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Developer Ebi Masalehdan will appear before selectmen on May 28 to provide an update on the controversial 9-acre parcel he owns at 66-68 Boston Road.
Considered a gateway property, the Boston Road plot has been at the center of debate ever since Masalehdan purchased it for $600K in 2016.
The Groton developer wants to build a farm-to-table restaurant on the land. But because it’s under three agricultural preservation restrictions, selectmen required a Town Meeting vote of approval for his project. Masalehdan sought to amend APR 3 at Town Meeting in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and lost each time.
In the late 1990s, the town purchased the land from a private owner, paying $525K for the development rights, the right of first refusal and the guarantee of its perpetual preservation as agricultural land.
A faction in town is vehemently opposed to amending the APR.
In March Masalehdan brought his attorney to annual Town Meeting, prepared for a debate, and hoping to convince enough voters to pass a citizen’s petition that would sanction the amendment of APR 3. Instead, the article was dismissed without debate as his attorney, Michael O’Neill of Boston-based McGregor and Legere, PC, stood by. O’Neill specializes in environmental and land use law and litigation. Masalehdan said the legal fee cost him almost $8,000 for the six-hour day.
“It was absolutely a disgrace the way Town Meeting went,” he said.
But opponents of Masalehdan’s restaurant say he was aware of the pitfalls.
A document he signed with selectmen on Jan. 12, 2016 acknowledged that if Town Meeting denied the amendment, he would “use diligent efforts to comply with the terms of the APRs by developing active agricultural uses on the Property.”
Masalehdan said he wasn’t sure what those uses will be, but during the week of May 20, he removed the dilapidated greenhouse that sat next to a cluttered farmstand. He was repairing the building’s roof and emptying the building’s contents.
Piles of loam will get spread next week, he said, noting that there’s been so much rain the piles need time to dry out. Masalehdan said he estimates having spent $40K on the loam.
So what will he tell selectmen next Tuesday?
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s all up to the selectmen.”