Citizens for a Safe Bedford
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Why Fight It?
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The Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals granted a permit to AvalonBay to construct a 139 unit luxury apartment complex near an intersection of Davis and Concord Roads (see map). This permit was applied for under Massachusetts law Chapter 40B, which encourages affordable housing. As such, the project is not required to adhere to local zoning by-laws. The ZBA granted the permit despite serious unresolved environmental, safety and health issues. These include:

  • Proximity to wetlands and the White Cedar Swamp
  • Increased traffic hazards at the curve in front of St. Michael's Church
  • No safe pedestrian crosswalks
  • Increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis

Citizens for a Safe Bedford is a group of neighbors fighting to keep our Town safe. Our goal is to reduce the size of this project and force other changes to alleviate the dangers.

We have filed appeals with the State Land Court and with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to annul the project permit. If either appeal is successful, it will require AvalonBay to alter the project to mitigate the above issues.

This is not about affordable housing.

AvalonBay is not really interested in affordable housing. This is a luxury apartment complex being developed by a savvy, well-funded, public corporation which specializes in "high barrier-to-entry markets" (www.avalonbay.com). Only 25% of the units will be designated "affordable" and will rent for $946 per month; the market rate two bedroom apartments will rent for $2,025. This project also includes a market rate two-lot subdivision adjacent to the apartment complex. AvalonBay is looking to maximize their profits by catering to high-end customers, using the loopholes of Chapter 40B to force entry into Bedford.

Overview of Our Campaign

Under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40B, there is a presumption in Land Court, where our appeal was filed, that the project is in the best interests of Bedford because we have not met our affordable housing quota. The task before us, therefore, is to convince the Land Court that the health, safety and environmental risks posed by the size and location of the project outweigh Bedford's affordable housing needs. Historically, this has not often been successful. But that was before West Nile Virus entered the country (1999), and few projects have been proposed for such an environmentally and traffic sensitive location.

We believe we have a strong case. We have spent countless hours researching mosquito-borne diseases and traffic safety. We have written dozens of letters to state and local officials and politicians, copies of which are available. This background work strengthens our case because our concerns are not new. The serious traffic and pedestrian safety issues discussed in public hearings remain unsolved. In addition, we believe AvalonBay has refused to have their project reviewed by a Mosquito Expert because they fear the outcome and establishing a precedent. It is clear they do not share our concerns, as outlined in the Lowell Sun on Feb 21, about the devastation an outbreak of West Nile or Eastern Equine Encephalitis would cause to Bedford residents. The goals of the appeal include having the project evaluated by a federal team of insect-borne disease experts, and a new team of traffic experts with no prior ties to AvalonBay. We believe these studies will prove that the health and safety risks posed by the size and location of the AvalonBay project are overriding considerations.

Six of us are scheduled for deposition by AvalonBay in March, at an estimated cost of $2200 each. We are preparing to demonstrate during these depositions that our concerns will be viewed by the Land Court as serious, and not as a frivolous attempt to delay their project. Following the depositions, there will be a scheduling delay of several months until the Land Court hearing. Please encourage your friends and neighbors to help by sending a check made out to "Hemenway and Barnes" to PO Box 1028, Bedford. A contribution from every Bedford household could ensure the success of our appeal, and any left over funds could provide the Affordable Housing Committee resources to increase affordable housing units in Bedford. This could convince the Massachusetts Housing Authority that Bedford is now diligently solving the problem without the need for large, for-profit land developers, such as AvalonBay and Princeton Properties, who ignore Bedford health and traffic safety concerns.