Selectmen Vote Not To Use Right Of First Refusal On Drew Gardens Sale

The Board of Selectmen almost certain to not oppose the proposed restaurant on the former Drew Gardens/Eric’s property prior to Tuesday. On Tuesday night, they confirmed that position.

A final vote on agreed terms between the Board of Selectmen and Groton resident Ebi Masalehdan was passed in a non-public session prior to the meeting and those terms were revealed later in the evening.

In those terms, the Selectmen announced they will not use their right of first refusal on the sale of the former Drew Gardens/Eric’s property on Boston Road.

In the late 90s, a series of three agricultural preservation restrictions, or APRs, were passed by Town Meeting, severely limiting any uses on the property outside of agricultural purposes.

Masalehdan submitted a purchase and sale offer to property owner Tom Goddard in late October for $650,000. Under the terms of the APRs, the Selectmen would have been able to void the sale and purchase the property for public use if Town Meeting approved the same amount.

However, after hearing Masalehdan’s plans to restore the agricultural nature of the property and turn part of it into a farm-to-table restaurant, the Selectmen believed that not intervening was the best decision.

“I’ve heard some sentiment that the town should buy this instead, and maybe in an ideal world, we would have,” said Selectman Kelly Ross. “But there’s a cost to that of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And once we bought it, I mean, the property is in a pretty bad state, it’s kind of an eyesore right now. So there would have been a cost to remedy that.”

Masalehdan has also agreed to construct pay for sidewalks in the vicinity of the 9-acre lot in 2017 and has also agreed to provide the town $50,000 for any contingencies related to the amendment of the third APR, which be voted upon by Town Meeting in April.

The proposed restaurant will be located on the southern half of the property and hold an estimated 16,500 sq. ft a building and parking area.

Kelly Ross on Jan. 12, 2015

Kelly Ross on Jan. 12, 2015

The northern two-thirds of the property will not need APR amendments as Masalehdan has agreed to pay for the renovation of the now distressed property, constructing a new orchard as well as a greenhouse that will provide food for the restaurant.

In addition to the Town Meeting vote on the APR amendment, the restaurant will also have to seek a license to serve alcohol, obtain permit and special permit approval from the Planning Board, obtain use variance approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals and proceed with a series of other steps before opening its doors.