Developer Lobbies to Build Farm to Table Restaurant on Gateway Parcel; Seeks to File Citizen’s Petition; Opponents Say ‘No’

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Ebrahim Masalehdan isn’t going away.

He made that clear on Jan. 14 when he hosted an informational meeting about the 9 acres at 66-68 Boston Road he purchased in 2016 for $650K.[Continue below.]

For the third time in three years, Masalehdan is bringing a citizen’s petition to the March Town Meeting warrant asking voters to ok the removal of an agricultural preservation restriction on a portion of the land. The purpose? Masalehdan wants to build a 13,696 square foot, farm to table restaurant on the property. To do so would require amending one of three, 3-acre APRs on the front portion of the land where a rundown vacant country store and green house now stand.

Masalehdan would expand the footprint of the existing building and construct a restaurant with seating capacity of about 192.

In 2016, Masalehdan’s citizen petition failed at annual Town Meeting by only five votes (106-101). The close call awakened a group of conservationists who rallied over the next year to kill the annual Town Meeting measure in 2017 by 236 votes (462 opposed to 226 in favor).

Meanwhile, the land lies fallow as Masalehdan dreams of growing produce on 6 acres that would supply the restaurant which would be situated on the remaining 3 acres.

Comparing his proposed restaurant to the farm-to-table Groton restaurant called Gibbet Hill Grill, Masalehdan said, “I’d like to bring a nice restaurant to Westford…I want to put a landmark in the town of Westford. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

It would bring annual revenues of $50k to the town, he claimed. The town paid $525K for the three APRs between 1997 and 1999 when it bought them from Keith Bohne who ran a farmstand and nursery there. Ironically Bohne favors developing the land.

“That stand cannot sustain itself,” he said. “There’s not enough money to pay for the payroll.”

Opponents and Masalehdan continue to spar over whether a restaurant would fulfill the APR requirement that states any portion of the land must be used for agriculture.

In a brief presentation, Attorney Michael J. O’Neill of McGregor & Legere claimed APR #3 could be removed with Town Meeting approval. But resident Maureen George countered him.

“He was emphatically wrong,” she said.

The meeting ended without resolution but with a guarantee that Masalehdan is determined to build his restaurant.

The developer is offering to give the town $175K for improving Forge Beach and East Boston Camps, a 287 acre parcel of walking trails. With inflation, the money is worth $282K today, according to Masalehdan.

He’s approaching the challenge with friendship.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with the town of Westford,” he said.