The following is the Part One of a recap from the June 10, 2014 Westford Board of Selectmen meeting. For links to other parts of the transcript, click here.
7:36 p.m. – The Board of Selectmen exited the second of their executive sessions and began the public hearing with the Pledge of Allegiance and public announcements, including celebrating the birth of Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti.
Selectman Jim Sullivan was absent.
7:38 p.m. – Chairwoman Andrea Peraner-Sweet said there are now two competing options that the Selectmen regarding their right of first refusal under MGL 61B.
The first has nine anonymous individuals donating a total of $700,000 to the Westford Conservation Trust, which would be given the right of first refusal.
Under this plan the property would be split into 22 acres in the back of the property, which would be sold by the to the Conservation Commission at the likely rate of approximately $3,000 per acre, and another four acre parcel that would go to a land buyer for a private home at a later date.
In the second proposal, approximately 19.5 acres would be donated to the town for $1 for the purpose of conservation, with development occurring on no more than 6 acres of the property, with no more than three homes on those 6 acres. There would also be a 30 foot buffer from the Tom Paul Trail at all points.
She said that the board would have to re-enter executive session to discuss the issue.
Although a public hearing was mentioned on the agenda, no public input was requested from the board.
Kelly Ross said he needed more information before going into executive session, asking the Westford Conservation Trust about the other offer and how it impacts their opinion.
Ron Gemma of the Westford Conservation Trust said that he would like to reserve as much land as possible and that the Tom Paul Trail is a very special place, preserved as much as possible.
Ross then asked Gemma regarding the anonymous donors, saying he needed more than that. If the donor information is viewed in executive session, it could potentially become part of the record and would eventually be need to be disclosed.
Gemma said that the pledge was sufficient legally, although Kelly was not sure if it was good enough legally.
Selectman Don Siriani then said he looked at the various materials and asked what the Westford Conservation Trust would do to protect the land.
Gemma replied that the second proposal would have some development near the trail under the second proposal.
Selectman Scott Hazelton asked about vegetation in the area, with information provided by Gemma, saying that under the second offer, that vegetation would not be there anymore.
Kelly Ross asked if neighbors had any remorse now that there is a second plan, but he noted that if anything, they seem more invigorated now.
Kevin Cripanuk then came to the microphone, saying he looked at the latest information this afternoon and that all the donors are still committed to moving forward.
Kelly Ross then asked Cripanuk in regard to the Conservation Commission’s role, followed by a question from Siriani relating to the grant.
Cripanuk said that all the donors realized that the grant would be a bonus, and it was not expected, but they are applying for it.
Town Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchmann then introduced the map from the second proposal, with Siriani asking if the second proposal would include the home existing on the property.
Peraner-Sweet said she was not sure, only that it would be three homes in total on the developed portion of the property.
A point of order was requested by Bill Harmon of the Westford Conservation Trust, but it was refused by Peraner-Sweet.
Hazelton then asked about whether the WCT proposal was legally binding, with Gemma explaining it had been reviewed by the group’s attorney, who is experienced with conservation matters.
Peraner-Sweet asked Gemma if a purchase and sale agreement had been drafted, with Gemma saying that their attorney has created documents that the Board of Selectmen would sign, as well as a $25,000 check.
Peraner-Sweet said that the purchase and sale agreement would need to go back to the seller.
Kelly Ross was concerned that Harmon’s point of order was ignored, with the fear that the board was doing something procedurally incorrect, asking Harmon for his opinion.
Harmon asked if the second proposal would demolish the existing house, with Peraner-Sweet saying she wasn’t sure. Harmon said that the first proposal having nothing build whatsoever was beneficial.
Harmon and Peraner-Sweet then talked about the semantics of the $700,000.
Siriani asked about the 70 percent land requirement under MGL 61B, asking if that needed to be discussed in public sessions, with Peraner-Sweet
Richard Murphy, the attorney for the Agnew family then came to the floor. He was concerned that the Westford Conservation Trust has the assets to pursue the contract and asked the board to give evidence that any pledges, that he thought were not binding, would be made binding so before the Selectmen voted that the Westford Conservation Trust could close the transaction.
CORRECTION: The land conserved in the section option was apprximately 19.5 acres, not 10 acres.