BEDFORD — Despite a petition with about 1,100 signatures opposing the project, two local developers have received the green light to construct 93 apartments behind the high school.
On Monday, the planning board approved a site plan for the Bow Lane workforce housing project — a controversial proposal that has been debated in town for more than a year.
“The board can’t say ‘no’ because we don’t like,” said Harold Newberry, planning board member, stressing the board does not have the ability to deny an application simply because there is opposition to it.
Rather, the board’s responsibility is to make sure the site plan meets town requirements, he said, explaining that if town planners denied the application without sufficient reason, it would likely be overturned by the courts.
The project includes three three-story buildings with 33 units, 24 units and 36 units, as well as the rehabilitation of the former Shorty’s restaurant. There will be 68 two-bedroom apartments, 18 one-bedroom apartments and seven three-bedroom apartments constructed on Bow Lane off of Chestnut Drive — the same road that serves as an emergency access lane to Bedford High School.
Newberry said the project, spearheaded by developers Bill Greiner and Dick Anagnost, is a valuable and dimensional concept that will create a mixed-use area with a neighborhood feel that is economically feasible and within walking distance to schools, retail areas and restaurants.
“The residents own the town of Bedford, not these two developers,” argued Becky Soule, one of several residents who spoke out against the project.
She reminded town planners of the petition with 1,100 signatures of residents opposed to the apartment complex.
Kelleigh Murphy, a member of the planning board and former town councilor, recused herself from voting on the project, in part because of a text message Greiner, one of the developers, sent to her earlier this year.
Murphy and her ex-husband, Keith Murphy, are co-owners of Murphy’s Taproom and Carriage House in Bedford, which rents space from the other developer, Anagnost. Together, the Murphys are 50 percent owners of the restaurant.
In Greiner’s text message to Murphy, Greiner stated, “I know you are not running. If you were, I could not support you after the Shorty’s issue. You crossed the line as an elected official, and a legal line as well. Keith might have some fence-mending to do when his lease comes up …”
Greiner did not return a phone call seeking comment on the text message.
Bob MacPherson said Chestnut Drive to the high school is already a congested roadway.
“I ask that you not put our kids in harm’s way,” he told the board.
Charlie Fairman, planning board member, reminded residents that if the apartment complex was not approved, the land next to the high school is zoned for uses such as a hospital, Walmart, hotel or fast food restaurant. The apartments would have the least impact in that area, according to Fairman.
The project will consist of a total of 93 apartments, with up to 37 of the units classified as workforce housing.