15. Julie Robbins Porter, 16 Selfridge Road  
16. Michael Porter, 16 Selfridge Road  
17. Devon Porter, 16 Selfridge Road  
18. Linda Ugelow, 2 Glenridge Drive
19. Kelly Randazzo, 5 Selfridge Road  
20. John J Randazzo, 5 Selfridge Road  
21. John L Randazzo, 5A Selfridge Road   
22. Judy Randazzo, 5A Selfridge Road
23. Heather Clerkin, 39 Glenridge Drive  
24. Andrew Clerkin, 39 Glenridge Drive  
25. Heather Miller, 23 Otis Street  
26. Becky Muranaka, 6 Colony Circle  
27. Daryl Muranaka, 6 Colony Circle  
28. Jacqueline S. Edwards, 11 Wildwood Drive
29. William A. Edwards, 11 Wildwood Drive  
30.  Lisa Mitchell, 86 South Road
31.  Roberta Valday, 93 Page Road
32. Laurel Kilbourn, 32 Neillian Way
33. Michelle Busch, 43 Glenridge Drive  
34. Fred Busch, 43 Glenridge Drive  
35. Desiree Girifalco, 289 Concord Road  
36. Michael Girifalco, 289 Concord Road  
37. Joseph Girifalco, 289 Concord Road  
38. Kelly Giaquinto, 384 Great Road
39. John Goding, 2 Brooksbie Road 
40. Athelney Woolnough, 8 Noreen Drive  
41. Lori Eggert, 12 Bonnievale Drive
42. Jim Eggert, 12 Bonnievale Drive   
43. Tara O’Loughlin, 290 Concord Road   
44. Carol Estes-Schwartz, 423 Concord Road  
45. Patty Carluccio, 16 Washington Street  
46. Kati Oates, 16 Riverside Avenue  
47. Kari Haering, 33 Hayden Lane  
48. Lisa Baylis, 299 Davis Road  
49. LeeAnn Horner, 452 North Road  
50. Steven Horner, 452 North Road  
51.Glenn Baylis, 299 Davis Road  
52. Alyssa Brown, 251 Concord Road  
53. Carla Brown, 251 Concord Road  
54. Nathaniel Brown, 251 Concord Road  
55. Jeremy Paskali, 3 Harvard Drive  
56. Stacy Parr-Paskali, 3 Harvard Drive   
57. Laura Wallace, 3 Hilda Road  
58. Erin Hanley, 328 North Road
59. Joe Langton, 328 North Road
60. Nini Bloch, 123 Page Road   
61. Barbara Feldman, 21 Brooksbie Road  
62. Sophie Brill Weitz, 5 Warren Avenue
63. Lily Weaver, 36 Great Road
64. John R Monahan, 23 Railroad Avenue
65. Jeffrey Jerik Tornheim, 21 Brooksbie Road  
66. David Kimmell, 312 Concord Road  
67. Adrienne Kimmell, 312 Concord Road  
68.  Vittorio Raho, 6 McMahon Road
69. Martha Brill, 5 Fern Way  
70. Haim Brill, 5 Fern Way  
71. Dori Pulizzi, 10 Evans Avenue  
72. Michael Pulizzi, 10 Evans Avenue  
73. Emma Pulizzi, 10 Evans Avenue  
74. John Lorusso, 6 Cot Hill Road
75. Kimberly Lorusso, 6 Cot Hill Road
76. Lisa Warhover, 4 Flintlock Drive   
77. Jeff Warhover, 4 Flintlock Drive   
78. Lorna Hyland, 29 Selfridge Road
79. Ellen Kift, 27 Brooksbie Road
80. Henry Coady, 320 Concord Road
81.  Dana Gordon, 4 Bonnievale Drive
82. Chet Schwartz, 4 Bonnievale Drive
83. Maria Tatarczuk, 11 Norma Road
84. Elizabeth Walsh, 3 Sunnyfield Road
85. James Walsh, 3 Sunnyfield Road
86. Stacy Kershaw, 412 Davis Road
87. Robert Kershaw, 412 Davis Road
88. Christoph Kershaw, 412 Davis Road
89. Kay Corry Aubrey, 30 Washington Street 
90. Kevin Aubrey, 30 Washington Street 
91. Noreen O’Gara, 35 Glenridge Drive
92. Rhona Barlevy, 16 Evans Avenue
93. Richard Barlevy, 16 Evans Avenue
94. Ben Littauer, 37 Fletcher Road
95. Kathy Kerby, 37 Fletcher Road
96. Katherine Tecci, 5 Lavender Lane
97. Michael Tecci, 5 Lavender Lane
98. Kathy Doherty, 27 Caesar Jones Way
99. Vanessa O’Donnell, 6 Maple Street
100. C. Michael O’Donnell, 6 Maple Street
101.  Katie Guerino, 1 Bonnievale Drive
102.  Dave Guerino, 1 Bonnievale Drive
103. Elizabeth McClung, 5 Winchester Drive
104. Gail C. Green, 23 Railroad Avenue
105. Sarah Lance, 39 Sunset Road
106. John Mara, 75 Sweetwater Avenue
107. Krista Mara, 75 Sweetwater Avenue
108. Geoff Chase, 21 Nickerson Road


109. Robert Fanelli, 26 Sunset Road
110. Barbara Fanelli, 26 Sunset Road
111. Joe Esposito, 12 Evans Avenue
112. Mary Lou Esposito, 12 Evans Avenue
113. Michael Hallstrom, 179 South Road
114. Alice Hallstrom, 179 South Road
115. Angela Winter, 5 Great Road  
116. Issam Gharios, 10 Woodmoor Drive  
117. Christine Wang, 6 Battle Flagg Road  
118. Bruce Bond, 6 Hilda Road  
119. Shaun Kennery, 43 Washington Street  
120. Jennifer Kennery, 43 Washington Street  
121. Marie Walton, Ashby Place  
122. Gabriele Russo, 289 South Road  
123. Heidemarie MacMaster, 14 Fern Way  
124. Glen MacMaster, 14 Fern Way  
125. Dan Smythe, 101 Winthrop Terrace  
126. Elliot Lovy, 328 Concord Road  
127. Kim Lovy, 328 Concord Road  
128. Isaac Lovy, 328 Concord Road  
129. Adam Lovy, 328 Concord Road  
130. Barbara Anderson, 385 South Road  
131. Sydney Anderson, 385 South Road  
132. Robin Steele, 7 Jeffrey Circle
133. Stephen Steele, 7 Jeffrey Circle  
134. John Mara, 75 Sweetwater Avenue  
135. Krista Mara, 75 Sweetwater Avenue  
136. Andrea Hayes, 11A Curve Street  
137. Ron Richter, 14 Norma Road
138. Linda Richter, 14 Norma Road  
139. Molly Haskell, 10 Winchester Drive  
140. Aaron Moynahan, 10 Winchester Drive  
141. Kirk Haskell, 10 Winchester Drive
142. Jinghua Liu, 20 Selfridge Road  
143. Kyle Smith, 20 Selfridge Road  
144. Jeffrey M. Morse, 11 Reed Lane
145. Kathleen W. Morse, 11 Reed Lane
146. Danielle Sullivan, 453 Old Billerica Road  
147. Mike Sullivan, 453 Old Billerica Road  
148. Marcia Mulcahy, Loomis Street  
149. Kate Reynolds, 23 Genetti Street  
150. Rebecca Brlll Weitz, 5 Warren Avenue
151. Karen Wulfsberg, 58 Concord Road  
152. Nicole Isabelle, 160 Springs Road  
153. Dominic Urdi, 157 Springs Road  
154. Christine Isabelle, 160 Springs Road  
155. James A. Burton, 77 Page Road  
156. Laura Keating, 3 Patricia Circle  
157. Ashley Ringuette, 2 Balsam Drive
158. Ed  Rogalski, 10 Jeffrey Circle   
159. Zach Bornemann, 5 Wagon Wheel Drive  
160. Melissa Bornemann, 5 Wagon Wheel Drive  
161. Jessica Betts, 76 Sweetwater Avenue  
162. Spencer Betts, 76 Sweetwater Avenue
163. Rajeev Voleti, 12 Alaska Avenue
164. Aimee Voleti, 12 Alaska Avenue
165. Janet Powers, 10 School Way
166. Jill Shapiro, 10 Sunset Road
167. Brian Shapiro, 10 Sunset Road
168. Stephen Andress, 46 Mitchell Grant Way
169. David McClung, 5 Winchester Drive
170. Keith A MacDonald, 16 Battle Flagg Road
171. Ying MacDonald, 16 Battle Flagg Road
172. Nicole Maynard, 4 Sheridan Road
173. Gary Maynard, 4 Sheridan Road
175. Derek M.P Yerardi,  286 Concord Road
176. Kristen Yerardi,  286 Concord Road
177. Astrid Yerardi,  286 Concord Road
178. Margaret O’Neil, 4 Fawn Circle
179. Richard O’Neil, 4 Fawn Circle
180. Jake O’Neil, 4 Fawn Circle
181. Madeline O’Neil, 4 Fawn Circle
182. Limor Delzingo, 242 Hartwell Road
183. Liam Doherty-Herwitz, 27 Caesar Jones Way
184. Lori Ann O’Brien, 403 Davis Road
185. Ron O’Brien, 403 Davis Road
186. Christopher Yannoni, 10 School Way
187. Kathleen Hanlon, 7 Richard Road
188. Michael Larimore, 7 Richard Road
189. Larry Davis, 35 Glenridge Drive
190. Rebecca Venuti, 17 Evans Avenue
191. Virginia Canciello, 49 Hillside Avenue
192. Meredith Wasko, 14 Benjamin Kidder Lane
193. Steve Wasko, 14 Benjamin Kidder Lane
194. Nicole Slowinski, 5A Homestead Circle
195. Dennis Slowinski, 5A Homestead Circle
196. Carin Folman, 270 Davis Road
197. William Folman, 270 Davis Road
198. Laura Bullock, 23 Mitchell Grant Way
199. Hannah Kilroy, 19 Otis Street
200. Marie Kilroy, 19 Otis Street
201. Richard Kilroy, 19 Otis Street
202. Mike Dirrane, 30 Battle Flagg Road
203. Eileen Dirrane, 30 Battle Flagg Road
204. Concetta Sardzinski, 602 Springs Road
205. Alison O’Connell, 15 Fitchdale Avenue
206. Mike Larimore, 7 Richard Road
207. Gary Cowan, 9 Caesar Jones Way
208. Marlene Cowan, 9 Caesar Jones Way
209. Jack Cowan, 9 Caesar Jones Way
210. Bree Oats,  1 Macintosh Road
211. Brian Oats, 1 Macintosh Road
212. Ted Worth, 8 Fern Way
213. Julie Bolch, 5303 Avalon Drive
214. Marian Hobbs, 8 Maxwell Road
215. Kiera Doherty-Herwitz, 27 Caesar Jones Way


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Chris Wojnar
2 months ago

Wow, thank you everyone who has signed this! We must allow the conservation commission to do its job properly!

Erin Sandler-Rathe
2 months ago

The proposed change to the plans reduces the overall impact of a construction project that had previously been approved by this Commission. If X area had already been approved and it’s now been reduced by, for example, 3%, why would X-3% area require additional approval? By definition a scaled-down project is having a lesser impact than what the Commission had already deemed acceptable. This letter seems like nothing more than an attempt to re-open and re-litigate the issue in hopes that the Commission might disapprove it this time around.

Additionally, I certainly hope that as a Commission member and an abutter, Lori Eggert will recuse herself from discussion of this matter altogether.

Lori Eggert
2 months ago

I’ll make sure to remind her!

Lori Eggert
2 months ago

How would the Conservation Commission even know that the proposed modification is reduced by, in your example, 3% if they don’t review the proposal? By trusting the applicant, the same applicant who misrepresented the original proposal?

Julie Brill
2 months ago

Erin it sounds like your issue is with the bylaw, that requires reviewing all changes no matter how minor.

Marc
2 months ago
Reply to  Julie Brill

If the violation was made in early October, that means that the Administrative Approval was recent. The Commission was probably informed in their October 12 meeting or maybe November 2? And the next one is November 16? Sorry, but this sounds more like a complaint about how bureaucracy grinds forward and not in time for Town Meeting. It’s not an actual problem. But nice effort!

I’ve lost a lot of sleep over the Conservation Commission process over the last year; it’s a pain. I consider myself to be a semi-professional hobbyist on the topic. So let’s answer question: how could this have happened?

Here’s the bylaw for reference.

The Conservation Administrator can do this kind of thing:
54.10(c) Administrative Approvals — Proposed activities considered minor in scope and that would predictably have no significant or cumulative effect upon the resource areas protected by this bylaw may be reviewed and approved by the Conservation Administrator, without a public hearing.

Here’s the Administrative Approval Form.

But let’s say there’s still a problem:
Later in 54.10(c): The Conservation Administrator shall inform the Commission on a regular basis of all such administrative approvals issued, upon request by either the applicant or the Commission, these approvals may be reviewed by the Commission and subject to change at its discretion. The Commission may identify examples of proposed activities that may be subject to administrative approval in its regulations.

54.10(d): For good cause the Commission may revoke or modify an Order of Conditions issued under this bylaw after public notice and public hearing, and written notice to the holder of the Order of Conditions.

And before work can begin, the Order has to be Recorded with the state. As of tonight, it hasn’t yet. So there’s still time. And when the work begins, the Commission can inspect the site whenever they want. And when the work is done, there’s a process to certify that the finished product was according to plan.

Bottom line, someone is getting a bunch of people worked up over nothing. And this op-ed feels like an attempt to get even more people worked up.

My thought? We should assume that what’s going on is less about dastardly underhanded behavior by the Town that’s subverting the democratic process, and instead assume that the Conservation Commission needs to be more assertive with its authority and let the necessary time play out.

Y’know – if this is actually a problem and not just theater to get people worked up before Town Meeting.

John
2 months ago
Reply to  Marc

54.10(d) is really the key. Below is a more complete block quote of that provision:

For good cause the Commission may revoke or modify an Order of Conditions issued under this bylaw after public notice and public hearing, and written notice to the holder of the Order of Conditions. Good cause for such revocation or modification shall include but not be limited to the following:
 failure by the applicant or his successors to comply with the terms of the Order of Conditions;
receipt of new information relating to the project which indicates that previous information presented to the Commission was inaccurate;
 changes to the project after completion of the Commission’s review

If the Commission feels the Order of Conditions was granted “in error” as suggested by the author then it should revoke it pursuant to 54.10. The subsequent change to the construction plans would not deprive the Commission of its authority to revoke the Order of Conditions. Clearly the Commission still has that power, but it apparently does not have the inclination to exercise it.

I further agree that under 54.10(c) the Commission Administrator may approve the VHB changes without public hearing. The only “significant or cumulative effect upon the resource areas” are reductions to the environmental impact from the plans original approved. To the extent the Commission believes further inquiry is required into whether the reductions are significant enough, it should just revoke the Order of Conditions under 54.10(d) and start over.

Erin Sandler-Rathe
2 months ago
Reply to  Julie Brill

 Reply to  Julie Brill
My issue isn’t with the bylaws or the Order of Conditions mentioned above; my issue is that 200+ citizens have decided to publicly call out Town Hall for doing something “illegal” without providing any proof.
The charge here seems to be that the Conservation Commission didn’t get a chance to review the VHB proposed changes. But I notice that it’s not the Conservation Commission that’s claiming wrongdoing here. If ConsComm as a whole was officially upset and felt that the Town had illegally blocked them from conducting business, then they could and should have taken a vote to that effect during their meeting this week. They didn’t.
So my issue is not that ConsComm shouldn’t have a chance to review changes, no matter how minor. The Order of Conditions says that they do. In fact there’s a part not quoted above that says, “Any change to the plans identified on Condition #13 above shall required the applicant to inquire of the Conservation Commission in writing whether the change is significant enough to require the filing of a new Notice of Intent.” (Order of Cond., Sect. C, #14. p.6))
An email by VHB to the Town with a proposed change in scope could be considered such an inquiry; regardless, ConsComm was made aware of this proposed change in some fashion. My understanding from the ConsComm meeting on Wednesday night was that the Chair decided the change wasn’t “significant enough to require the filing of a new Notice of Intent,” just like the Order of Conditions says. I’ve seen no evidence that says the Chair made that decision on any basis but his own.
It could be an honest mistake on the Chair’s part, it could be a poor judgement call, it could be his personal feelings, it could turn out that there’s no violation found, or, sure, there’s a possibility that someone told him “don’t let the Commission vote on this.” The way to investigate and deal with an issue like this is for the Commission, Town Counsel, and Town Hall to figure it out. It’s not for 200+ residents to simply decide that the Town did something illegal and call them out publicly.

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