The following is a letter to the editor from Rachel Amato. Letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the views of WestfordCAT or its Board of Directors. To submit your own letter, e-mail [email protected]
Ebi Masalehdan, the Owner of the former Drew Gardens property continues to receive negative coverage in the local press, despite the vote being very close at town meeting and more positive feedback in some social media. He has made an effort to listen the feedback from people at town meeting and as a result came back with a scaled down version of the restaurant. His newer version of the proposal moves the restaurant back and to a lower elevation to lessen the impact to those viewing it as they drive by. In addition he has added pretty flowering fruit trees to the front and a sidewalk. He listened and was able to bring down the number of parking spots and make some spots be impervious pavement to reduce the overall hard pavement, which had been another concern. He also said for the part of the land that is being developed he will pay back the town for the restriction and the rest of the land will remain under an agricultural restriction. This way the town does not feel as if we gave him a deal. He will clean up the mess left by the former owner as well. Knowing this parcel is not viable as a true farm with a farm stand, this does seem to be a pretty good alternative.
The town had opted to not buy the land after a task force was appointed. I did see some concern about how the task force was created and it is curious that no neighbors were appointed and it looks as if they are trying to fix this. The town acted upon the task force’s decision that it was in the best interest of the town to not buy the land. I spoke with a member and they said there were two main reasons they decided this. One was it was too costly to clean up the mess that is there and two was simply if the town owns the land they do not have to abide by the agricultural restriction and can build whatever they might want on the property, could be the fire station, a new recreation department or whatever else might come up. And because of the desire to maintain the restriction, it was better to be sold.
All this being said a farm to table restaurant that uses the land for agriculture use and has a barn-like look to it, actually seems to be a decent idea. The proposal will clean the area up, much of the land will be farmed, and the restaurant will be a nice upscale restaurant. To give an idea of size, Bamboo Restaurant has a bigger capacity at 225 seats and a 70 seat function hall versus this proposed one with 180 seats and an 85 seat function hall.
This will be an attractive parcel as you drive into Westford. People are worried about the Gateway but keep in mind we put affordable housing that came with a giant fence right there and are building a large new building for the fire department, so we have already completely changed the setting and the neighborhood. This project will preserve a more country look. So please help support him. He has already shown willingness to compromise; making building smaller, moving it back, putting in trees near the street, and reducing parking. I believe this shows an effort to being a good neighbor.