BEDFORD — Developers hoping to construct 120 apartments behind Bedford High School cleared the first of several hurdles this week when school officials granted them permission to connect to water and sewer lines located on the school campus.
Although several contingencies and safeguards were adopted as part of the school board’s approval, many residents said the board should have waited to vote on the water and sewer connections until other town entities, specifically the planning board, had a chance to vote on the project.
“There will be apartments here,” Dick Anagnost, one of the developers for the Bow Lane project, told the school board on Tuesday.
Prior to the vote, Anagnost said that if school officials deny access to the closest water and sewer connection on the high school property, that an arrangement had already been made with the nearby Village Shoppes of Bedford to utilize their water and sewer lines.
“It won’t stop it from going forward,” Anagnost said, adding he is confident the project will receive approval. “ … I am pretty successful at doing this.”
Jay Nash, chairman of the school board, was the only board member to vote against the water and sewer connection.
“It is premature for us to be acting even on this,” said Nash, suggesting that the board hold off on the vote.
Bill Kassler, board member, said that he was told during negotiations that if the board weighs in now rather than later, the school district would get the best deal.
The board’s 3-1-1 vote to allow the developers to use the water and sewer lines is contingent upon planning board approval and all required permits.
As part of the deal, the developer must provide certain benefits to the school district, including the construction of sidewalks from the back of the high school down Chestnut Drive and connecting to Route 101, straightening the curve of Chestnut Drive for emergency vehicles, bringing natural gas down County Road and connecting it to the school district office building, McKelvie Intermediate School, the high school and the sewer pump station at no cost to the school system and funds to cover the costs of converting school burners to natural gas, as well as the district’s legal expenses.
The arrangement is also contingent upon legal review and written permission from the town manager and superintendent.
“I believe this is a good deal,” said Kassler, adding he was worried that if the board did not vote on the matter now, it would miss out on this opportunity.
Not everyone agreed. Jen DeAngelis, board member, questioned what the harm would be if the board remained silent for the time being; she abstained from the vote.
Several residents voiced concerns about the project and the board’s decision to vote on the sewer and water connections without formal approval on the project from the planning board.
“The schools are already overcrowded,” said Bob MacPherson of Wallace Road. “I don’t think you should rush into this.” He urged the board to conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis before making any decision.
Crystal Wyatt of County Road said the arrangement is not a good deal given that local taxpayers paid $3 million to install the sewer and water lines when the high school was constructed.
One local resident, Henry Veilleux of Greeley Hill Road, spoke out in favor of the deal, saying the natural gas hookup will save the district a significant amount of money.
To date, more than 850 Bedford residents have signed an online petition voicing opposition to the proposed apartments. The planning board has scheduled a design review of the project, which also includes the redevelopment of the former Shorty’s restaurant, at 7 p.m. Monday at the Ross A. Lurgio Middle School.