The controversy surrounding proposed parking on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail may be coming to a close next week, although the discussion was still alive during last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Initially, the Selectmen were slated to appoint Chris Barrett, Todd Lobo, Brian Skedd, Emily Teller and Tim Walsh to the new Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Extension Working Group, but those appointments were postponed due to an impending meeting of the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMPO) next Thursday where potential federal money may be allocated toward the proposed Phase 2A extension that would bring the trail to within 1,000 feet of the Concord Rotary.
During the multi-month debate, pro-parking and anti-parking advocates had long seen the , a potential parking lot several hundred feet over the border in Acton that would be paid for through the removal of old rail lines, as the best solution. However, the feasibility of that occurring in the short term had been unlikely until the BMPO.
While the news was warmly greeted by the Selectmen, concerns still lingered about the Town Meeting vote in March which allowed the town to accept up to $5,000 from the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail for the purposes of surveying and other technical work in relation to two unlit, unpaved parking spots along the trail.
Selectman Kelly Ross felt despite the new information, and other more detailed and public information known by those following the issue that may not have been known by voters, the vote of Town Meeting should be respected.
“I have difficulty saying ‘I know Town Meeting voted this way, but they would have voted this other way if they knew this’,” said Ross. “I have a lot of discomfort with that assumption.”
Ross also noted that the surveying would not cost the town any money, or any staff time outside of correspondence.
However, he found opposition from Selectman Jim Sullivan and Valerie Wormell.
Sullivan indicated that he wanted the vote to go to Town Meeting again in the Fall. While Ross disagreed, citing the animosity between both sides during the debate and the fact that another Town Meeting vote would reignite that animosity, Sullivan believed that the effort would ultimately be meaningless if the BMPO funding is approved next week.
“Given the state is moving things up with their funding much sooner than anything we’re going to do here in town, by the time we get all the funding and effort done here in Westford, there will be plenty of parking from here to the (Concord) Rotary,” said Sullivan.
Wormell, who has been a vocal critic of the parking initiatives at past meeting, saw the gift of up to $5,000 as a potential stepping stone to future expenditures if the studies supported parking, feeling that those potential added expenditures were inappropriate given the pending Fiscal Year 2014 budget shortfall.
Ultimately the issue of the gift was tabled after testimony from Teller, who was in the audience on behalf of the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, indicating to the board that the exact amount “up to” $5,000 had not been agreed upon by the Friends yet.
The BMPO meeting will occur on Thursday, June 28 at 10 a.m. in the State Transportation Building in Boston.
Westford Patch will be covering the event and provide a bulletin immediately after the vote by the BMPO has been taken on the issue, barring unforeseen circumstances.