Will the Town of Westford buy the Drew Gardens property? That was a question posed for several months in 2014 and reexamination of that question has begun once again.
With recent news of the property’s sale to Ebi Masalehdan of Groton, the Drew Gardens Task Force has been reassembled to determine whether the town should exercise its right of first refusal over any sale.
That right comes from an agricultural preservation restriction granted to the town requiring active agricultural use on at least half of the property, also prohibiting most commercial or industrial uses as well as construction of any homes.
However, a restaurant is permissible there under variances granted in the 1970s, and on Thursday night Masalehdan laid out his plan to build a restaurant and function center on the property while also building a new orchard.
If the plan becomes a reality, the orchard would be operated by Jamie Cruz of Littleton’s Springdell Farms, with all fruit and vegetables produced on the property used solely by the restaurant, which would serve steaks, seafood and other “American-style” cuisine.
Cruz told the trees currently on the lot are no longer commercially viable due to lack of maintenance, but high tensile tree management techniques could be used for the small lot in warmer months, with the production of leafy greens once things get colder.
The restaurant would hold approximately 180 seats, located where the parking lot currently is located on the property.
A conference center holding approximately 120 people would also be placed on the property, with approximately 150 parking spots displace the current farm stand.
Sidewalks as well as a row of large trees would act as a barrier for most of the property along Boston Road.
While none of the plans are definite at this point, Masalehdan indicated that he expects to keep his word regarding the construction of something he believes will be worthy of the “Gateway to Westford.”
“I’ve always kept my promises, you can talk to the people in Groton,” he said. “When I put my name to something I’m going to do, I do it.”
Neighbors cited concerns over traffic on Boston Road, particularly with rush hour traffic and worries about impacts of the upcoming fire station in the area.
Westford Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchman indicated that a traffic study would be conducted before final approval of permitting for the building and Masalehdan indicated he would be willing to limit hours of the restaurant to avoid rush hour traffic.
Other concerns also included possible lead and arsenic in the soil of the property as well as neighbors behind the property dealing with noise from the restaurant, particularly an outdoor patio area.
If the town decides to use its right of first refusal and purchase the property for itself, Town Meeting voters would have to approve the $650,000 sale price posted by Masalehdan no later than Feb. 16, 2016.
The Board of Selectmen will discuss the matter on Nov. 10, with the Drew Gardens Task Force expected to meet again next Thursday.