Action Delayed on Hospital Land Reuse
The town wants to explore more concepts for the redevelopment of the state-owned Westborough State Hospital land.
Westborough residents and officials remain skeptical of proposed reuse concepts for the Westborough State Hospital land, and are holding out for ideas that rely less heavily on residential development.
A decision to delay action on the state-owned land was made Thursday night at a public hearing at Westborough High School. Residents are delaying making any decisions until seeing different reuse concepts later this year.
The real estate in question sits north of Route 9, includes Lake Chauncy and is zoned in Westborough for mixed use. A small parcel in Northborough is also slated for development.
Reuse concepts have included townhouses, apartments, multi-family units, restaurants, shops, assisted living and office space.
The two public hearings have been hosted by the state Department of Capital Asset Management and have featured presentations from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and Department of Youth Services.
Resident concerns have included the impact on the town’s water and sewer system, intrusion and possible pollution into Lake Chauncy, the traffic impact to the Lyman and Route 9 intersection, the loss of open space, and the burden on the school system.
DCAM Commissioner Carole Cornelison stressed Thursday night that there had been no reuse plan presented at the initial public hearing on March 29, but rather, reuse concepts.
“That’s not the way we operate from a DCAM perspective,” she said with respect to presenting a solidified plan at an initial public hearing. Many residents were left with the impression that the options presented were solidified plans, but the reality is that these options are concepts open to continued debate. This was made obvious by the amount of resident questions throughout the two-hour meeting, where inquiries ranged from the financial incentives to the town and developers to language clarifications in the Historical Commission’s presentation.
The hearing clarified, among other things, that many of the fields that town residents want to preserve for recreation are considered to be “contributing” aspects to the historical nature of the property, equal in importance to some of the historical buildings. This means potential developers looking to take advantage of tax credits dependent on preserving historically “contributing” aspects of the property must make an effort to preserve the recreation fields.
Scott Shumway, a resident of Wheeler Street, asked whether developers had the discretion to decide the best alternatives for the property regardless of recommendations made by town officials and Historical Commission reports. Brandee Laughlin, presenter from the commission, explained that developers must adhere to town legislation and that, in short, they cannot act independently to choose their own best alternative.
Several residents asked whether there was any precedent of the state giving a town a parcel of land as large as Westborough State Hospital without compensation. Martha McMahon, a lawyer for the DCAM, said anything is possible regarding agreements between the town and the state.
State Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, captured the dilemma of the hearing.
“How can we get to a win-win?” she asked. The state can’t give [the land] away because they have an obligation to state taxpayers, yet “at the end of the day, [state representatives] represent the town.”
Cornelison closed the hearing by assuring residents that new concepts would be drafted.
Working sessions will take place over the next couple of months to review the comments from the public and reports from the different consultants. All working sessions are open to the public – the dates of which will initially be made available by the town through the Clerk’s office.
The next draft report can be expected in October, with a review of that report in November. If a report is approved, it will be filed with several entities including the Senate, House of Representatives, and commissioner of DCAM.
Return to Westborough Patch for the dates of upcoming work sessions.