reports are the opinions of "About Town" and should not be taken as
reflecting those of the Committee.
Watercolors by Margaret Wirtenberg
- click on
barn at left to find 2008 page on Lachat!
views on an autumn day, fields
and barns ...next Board of Selectmen to renegotiate land arrangements
for best use of the property as Leon Lachat
would have wanted?
Conservation Education Center Committee:
background (unofficial webpage):
minutes of meetings of this group, "Nature Conservation Center at
are on file in the Weston Town Clerk's Office.
relationship with Nature Conservancy;
- By 2009,
the hopes for Lachat dim, new Committee (above, right) to secure the
homestead formed; new Board of Selectmen will probably have to
reopen this whole matter...idea
for a farm proposed!
20, 2006 Board of Selectmen establishes new "Town" only Committee
members - two new volunteers plus Town members on the existing Joint
Town-Conservancy Committee) AND addition of a new community member (a
vacancy exists) to the three-members appointed by the Board of
Selectmen on the 6 member Joint Committee: ITS RECOMMENDATIONS HERE;
- July 6, 2006 Regular
meeting observations here;
- Special Board of Selectmen's
Meeting Tuesday, June 28, 2006 at 10am votes 3-0 to approved payment
for money spent to date (bills due to date to be
paid...must go to Board of Finance);
- ATBM on April 19, 2006,
cuts all funds for Center project from Capital Budget.
- Unofficial meeting
- Planning and
Special Permit Application news;
Commission application news;
Town Meeting, June 17, 2004; please note that these
reports are not
Development with architect in preparation for Special Town Meeting;
webpage containing charge, early minutes and beginning of
historical reports regarding selection of architect/planner and design
Latest Lachat committee: Weston
selectmen choose new members
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Board of Selectmen chose the town’s representatives for a new joint
committee who will work with representatives from the Nature
Conservancy on the development of the Lachat property.
Dennis Tracey, Jack Beal and Nick Bell were chosen from a candidate
pool that included three others to create this latest incarnation of a
Lachat committee, which does not yet have an official name.
“Every person we interviewed has significant contributions that could
be made to the committee,” said Selectman Glenn Major on Nov. 20.
“Regardless of who we put on, I’d like to ask those members to try to
involve the others.”
This six-person committee — three representatives chosen by the town
and three representatives of the Nature Conservancy — will be charged
with finding appropriate uses for the jointly owned Lachat property,
located on Godfrey Road West, adjacent to Devil’s Den Nature Preserve.
A mission statement approved by the selectmen on Sept. 4 asks the
committee to re-examine whether the original ownership agreement
between the Nature Conservancy and the town — now nearly 10 years old —
remains equitable. Mr. Major said at the September board meeting he
believes this is appropriate, given that the Nature Conservancy has
changed its focus away from an educational one since it first entered
into agreement with the town.
The Nature Conservancy and the town jointly purchased the land owned by
Leon Lachat — including a farmhouse, a few barns and several
outbuildings on a 32-acre homestead parcel and 10 acres of hillside and
meadows adjacent to the conservancy’s Devil’s Den — in 1997. The
original plans called for a 50-50 split in funding long-term expenses
as well as any development costs.
But the Nature Conservancy’s initial plans for large-scale development
of the land, including a 5,000-plus square-foot visitors and education
center, met with widespread opposition — so much so that the plans were
withdrawn before the proposal could come to a vote.
In the fall of 2006, the town appointed a Lachat Advisory Committee,
which, at the end of that year, made recommendations to an existing
Lachat Building Committee.
In the spring of 2007, the building committee presented a significantly
scaled-down, modified version of the original plan to the Nature
The Nature Conservancy rejected the proposal, claiming the lack of a
facility that would generate revenue would make it financially
difficult to maintain the property.
The Nature Conservancy has also said its main focus has shifted from
education to preservation. The selectmen, Mr. Major in particular, has
said it was that shift in focus that caused the property to sit in
limbo for so long.
In the fall of 2007, the town and the conservancy agreed to come to the
table again. The town sought public input in early 2008, and presented
that information to the conservancy.
This past summer, it appeared the Nature Conservancy would be more
amenable to scaling back its plans for Lachat. Steve Patton, director
of Devil’s Den, told the Board of Selectmen the conservancy would like
to create a parking area and formal entrance to Devil’s Den, convert
the farmhouse on Godfrey Road West into offices, and renovate the barn
to allow for a meeting room and bathroom facilities.
These changes would likely necessitate the closure of the Pent Road
access to Devil’s Den.
At this point, the town agreed to reconstitute the joint
town/conservancy committee to move the process forward together.
The new members
At last Thursday’s meeting, the selectmen unanimously agreed on Mr.
Beal, Mr. Bell and Mr. Tracey as the representatives from the town,
although all agreed it was not an easy choice.
“It’s tough, but knowing what we’re going to be dealing with on the
other side, I think these three have the disposition we need to bring
this to a closure,” Mr. Major said.
Mr. Major said a “certain set of skills” is needed to created a
“well-rounded” and “well-represented” committee. These included, in Mr.
Major’s opinion, a neighborhood representative, someone with building
skills and wetlands experience, and, he said, “I think it’s important
we make sure we have someone who’s a leader, someone who can cut
through the politics.”
Selectman Gayle Weinstein added that having someone with some
background in education is important as well.
Mr. Beal fits the bill in that respect, and others. He described
himself as a professor and a scientist and said, “My primary focus
would be on the educational opportunities for this particular project.”
He is also a neighbor — his property is not adjacent to the Lachat
property, but is separated by one other property owner.
Mr. Beal, who sat on one of the previous Lachat Building Committees,
said he is familiar with all the pertinent documents and deeds. “That,
in my mind, is what we must follow,” he said, adding, “but I will not
presume to speak for [Leon Lachat].”
Mr. Bell grew up in Weston and has served on the Conservation
Commission and the Deer Management Committee. His background is in
residential and commercial construction, and he was an historic
“I would bring some expertise as far as the buildings and whether they
are appropriate,” Mr. Bell said. But, he added, his main reason for
wanting to serve on the committee is “I want to give back to the
Mr. Tracey is the managing partner in an international law firm, and
served as the chairman of the town’s ad hoc Legal Review Committee.
“I’m used to dealing with a lot of problems,” he said.
Mr. Tracey has experience with municipal law issues, has dealt with
finding solutions among different organizations, “and I can push
meetings along when necessary,” he said.
The selectmen agreed everyone who applied for the committee openings
has appropriate skills and excellent qualifications, but they felt the
combination of Mr. Beal, Mr. Bell and Mr. Tracey would be the best fit.
The others who were interviewed by the board were Mark Harper, Bob
Machson and Carolyn Mulcahey.
reported in The Hour...
Consensus sought on Lachat
By JEANNE HOFF, Hour Staff Writer
July 25, 2006
WESTON — If town officials can reach a consensus on the Lachat property
before this year's elections, Weston residents will not only vote for a
state representative this November but also weigh in on the future of
the 42-acre site.
The Nature Conservancy and the Town of Weston, said First Selectman
Woody Bliss, jointly acquired the property with the intention of
constructing a nature center on the property. In 2004, a
committee comprising appointed spokesmen for the town and conservancy
employees formulated a design for the property formerly owned by Leon
The plan called for the Lachat property to serve as a gateway to
Devil's Den Preserve, said Steve Patton, director of the preserve for
the Nature Conservancy.
Furthermore, Patton said the proposal included an 85-car parking lot,
bus drop-off for school children, a one-story facility to hold several
classrooms as well as a meeting center with a 100-person capacity.
Since the Nature Conservancy would oversee the property, the home
currently on the lot would be renovated and provide for several offices
for the agency. The project was approved by the Board of
Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the Town Meeting, Bliss said, but
several residents at an annual Town Budget Meeting voted to nix the
measure — which called for three $450,000 payments, by the town to the
Nature Conservancy, from the capital budget.
The residents vote taken in April halted any immediate development of
the site and caused the two bodies to start from square one.
However, since the conservancy, prior to April, invested more than
$98,000 worth of work into development of the site, the town voted to
approve a supplemental appropriation to cover the organization's
expense. More recently, the Board of Selectmen voted July 20 to
form a Lachat Advisory Committee to research the needs of the town and
draft a proposal that would outline resident demands in the future
outlook of the site.
Michael Greenberg, Richard Wolf, Selectman Glenn Major, Caroline
Mulcahey, and David Christopher were appointed to the Lachat Advisory
Bliss said after the five-member committee assesses resident needs, a
second committee, the Town of Weston /Nature Conservancy Lachat
Committee — which will include three local residents and three
representatives from the Nature Conservancy — will come together to
finalize a blueprint for the site including cost. The final
proposal would be placed on the ballot this November.
"We're 50/50 partners and we still have a contract to build this thing.
The town has a history of working cooperatively with the Nature
Conservancy over the years and it's benefited the people of Weston,"
Bliss said. "Our aim is to have a plan put together by November so we
can put it on the ballot and let the maximum number of people in Weston
have the opportunity to decide what they want to do."
The Lachat property is currently home to multiple barns, a house and an
"There are a lot of designs to be worked on and a lot of plans," Bliss
said. "But I think we can move very quickly because there are not
infinite suggestions, only a few."
AT THE BOARD OF
SELECTMEN THURSDAY, JULY 20, 2006: "About Town" annotated report.
At the outset of the Lachat discussion by the Board of Selectmen, it
was agreed to try to have an alternative plan
including wording cancelling out the Special Town Meeting of June 17,
2004 ready for a vote on the ballot November
Four members of the Weston community, all neighbors of the Juliana
Lachat Preserve, presented themselves for interviews. The
Selectmen decided to lower the number from 7 to form a 5 member
Committee. Of the 5 members, two would be selected from the 4
"public" applicants; two members from the "Town" side of the Ad
Hoc Committee and Selectman Major would round out that group.
of Selectmen placed one neighbor in the open position on the Ad Hoc
Committee already in existence. The full, six-member Ad Hoc
Committee would resume meeting only AFTER the Town Committee, (to be
established as noted above), had something that had been discussed at
Public Hearing to present to them and the Town. The Ad Hoc
Committee would then discuss it from the points of view of the
Conservancy and the Town to reach a final proposal for the ballot.
"About Town" spoke for the record, later in the meeting, recalling that
in the early stages of the Ad Hoc Committee there had been interviews
with three architects - Jim Edgecomb, Leonard Baum and Bob Faesy.
It is possible that the presentation boards from the "competition" are
available (with the Ad Hoc Committee). If these exist, material
from this exercise might be useful to the new 5 member Committee to
See our notes below on previous
meetings early on (reverse chronological order) of the Lachat Nature
Education Center Committee relating to their "competition" and
selection process for an architect:
Meeting AD HOC CONSERVATION/NATURE CENTER ADVISORY COMMITTEE DEC.
a voting quorum not present, this Committee discussed the two finalists
and planned a tour of Vermont properties of one of the firms. A
review of proposals will be made by the third week of December with
to be prepared for funding of Master Plan for Lachat Property as
budget item FY03. This meeting lasted until 5:30pm.
MEETING(AD HOC CONSERVATION/NATURE
- October 30, 2001 at 4pm in Commission Room at Town Hall:
all members present, the following items were covered--but no decision
was made regarding who was the "winner" of the competition. After
further review and checking, a decision will be forthcoming in @two
meeting time and place T.B.A.
of presentations on October 11...
and decision re selection of an architect to complete the project;
re possible costs of the project. (?)
of the minutes (?)
October 11, 2001, with all members of the Committee present, beginning
at 4pm in the Commission Room at Town Hall, the Ad Hoc Committee on a
center met to hear from invited architects.
These firms were selected to submit ideas for "A Gateway to the
Each was to have an hour to explain their vision (s). Although
one architect's competition presentation was observed by "About
at another time, the other two architects have been observed
with the committee. They are all creative and different, and so
would not be appropriate for this writer to comment upon the single
presentation viewed on October 11th. "About Town" left at 5pm, at
the completion of the first presentation.
of Selectmen approved $7500 for architectural competition (Town's
now so has Board of Finance...full speed ahead on competition for
to get best design for the uses established in the "charge."
Meeting October 11, 2001 (Thursday) at
in the Commission Room at Town Hall...AGENDA:
of three (3) architects re their proposals for the Nature Center
(4, 5 and 6 PM - each interview will last 45 minutes with 15 minutes
for discussion by the members).
of the minutes
of August 9, 2001 (4:30pm) meeting in Town Hall Commission Room:
Ron Jeitz, George Guidera, Dick Bochinski, Michael Greenberg, Steve
came to order, minutes were approved and discussion took place of
approach for upcoming Board of Finance meeting. Adjourned at
minutes for July 17, 2001 posted for 3:30pm Special Meeting:
present (Ronald Jeitz, Richard Bochinski
official notes], Kate Ebbot, Michael Greenberg, Steve Patton, Mary
Kolek). Discussion of draft wording for
Competition (by invitation) document; timing requires, first,
with the Board of Selectmen, presumably at that Board's next
One point made during the discussion of data available to
was the necessity to provide similar topographic maps of the Lachat
to all competitors. A discussion ensued re: parking
"About Town" left this Ad Hoc Nature Center meeting @4:30pm - it was
completed at that point, and thus the report above may not be
of June 12, June 13 (Regular Meeting of June 14 cancelled) and June 28
were public meetings for the purpose of interviewing architects.
of Purpose Specifically" above to determine what the Ad Hoc
Committee members were seeking in an architect for the Lachat project.)
of questioning at the interviews attended by "About Town" revealed that
access to the site for vehicles is a point of traffic/neighbor possible
concern. Retaining the "farmstead" look is something both
"About Town" observed favor. The main house dates from the 18th
and the out buildings have need of repair prior to change of use to
other than barns or sheds. Please note that "About
was not able to be present for the second interview...the first
on June 12, and his staff, were questioned for an hour plus. June
28 interview was attended by us for an hour and a half.
In any event, the winning architect, Jim Edgecomb, had a variety of
alternatives for the site, and discussed these concepts at his
interview. As his was the winning firm, "About Town" retained in
our records his presentation here...each of the
different-looking options appears to contain the same sized structures..
Our question: when and where will this new Committee (5 member
one) have its meetings? Who will be in charge, post
notices? Who will take its minutes?
AT THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN THURSDAY,
JULY 6, 2006
New Weston-only Committee to be formed (7 members) to come up, over the
summer, with an idea which will be presented at Public Hearing and then
go to a vote on the ballot in November...vacancy on the Town side of
the Joint Committee to be filled (Nature Conservancy has 3 voting
members, Town has 3 - but a vacancy exists right now).
Bill to be paid...must go to Board of
Finance (more than $5000);
Board of Selectmen: Town will
pay Lachat bill
by PATRICIA GAY
Jun 28, 2006
A “No” vote at the annual town budget meeting in April has not
prevented the Board of Selectmen from taking steps to pay bills already
incurred on the Lachat project.
At a special meeting held Tuesday at 10 a.m., the selectmen unanimously
voted to approve a supplemental appropriation of $98,500 to pay the
town’s share of existing bills for the Lachat project.
The project is a joint venture between the town and the Nature
Conservancy to create a gateway to Devil’s Den on property once owned
by the late Leon Lachat.
If the selectmen’s appropriation is approved by the finance board, the
money will be withdrawn from the town’s fund balance and paid to the
The move comes after the Annual Town Budget Meeting on April 19 during
which voters rejected using $450,000 from the capital budget to move
the Lachat project forward. At that meeting, Ken Bernhard, town
attorney said he believed if the town did not pay its share, it would
be breaking its agreement with the Nature Conservancy to cover half of
the cost of the project.
Voters at the budget meeting also rejected a motion to include $100,000
in the 2006-07 budget to cover half the costs already incurred on the
A plan for the project, including a new visitors center, was withdrawn
from the planning and zoning commission after considerable public
opposition to the plan’s scope and size. There is no current plan
pending and the selectmen have said they need to reactivate the Lachat
Building Committee to start the project rolling again.
Although voters rejected the payment at the Annual Town Budget Meeting,
Mr. Bliss said regardless, the town still owes the Nature Conservancy
its share of what has already been spent on the project.
Selectman Glenn Major, who attended the selectmen’s meeting via
telephone conference call, made the motion for the appropriation
subject to certain conditions.
It was subject to receiving a letter from town counsel confirming the
validity of the town’s agreement with the Nature Conservancy and the
town’s obligation to pay the expenses incurred thus far.
It was also subject to receiving an explanation about a Nature
Conservancy legal bill dated June 6 for $4,435.73.
“Is that an appropriate charge to the town?” Mr. Major asked. First
Selectman Woody Bliss said he “didn’t have the answer” and would find
out about it.
Validity of the agreement
Members of the public in attendance were not opposed to paying the
$98,500 expense, but had other concerns. “If we get off spending only
$100,000 we are getting off easy,” Jim Maggio said.
He asked if outside counsel, rather than the town’s law firm Cohen
& Wolf could review the terms of the agreement that Mr. Major
requested. Mr. Maggio said he doubted Cohen & Wolf could be
objective since it was also the same law firm that drew up the
Bob Walpuck said he had two attorneys review the original 1997
agreement between the town and the Nature Conservancy and a subsequent
agreement signed in 2004, prepared by Cohen & Wolf, and there were
inconsistencies between the two.
In Mr. Walpuck’s opinion, the 1997 agreement called for renovating
buildings on the property. New buildings were to be added only after
the renovations were done. He said the 2004 agreement allows for the
construction of new buildings regardless of renovations.
“Why would we be taking the word of Cohen & Wolf who also drafted
the 2004 agreement? The town attorney has wasted significant money and
is spiraling out of control,” Mr. Walpuck said.
Mr. Major did not agree with that interpretation.
Robert Machson, an attorney, said the Lachat bill should be paid,
however he asked if it could be indicated to all parties that the town
is not authorized to spend any additional money on the project.
He also agreed with others that Cohen & Wolf should not review the
agreement. “You are asking an opinion from an attorney who may not have
given you good counsel, and may have a conflict of interest,” he said.
“I believe the town has received some poor legal advice.
Ran McNeil agreed and said the town was obligated to pay its debt, but
the original Lachat agreement did not call for as large a development
that was presented.
Carolyn Mulcahey said the terms of the 1997 agreement, not just the
2004 agreement, should have been discussed at the annual budget
meeting, and that the Nature Conservancy should provide more
documentation on the Lachat endowment fund. Mr. Bliss said he had the
Lucy Bowden asked if the town could hold public hearings on issues like
Lachat. That way it could be discussed from all sides with an
opportunity for public input.
Mr. Major said public hearings in the past have not been well attended.
“There were some with zero public present,” he said.
“It’s just a tool I think you should use more often,” Ms. Bowden said.
drawing above is from the design charrette - of exposures on the site.
Weston Library Community Room
entrance at right.
Planning & Zoning
Public Hearing opens on Special Permit application, Tuesday, September 6, 2005,
at Weston Library : application
An excellent report from the FORUM on
the opening (and, ultimately the
closing--applicant, the Nature Conservancy, withdrew after publication
of the FORUM report); according to the FORUM report (our
interpretation), there were several
matters involved: 1)was the Town of Weston part of the
application? 2)did the previous agreement regarding dedication to
"upper field" to open space mean no "excess parking?" and 3)was
the proverbial cart ahead of the horse - Town Meeting commited funding
for Town share of "conservation center" project prior to Planning and
here to read unofficial reports about the Lachat Committee and
where it began.
Lachat Plan Gets a
By Brian Gioiele
September 15, 2005
the proposed Lachat Conservation Center have spent the past few weeks
questioning the scope and legality of the joint town-Nature Conservancy
Those people made their concerns
heard loud and clear last week in what was the first of at least two
Planning and Zoning Commission public hearings on the proposal to
transform the land off Godfrey Road West, formerly owned by Leon
Lachat, into a nature center, with local taxpayers covering half of the
estimated $3-million development cost.
“As far as horrible applications,
this one is clearly an Olympic winner,” said attorney Alan Cramer,
representing owners of adjacent Waldon Woods, before the standing-room
audience in the Weston Library conference room.
“You have to look at the forest
through the trees,” said Mr. Cramer. “This is a small commercial
development coming into Weston. By some fluke, if Planning and Zoning
approves this, it will be the lawyers’ relief fund. There will be
appeals of any approvals here.”
Those in attendance questioned not
only the size of the development but also whether this should be
allowed, saying that the late Mr. Lachat wanted his land used as open
space when he sold it at a “discount rate” to the town.
“This land was everything to (Mr.
Lachat), and his family and neighbors were important to him, too,” said
Mark Harper, a longtime family friend who was intimately involved in
Mr. Lachat’s land deal with the town. “I know what his intentions were,
and I can tell you that there is no way he envisioned this type of
gigantic center that has been proposed.”
“This by no means conforms to the
zoning regulations,” added Caroline Mulcahey, adding the application
has at least “50 issues” that have her and fellow residents concerned.
“This application should be returned to the Lachat Building Committee
for redesign or brought back for a new town vote by a now-informed
Since only seven people from a
two-page list were able to speak at the Sept. 6 meeting, the commission
continued the hearing to its next meeting, Monday, Sept. 19. And
commission Chairman Donald Saltzman said there will be as many hearings
as necessary to make sure all are heard on this proposal.
The Planning and Zoning Commission
was holding the hearing on the special permit request for the
development of the conservation center, plans for which have been in
the works for several years. A master plan and funding schedule for the
town have already been before the Board of Selectmen, with all
estimated fees approved by the Town Meeting last year.
The plans have been approved by the
Conservation Commission, with only a positive vote from the Planning
and Zoning Commission needed to begin work. Devil’s Den Director Steven
Patten and Dick Bochinski, chairman of the Lachat Center Committee,
presented the plans, which were initially met with dissenting yells
from some in the audience.
“This should not be going forward,”
yelled one resident. “Vote now. Vote now.”
Those remarks came after one
resident, an attorney, questioned whether this public hearing was
properly noticed for the record, since the town was not noted as being
an applicant, only the Nature Conservancy. Since the town owns half of
the Lachat property and is paying for half of the proposed development,
this individual felt that the hearing should not take place until a
proper notice was filed.
“We’ll take this under advisement,”
responded Mr. Saltzman.
Once commission members were able to
quell the crowd, Mr. Patten and Mr. Bochinski each made presentations
about the proposal, which calls for construction of a visitors center
and education facility with classrooms, stabilization and improvements
to an existing barn and its annexes, and renovation of an 18th Century
house that would be used as an administrative center for Devil’s Den.
Parking spaces for hikers would be
created near the Godfrey Road entrance with additional parking
available for peak weekend users in a secluded area above the site on
the east meadow. There would be a total of 85 parking spaces, said Mr.
Patten, and the overall square footage of the education center,
including all exterior features such as porches, would be 6,213.5
“This is not at odds with your
initial agreement with Mr. Lachat?” asked commission member Dan Gilbert.
“No,” responded Mr. Patten.
Mr. Bochinski said the new building
would reflect 19th Century interconnected barn architecture and would
frame a renewed farmyard and preserve the atmosphere of an old New
According to Mr. Patten, the new
structure would be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
gold certified, a standard set by the Green Building Council that is
nationally recognized. Fuel sources would be biomass, not fossil, and
electricity would be generated by photovoltaic cells with a net zero
impact on the grid. Composting toilets would be installed to limit
Mr. Bochinski said the project
originated in 1997 as part of a three-party agreement among the town of
Weston, the Nature Conservancy (Devil’s Den), and the late Leon Lachat.
He said the Den had long needed safer access and parking and an
improved administrative center for its programs, the town wished to see
the Lachat farm area preserved from development and continue its
long-standing cooperation with the Den, and Mr. Lachat wanted to see
his land used in this way with a conservation center dedicated to
But Mr. Harper said one of the major
problems with the plan is the road that would intersect the property.
“He wanted to keep that nine-acre lot
(where the majority of the parking spaces would be located in the plan)
as perfect as possible,” said Mr. Harper. “The road dissects the lot. I
can tell you Leon never envisioned this type of development here.”
Attorney Mark Rubenstein,
representing several neighboring property owners, questioned whether
this type of development could even take place on the site under the
conservation restrictions established between the town and the Nature
Conservancy when they originally took over ownership of the property.
Mr. Rubenstein said the documents
appear to him to call for the land to be kept in its natural state,
without any massive development, such as what he says is proposed here.
“This is not a building for
education, it is an event facility,” said Mr. Rubenstein.
The attorney also said the proposed
accessway is “deplorable,” and with the Pent Road access to Devil’s Den
being closed in favor of this new location, traffic would only worsen,
with overflow vehicles parking along the roadway.
“You’d be adding a tremendous amount
of traffic atop an already horrible situation,” he added.
Gloria Gouveia, a land use consultant
working with attorney Cramer, said the plan states that to ease the
parking burden, on-site personnel would turn away hikers to allow for
more people to park to use the education and visitors center.
“People coming to use the open space
will be displaced by those coming to use the buildings,” said Ms.
Gouvia. “That flies in the face of preserving the Lachat property. One
of the duties of the Planning and Zoning Commission is to not approve
things that would promote congestion in the streets.”
Talk also focused on what section of
the regulations this development would fit. While Mr. Patten and Mr.
Bochinski had placed this in the “nature center” section, which would
allow for lighter setback requirements, commission member Stephen
Grozinger felt, considering the scope of the work, this might better
fit under recreational.
Further questioning from the audience
also led to Mr. Patten saying the plan calls for two kitchens, one in
the education center, the other in the refurbished house, which the
proposal states could be used as a manager’s residence, something that
shocked the commission.
“Time out,” said Mr. Saltzman. “You
can’t mix residential and commercial.”
“I thought we had clarified that in
the application,” responded Mr. Patten.
This was just one of numerous items
that had attorney Cramer calling this a “particularly veiled”
Mr. Cramer, who had represented Mr.
Lachat in the land deal, said his recollections were of a small
visitors center being placed on the property, not this “massive
operation,” which, he said, flies in the face of the town’s zoning
“We are changing a residential and
farming use here,” said Mr. Saltzman. “We are changing it to a
semi-commercial operation. This will no longer be a residential/farming
use. And when you change the use, you lose any pre-existing
“We have a problem with judging the
setbacks here. There is an open space question under the deeds. That is
another question for this commission to debate concerning this special
permit. There are anomalies in this application, many things we are
going to have to wrestle with,” added the commission chairman.
So, in our opinion, although the Town Plan of 2000 refers to Lachat,
and Heady properties in its implementation section, specifically "Open
Space/Recreation" page 37, it is a "recommendation" for both the
Planning and Zoning Commission and the Selectmen to study every aspect
of development effects before making a "permanent" decision on
"development" of, in this case, a nature center (i.e. the joint
purchase by Town Meeting, begun in 1997 and completed in 1999).
Since half of the purchase price was paid by the Nature Conservancy,
this was never suggested to be a Town of Weston proposal, and thus
exempt from Planning and Zoning regular process (but not from Statutory
"8-24" review). In the case of Heady, fields were built and the
Heady House is being protected for ultimate Town use of some sort.
"About Town" had previous commitment, was not in attendance.
However, it is our understanding that all seats were taken at the
opening of the public hearing September 6, 2005 in the Library
Community Room (total capacity seated - 100 persons). According
to the agenda, the Public Hearing came after many items (for receipt) -
this must have kept the large audience restive. As a result, the
business of this meeting extending far beyond the traditional 11pm
ending for Town business meetings (or Town Meetings). According
reports, civility was not the leading characteristic of this Public
Hearing. Since we were not present, we cannot make any
comment of our own about this event. It is our understanding that
the Public Hearing will
continue at a future P&Z meeting. Hopefully,
when the Public Hearing is continued, the Commission will place it at
the top of the agenda, or schedule a separate evening just for this
RECEIPT ON JULY 18, 2005
Planning and Zoning Commissioners "received"
an application for a Special Permit by the Lachat Conservation Center
Godfrey Road Monday, July 18, 2005. Application made under
Section 321.1"o" of the Weston Zoning Regulations. Permitted
uses within the two-acre residential and farming district where this
lies are, in addition to a single family dwelling, fifteen others -
"o" which is "Parks, recreation, conservation or nature uses and/or
Public Hearing after lengthy second month of testimony, June
it July 5.
Conservation Commission "Receipt of Application"
- Lachat Conservation Center 106 Godfrey Road (Land Tech) - from notice
of Agenda, April 5, 2005, 7:30pm Tuesday, Meeting Room at Town
Public Hearing began at Conservation Commission May 3rd:
notes on Conservation Commission
Public Hearing, May 3, 2005: Neighbors
of the Lachat Property and interested
citizens questioned Lachat Conservation Committee through the
Commission Chair. regarding traffic, alternate parking arrangements for
the new Center (off site) and size and scope of
Testimony regarding wetlands disputed by speaker from audience, and
Commission to follow up to assure that staked property by applicant is
accurate; official "walk" will take place prior to Conservation
meeting next...presumably, within the 35 days statutes' limit.
notes on Conservation Commission
Public Hearing, June 7, 2005: Hearing
closed after full description and
response to submitted comments by neighbor's
all aspects of application covered. Decision due in 65 days (or
months, in effect (our opinion).
notes on Conservation Commission
decision; meeting, July 5, 2005: Unanimous
approval with usual conditions
plus item re: preserve wetland behind structure.
Master Planning moves
to next phase...more unofficial notes.
Conservation Education Center Committee,
Meeting Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 4:30pm at the Lachat property, 106
Road West. Welcome to new member made. Progress to date in
response to initial Public Hearing and review of items needed for next
meeting of Conservation Commission reported. New activities at
meeting were: presentation of to-date design for Visitor's
report (brief) on maximum upgrade of Lachat Homestead.
Conservation Education Center Committee
Thursday, April 7, 2005 at
4:30 P.M. in the Commission Room at Town Hall.
NEW DATE & TIME! Friday, April
8, 2005, 4pm, Commission Room at Town Hall
1. Minutes of the February and March meetings/OK.
2. Discussion and decision on contractor/
cost estimator. (Reference checks completed by this
made ("About Town" does not post name of selected professionals on
out of consideration for those involved.)
3. Update on Conservation Commission
April 30, Public Hearing begins Tuesday, May 3, 2005 (7:30pm, Town Hall
4. Review Site Design Goals (3/28/05), Progress
Report (3/28/05), Farmhouse Planned Use (3/29/05), and any further
from the Design Team/more clear view of what can be done at homestead.
Education Center Committee, Thursday, March 24, 2005,
of contractors, 4:30-6pm, at Lachat Property, 106 Godfrey Road
Two builders were
regarding work to be done on the Lachat homestead (to be renovated into
Nature Conservancy offices); discussions of future work on the
Education Center building (now in early stages of design).
review or the latest plans for Conservation
Commission Commission submittal took place. Early drawings for
of the Lachat homestead (NOT to be LEEDS quality renovation standards)
were briefly reviewed.
Education Center Committee, Monday, Feb. 14, 2005 at 3pm,
Meeting): Location - Lachat Property, 106 Godfrey Road West
did not attend at this "off-site" (not a public meeting at Town Hall)
as it was snowing lightly and seemed icey out of doors @3pm.
1. Site Walk
2. 4pm meeting
at Lachat house to discuss final site plan, conservation permitting,
updated strategy for house renovation.
Education Center Committee, (Special Meeting, because this is first
3, 2005, 4:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall
Agenda ("About Town"
could not attend this meeting)
1. Minutes of
Jan. 13, 2005
of issues that need to be clarrified for design team (responses to
, charrette report p. 45).
3. Timeline for
design, permitting, and construction phases.
Education Center Committee, Thursday, January 13, 2005,
1. Minutes of
Dec. 9, 2004 meeting/done
on charrette meetings Dec. 13-14, 2004:
3. Discussion of
issues that need to be clarified for design team/see above
- programs and use
of number of classrooms - two only;
- renovation and
use of existing
house/testing to see if more work needed.
report by Tavis reviewed;
- green design and
idea of "green design" is to keep costs down!
"Charrette Report" - will meet in a few weeks about it.
4. Schedule for
design, permitting, and construction phase/deadlines are good--within
This report is incomplete because we were not at DAY TWO, when the size
of the proposed Education Center was first presented. Ultimately,
it is reported to us, the Education Center was
reduced in size.
Education Center Committee, Charrette Schedule:
ONE: Monday December 13 - @1:30pm at Lachat House, 106
Road West/design team meets and readies for
- Monday 3:30pm -
in Community Room at Weston Library: intro,
green goals, guidelines and priorities (approx. 3 hours including
sessions on all separate parts of project)/the 3-page Preliminary
for the Juliana Lachat Conservation Center was distributed (please
counter clockwise) HERE.
Modifications were discussed at the DAY ONE session at which all
of the Committee, several consultants, Superintendent of Schools and
School science staff, New Canaan Nature Center Director and the Nature
Conservancy of CT Director were present at Weston Libary...and on to
- DAY TWO AM:
Tuesday December 14 - 8am-5pm: 8am to 12 noon at Lachat House,
Godfrey Road West - 3 break out sessions:
- Site &
- Program &
- Tuesday 11am -
lunch (at Town Hall Commission Room)/"About Town" did not attend AM
- DAY TWO PM:
Tuesday 1-2:30pm at Town Hall Meeting Room - (s) BREAK OUT
rooms - 3 rooms at Town Hall, Library small conference room if needed...
- Site Group
- Tuesday 2:30pm
- Tuesday 3pm
"Bring It Together"
- 3:30pm - LEED
do we do it)
- 4:15pm Wrap Up
still in line?), next steps
- 5pm adjourn
Conservation Education Center Committee, Thursday, December 9, 2004,
Room at Town Hall
1. Minutes approved;
report on Board of Selectmen OK on contracts before them.
of the details of arrangements for smooth functioning of charrette
for Monday, December 13 and Tuesday December 14, including chairs,
Adjourned @ 6pm.
Education Center Committee, Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 4:30pm,
Room at Town Hall
1. Minutes of the September 9, 2004
2. Review discussion of phase one contract
with architect/some suggestions made, now to go to lawyers
3. Update on Town-TNC agreement/in
Next meeting November 18, 2004, time and
Education Center Committee, Thursday, September 9, 2004 at 4:30pm,
Room at Town Hall
1. Minutes of
the August 12, 2004 meeting (for approval)/done
of revised architect's budget estimates/money now placed in sufficient
amount (?) to fully explore Phase One design
(continued) of initial permitting process steps/first step will be to,
when information is ready, present to Conservation Commission for
Nature Center Committee met Thursday, August 12, 2004, at
in the Commission Room at Weston Town Hall. Membership of this
committee includes the Superintendent of Schools (replacing the high
principal) and the Chair. of the Weston Building Committee (filling a
side" vacancy). The agenda for this meeting included:
- Acceptance of the
of the June 30, 2004 meeting/done,
matters/to meet Thursdays at 4:30pm in the Commission Room--which ones
and how ofter T.B.A.,
- Consideration of
budget estimates/good beginning, but not "tight" enough...and
- Discussion of
process steps/should they go to Conservation first?
to initial Nature/Conservation Homepage.