Five votes. That’s all it took to dash plans for a proposed restaurant at the former Drew Gardens site. But as those plans fade into memory, new ones are slowly beginning to form.
Restaurant proponent and site owner Ebi Masalehdan told WestfordCAT News on Tuesday that he expects to return, potentially at Fall Special Town Meeting, with a modified proposal that he hopes can meet enough support from Westford residents.
The property he now owns, 66-68 Boston Road, has had three separate agricultural preservation restrictions, or APRs, since it was last sold in the late 1990s. Those restrictions prohibit most uses for the land, particularly a housing sub development or any non-agricultural commercial space.
Masalehdan purchased the property for $650,000 in 2015 after the Board of Selectmen waived their right of first refusal to purchase the property outright, a privilege written into the APRs.
He came to Town Meeting on Saturday hoping for an exception to the APR on the southern third of the property which would allow a two-story farm-to-table with an approximately 16,000 sq. ft footprint, using the northern six acres of the property for orchards and a greenhouse that would provide food for the restaurant.
Requiring voter approval for that exception, Masalehdan’s proposal narrowly lost in a 106-101 vote following more than an hour of passionate debate on the matter that closed the nine-hour Town Meeting.
According to Masalehdan, the experience proved frustrating.
“Some of the citizens over there really had no idea what they’re talking about or what they had their friends come over and oppose the project for,” he said. “This project would have been a 100 percent benefit to the Town of Westford and the neighborhood.”
Masalehdan also believes that the timing played a role in the outcome, as many supporters left before the due to the length of the meeting.
While it’s too soon to tell exactly what the next step is according to Masalehdan, he remains optimistic.
“I’m going to go back to the drawing board with sometbing a little different and hopefully everybody will love it,” he said.