Select Board Not Ready to Present Hale Conservation Restriction to Voters at May Town Meeting (Updated 3/21/24)


Photo by Westwood Minute/Darlene Wong Cancell. This information sheet in support of the proposed Hale conservation restriction references an anticipated vote by Town of Westwood residents in fall '23, but the vote, if it happens, will be in 2024 or later.

Select Board does not intend to present the issue of a conservation restriction on Hale Education (Hale) property for a vote at the upcoming May 6th annual Town Meeting, announced Westwood Select Board Chair Marianne LeBlanc Cummings at the board’s meeting on Monday, May 18, 2024.

“Given the status of the negotiations, this matter will not be on the warrant for consideration at our May 6th Annual Town Meeting, but we are working diligently to bring this to the residents for consideration as soon as prudently feasible,” she said in the remotely convened meeting that was broadcast by Westwood Media Center.

Ms. Cummings noted that after a breakdown and then renewal of negotiations with Hale, “the scope of the potential deal that Hale and the town are now considering has changed since the original proposal.” In the brief public update, she did not elaborate. It is unclear whether the changed scope might apply to substantive requirements of a conservation restriction or purchase price. However, she said, “[W]e are working collaboratively with Hale toward a favorable conclusion for all concerned."

In the initial version of this article that Westwood Minute published early on the morning of March 19th, Westwood Minute noted that at that moment, Hale's website still included the statement, "Hale's land in Westwood will remain unprotected, with no restrictions on land sale, development, or program growth. The board has agreed that after June 2024, Hale will turn its focus to change management and program development. If land conservation is someday contemplated again, it will require new discussions and an offer price based on the future value of the property."

Later in the afternoon of March 19th, Hale informed Westwood Minute that the above quotation represents an inaccuracy from an outdated Frequently Asked Questions section. 

Hale updated its website on March 19th, deleting the above language that had described Westwood land as remaining unprotected.

Hale says that as of a few weeks ago, it had announced "rekindled conversations about how Westwood can participate." Hale provided the following statement from its Executive Director Eric Arnold:

 “Hale has been working diligently toward a conservation restriction for many years, and it continues to welcome support from the Town of Westwood. We would be very glad to protect land in both Dover and Westwood, and hope we can achieve that goal before our Campaign for Kids, Conservation, and Community concludes in three months," said Mr. Arnold.

Westwood Select Board’s public announcement in open session on Monday followed an approximate 16 minute long private, executive session discussion of the same topic, which was described on the agenda as a discussion about “strategy with respect to the purchase, exchange, lease or value of real property, Hale Education, Inc.”

Attending the public portion of Monday’s meeting, and presumably also attending Select Board's executive session discussion, were Ms. Cummings, Select Board member Joe Previtera, Town Administrator Christopher Coleman, Town Counsel Patrick Ahearn, and Executive Assistant to the Town Administrator Tish Healey. Select Board Clerk Robert Gotti has recused himself from the board's discussion of the town’s potential purchase of a Hale conservation restriction, in order to avoid a potential or perceived conflict of interest because his home is located near Hale’s property in Westwood.

In the open segment of Monday’s meeting, Ms. Cummings took written questions from residents. Kate La Croix asked when another update would be forthcoming, Ms. Cummings answered, “as soon as we can.”

Stephen Harte asked whether Select Board would be calling a Special Town Meeting. Ms. Cummings stated that “all options available are on the table.” She additionally noted, “The goal is for us to bring this to the town for consideration as soon as feasible.”

Select Board called a Special Town Meeting recently in January to ask voters to approve funding for designing construction of, and bid procurement for, a new Westwood fire station headquarters on High Street. Voters approved the article. 

The town’s bylaws require it to hold an Annual Town Meeting on the first Monday each May. Special Town Meetings can be called at Select Board’s discretion or upon voter petition to Select Board.

Since 2019, the Town of Westwood has debated over whether and how to pursue purchase of the conservation restriction proposed by Hale. Select Board members and Westwood’s Hale Task Force have indicated a recommendation and desire to pursue the conservation restriction. In 2022, the task force recommended that the question be presented to Westwood voters.

While some residents support protecting Hale land in Westwood from future development through the proposed conservation restriction, others oppose the idea and the impact its $10 million price tag will have on residents’ property taxes.

Updated 3/21/2024 at 12:24 a.m. Information regarding Hale's perspective on negotiations for a conservation restriction with the Town of Westwood has been added.

You may also be interested in reading:

OPINION: Answers Needed on Hale's $10 Million Conservation Restriction Proposal

Local Land Trusts Urge Westwood, Dover Residents to Protect Public Access to 1,200 Acres of Hale Property

- OPINION: Residential Property Taxes Continue to Rise in Westwood; More Overrides in Our Future

Westwood Follows Dover in Recommending Preservation of Open Space at Hale

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