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
- 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
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.