Select Board Chair Reports Westwood, Dover No Longer Parties to a Proposed Hale Conservation Restriction


Photo "Hale Reservation, Westwood, MA" by Alvin Kho from Flickr.

Hale Education has communicated that it is moving ahead with protecting its land in the towns of Westwood and Dover without participation from the two towns, according to Westwood Select Board Chair Marianne LeBlanc Cummings, who in a remote meeting of Westwood Select Board on Monday, April 1, 2024, provided an update on the status of Westwood’s negotiations with Hale for a conservation restriction on Westwood land.

Given Ms. Cummings's explanation of Hale's decision, it appears that Hale will no longer be asking the towns of Westwood and Dover to present resident voters with town meeting articles seeking funding approval for conservation restrictions on Hale land located in the two towns. Given legal complexities, and the risk of being unsuccessful at either or both town meetings, Hale’s strategy no longer includes either of the two towns directly, she said.

Below is Westwood Minute's transcription of the statement by Ms. Cummings, who provided information about this new development:

Several years ago, Hale proposed to the towns of Westwood and Dover that they enter into a conservation restriction, called a CR, with respect to Hale’s land in both towns in which both towns would be a party to a CR. In Westwood, that would involve about 550 acres. In exchange, Hale proposed that as part of this two-town solution, both towns would pay $10 million in consideration for that restriction. 

In Westwood, our former town administrator, Mike Jaillet, then formed a Hale Task Force on which Joe and I both served before we were elected to the [Select] Board to study that issue. Ultimately, the task force recommended that Westwood pursue the conservation restriction, although it made no recommendation as to the amount that should be paid as that was outside of its charge. It recommended that the Select Board negotiate with Hale.

The Select Board authorized the town administrator, counsel, and the then-assistant town administrator/finance director to negotiate with Hale as to the proposed CR. Our town administrator, finance director, and town counsel then engaged in series of lengthy negotiation sessions with Hale totaling more than 100 hours of meetings, with the goal of bringing a recommendation to the Select Board, and ultimately to Town Meeting for consideration. During those negotiations, it was recognized by all parties that the CR being contemplated involved a number of complex legal issues, particularly as it pertained to the proposed buildout of part of the land and environmental protections. 

In the late fall of last year, Hale advised the Town of Westwood that it would pursue an alternative to protecting the land without the Town of Westwood, given unresolved legal issues and Hale’s timeline for its associated campaign. 

In early 2024, I was contacted by a representative of Hale, and negotiations between the town and Hale were renewed in earnest and we were working collaboratively toward bringing a proposal to our annual town meeting in May which would require significantly less financial resources of the town. However, working out the legal issues involved proved too complicated to accomplish that for the annual town meeting.

In the last couple weeks, we continued with the negotiations with Hale, working toward a future town meeting including a couple of meetings which involved representatives from Hale, one member from both the Westwood and Dover select boards, along with our respective town administrators and counsel.

Last week, in a joint meeting with Dover, Hale advised the towns of Westwood and Dover that its board has decided to move forward with its campaign to protect the land in Dover and Westwood without the involvement with the municipalities due to the legal complexities, the risk involved in pursing that path which may not be successful in one or both of the town meetings in Dover and Westwood, and also Hale’s timeline for its campaign. 

While we are very disappointed that Westwood will not be able to participate directly in a CR protecting Hale’s land in Westwood, particularly given the efforts expended, we remain supportive of Hale’s ongoing campaign, and we encourage residents to engage in those efforts if inclined do so. The conservation of Hale’s land is an important objective which is enumerated in Westwood's comprehensive plan, and we are optimistic that it will be achieved.

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You may also be interested in reading:

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

- Westwood Renewing Talks with Hale for Conservation Restriction, Says Select Board Chair

Select Board Meeting: Town Makes History and SB Revives Issues of Conservation Restriction, Long-Term Financial Planning Committee

Westwood Follows Dover in Recommending Preservation of Open Space at Hale

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