The Drew Gardens Task Force met once again on Thursday night, receiving new details on the proposed restaurant at the former Drew Gardens property.
Representatives of the entity pursuing the proposed restaurant, Westford Gateway LLC, largely focused their presentation on the reduced size of the project.
Noting that significant opposition at Annual Town Meeting came in part due to the size, they stressed reductions in the building’s height, which they said reduced the internal cubic volume of the building by 37 percent.
Specifically, they noted that the building’s basement had been significantly reduced. In the building’s previous incarnation, the basement area was set to store farming equipment for the nearby gardens, orchards and greenhouse on the property.
The basement area was also going to be used to clean produce farmed on the property for use upstairs in the restaurant. Now, the equipment storage and produce cleaning will take place in a small building nearby they told the task force is the size of a two-car garage.
Given that the original basement proposal was much larger than a two-car garage, Westford Gateway LLC architect Dominic Sicari explained that much of the initial space in the basement was likely to be wasted, as the walls of the basement were set to be used as foundations, supporting the building above.
In the new proposal, the building is further back from Boston Road. This would allow it to be set on a cement slab, eliminating the need for the basement’s walls to also serve as a foundation.
Among members of the task force, the key question was expected occupancy limits within the building. Westford Gateway LLC representatives estimated that figure to be at 150, but noted that number did not include staff members and was only an estimate.
The new proposal also includes 113 parking spots, with room for parking expansion near the back of the property in an area that would double as a stormwater run-off area. Just over three times as many seats would be located inside the building.
From Boston Road, the restaurant would take an inverse “L” shape, with the dining area, bar and kitchen along the base away from the road. A function hall would jut toward Boston Road, approximately between the locations of the farm stand and the parking area now on the property.
The function hall would be almost two stories tall, with most of the dining area only one story tall, excluding an area in the back near the kitchen.
In the back of the restaurant, a two story windowed silo would also house approximately 36 seats.
Due to occupancy limits, Sicari told the task force that it was highly likely that the function room would only be used on certain days to avoid overcrowding within the building.
Residents in the audience expressed various concerns regarding the project, with Porter Road resident Maureen George also voicing concerns regarding the previous meeting’s minutes.
In a ten-minute confrontation, George accused the board of misrepresenting her words at the last meeting, which focused on a question regarding the role of the task force.
Ultimately, Task Force chairwoman Andrea Peraner-Sweet noted to the task force and those in attendance that the task force’s role did not supersede other town boards, stating that their goal was to look at the “overall concept” of the project.
The minutes were eventually approved unanimously, and a placeholder warrant article for Special Town Meeting was also approved, although Peraner-Sweet cautioned that the warrant article may not be needed depending on the task force’s deliberations.
The board also scheduled future meetings on July 21, July 28 and Aug. 11, all of which are currently expected to take place at the Cameron Senior Center.
Due to time constraints with Special Town Meeting, Peraner-Sweet indicated that the task force has a likely deadline of Oct. 11 to complete their analysis.
A video of this meeting will be available in a few days at westfordcat.org