These 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!
Godfrey Road 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?

Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee: 
Some background (unofficial webpage):
Official minutes of meetings of this group, "Nature Conservation Center at Lachat" are on file in the Weston Town Clerk's Office.


Latest Lachat committee: Weston selectmen choose new members       
Weston FORUM
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.

Joint purchase

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 Conservancy.

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 restoration consultant.

“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 community.”

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.

As reported in The Hour...
Consensus sought on Lachat site plan

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 Lachat.

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 Committee.

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 above-garage apartment.

"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 7,  2006.

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. 

The Board 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 review.

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:

Regular Meeting AD HOC CONSERVATION/NATURE CENTER ADVISORY COMMITTEE DEC. 13, 2001
With a voting quorum not present, this Committee discussed the two finalists and planned a tour of Vermont properties of one of the firms.  A final review of proposals will be made by the third week of December with estimates to be prepared for funding of Master Plan for Lachat Property as possible budget item FY03.  This meeting lasted until 5:30pm.


SPECIAL MEETING(AD HOC CONSERVATION/NATURE CENTER ADVISORY COMMITTEE)
AGENDA - October 30, 2001 at 4pm in Commission Room at Town Hall:
With 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 weeks, meeting time and place T.B.A.
  • Discussion of presentations on October 11...
  • Discussion and decision re selection of an architect to complete the project;
  • Discussion re possible costs of the project. (?)
  • Approval of the minutes (?)



  • THE COMPETITION:

    On Thursday, 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 conservation/nature center met to hear from invited architects.  These firms were selected to submit ideas for "A Gateway to the Den."  Each was to have an hour to explain their vision (s).  Although only one architect's competition presentation was observed by "About Town,"  at another time, the other two architects have been observed interacting with the committee.  They are all creative and different, and so it would not be appropriate for this writer to comment upon the single final presentation viewed on October 11th.  "About Town" left at 5pm, at the completion of the first presentation.

    Board of Selectmen approved $7500 for architectural competition (Town's portion)...and now so has Board of Finance...full speed ahead on competition for architects to get best design for the uses established in the "charge."
    Presentation Meeting October 11, 2001 (Thursday) at 4pm in the Commission Room at Town Hall...AGENDA:
  • Interviews of three (3) architects re their proposals for the Nature Center Project (4, 5 and 6 PM - each interview will last 45 minutes with 15 minutes thereafter for discussion by the members).
  • Approval of the minutes

  • Any other business


    Minutes of August 9, 2001 (4:30pm) meeting in Town Hall Commission Room:
    Present:  Ron Jeitz, George Guidera, Dick Bochinski, Michael Greenberg, Steve Patton
    The meeting came to order, minutes were approved and discussion took place of presentation approach for upcoming Board of Finance meeting.  Adjourned at approximately 5:15pm.


    Incomplete minutes for July 17, 2001 posted for 3:30pm Special Meeting:
    Members present (Ronald Jeitz, Richard Bochinski [taking official notes], Kate Ebbot, Michael Greenberg, Steve Patton, Mary Monroe Kolek). Discussion of draft wording for Architectural Competition (by invitation) document;  timing requires, first, meeting with the Board of Selectmen, presumably at that Board's next meeting.  One point made during the discussion of data available to competitor-architects was the necessity to provide similar topographic maps of the Lachat property to all competitors.  A discussion ensued re: parking requirements.  "About Town" left this Ad Hoc Nature Center meeting @4:30pm - it was not completed at that point, and thus the report above may not be comprehensive.


    ARCHITECT INTERVIEWS:
    Meetings of June 12, June 13 (Regular Meeting of June 14 cancelled) and June 28 were public meetings for the purpose of interviewing architects.  (See "Scope of Purpose Specifically" above to determine what the Ad Hoc Committee members were seeking in an architect for the Lachat project.)

    The tone 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 architects "About Town" observed favor.  The main house dates from the 18th (?) Century and the out buildings have need of repair prior to change of use to something other than barns or sheds.    Please note that "About Town" was not able to be present for the second interview...the first architect, 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

    Weston FORUM
    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 conservancy.

    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 project.

    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 agreement.

    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 endowment information.

    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.




    This drawing above is from the design charrette - of exposures on the site.   Weston Library Community Room entrance at right.
    Planning & Zoning Commission:  Public Hearing opens on Special Permit application, Tuesday, September 6, 2005, Community Room at Weston Libraryapplication withdrawn.

    NEWS REPORT
    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 Zoning application...click here to read unofficial reports about the Lachat Committee and where it began.


    Lachat Plan Gets a Public Hearing
    Weston FORUM
    By Brian Gioiele
    September 15, 2005

    Opponents of the proposed Lachat Conservation Center have spent the past few weeks questioning the scope and legality of the joint town-Nature Conservancy plan.

    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.”

    Lachat’s intentions

    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 community.”

    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.

    The proposal

    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 square feet.

    “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 England farm.

    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 water use.

    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 Julianna Lachat.

    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.”

    Conservation restrictions

    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” application.

    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 regulations.

    “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 non-conformity.

    “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.




    OUR OPINION
    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.

    NEWS REPORT
    "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 to 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 application.

    RECEIPT ON JULY 18, 2005
    Planning and Zoning Commissioners "received" an application for a Special Permit by the Lachat Conservation Center on Godfrey Road  Monday, July 18, 2005.  Application made under Section 321.1"o" of the Weston Zoning Regulations.  Permitted principle uses within the two-acre residential and farming district where this property lies are, in addition to a single family dwelling, fifteen others - including "o" which is "Parks, recreation, conservation or nature uses and/or facilities."





    Conservation Commission closes Public Hearing after lengthy second month of testimony, June 7...approves 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 Hall.   Public Hearing began at Conservation Commission May 3rd:



    Master Planning  moves to next phase...more unofficial notes.

    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee, Special Meeting Thursday, May 26, 2005 at 4:30pm at the Lachat property, 106 Godfrey 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 this meeting were:  presentation of to-date design for Visitor's Center, report (brief) on maximum upgrade of Lachat Homestead. 



    Lachat 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
    Agenda:
    1. Minutes of the February and March meetings/OK.
    2. Discussion and decision on contractor/ cost estimator.  (Reference checks completed by this meeting)/selection made ("About Town" does not post name of selected professionals on Internet out of consideration for those involved.)
    3. Update on Conservation Commission application/"walk" 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 updates from the Design Team/more clear view of what can be done at homestead.



    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee,  Thursday, March 24, 2005, interview of contractors, 4:30-6pm,  at Lachat Property, 106 Godfrey Road West:
    Two builders were interviewed regarding work to be done on the Lachat homestead (to be renovated into Nature Conservancy offices);  discussions of future work on the proposed Education Center building (now in early stages of design).

    A brief review or the latest plans for Conservation Commission Commission submittal took place.  Early drawings for renovation of the Lachat homestead (NOT to be LEEDS quality renovation standards) were briefly reviewed.



    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee,  Monday, Feb. 14, 2005 at 3pm, (Special Meeting):  Location - Lachat Property, 106 Godfrey Road West
    Agenda/"About Town" did not attend at this "off-site" (not a public meeting at Town Hall) event, as it was snowing lightly and seemed icey out of doors @3pm.
    1.  Site Walk at 3:00pm;
    2.  4pm meeting at Lachat house to discuss final site plan, conservation permitting, and updated strategy for house renovation.


    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee, (Special Meeting, because this is first Thursday); February 3, 2005, 4:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall
    Agenda ("About Town" could not attend this meeting)
    1.  Minutes of Jan. 13, 2005
    2.  Discussion of issues that need to be clarrified for design team (responses to questions , charrette report p. 45).
    3.  Timeline for design, permitting, and construction phases.


    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee,  Thursday, January 13, 2005, 4:30pm, Commission Room
    Agenda
    1.  Minutes of Dec. 9, 2004 meeting/done
    2.  Follow-up on charrette meetings Dec. 13-14, 2004:
    3.  Discussion of issues that need to be clarified for design team/see above
    4.  Schedule for design, permitting, and construction phase/deadlines are good--within understanding of process.

    NOTE:  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.

    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee, Charrette Schedule:



    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee, Thursday, December 9, 2004, Commission Room at Town Hall
    Agenda:
    1.  Minutes approved; report on Board of Selectmen OK on contracts before them.
    2.  Discussion of the details of arrangements for smooth functioning of charrette activities for Monday, December 13 and Tuesday December 14, including chairs, parking, rooms available...
    Adjourned @ 6pm.



    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee, Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 4:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall
    Agenda includes:
    1.  Minutes of the September 9, 2004 Meeting/OK'd
    2.  Review discussion of phase one contract with architect/some suggestions made, now to go to lawyers
    3.  Update on Town-TNC agreement/in progress.
    Next meeting November 18, 2004, time and location T.B.A.



    Lachat Conservation Education Center Committee, Thursday, September 9, 2004 at 4:30pm, Commission Room at Town Hall
    Agenda includes:
    1.  Minutes of the August 12, 2004 meeting (for approval)/done
    2.  Consideration of revised architect's budget estimates/money now placed in sufficient amount (?) to fully explore Phase One design
    3.  Discussion (continued) of initial permitting process steps/first step will be to, when information is ready, present to Conservation Commission for wetlands permitting.


    Lachat Conservation Nature Center Committee met Thursday, August 12, 2004, at @4:30pm-5:40pm, in the Commission Room at Weston Town Hall.  Membership of this new committee includes the Superintendent of Schools (replacing the high school principal) and the Chair. of the Weston Building Committee (filling a "town side" vacancy).  The agenda for this  meeting included:


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