21 Aug 2014
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Group Exploring Community Farm Stand Option for Lee's Farm

A community group is seeking the option of purchasing part of the Lee's Farm property.

Group Exploring Community Farm Stand Option for Lee's Farm

The broken down farm stand on Boston Post Road would get a new lease on life if some local activists get their wish.

Two citizen groups are working together to secure the opportunity to revitalize that farm stand and create a selling spot for local farmers as well as a cafe and possible greenhouse -- all operated on a community-supported basis.

The Pinebrook Assocation is a neighborhood group that Wayland resident Malcolm Astley convened about five years ago. At that time, the group had various concerns about development and conservation in Wayland, but Lee's Farm was not one of them.

The LEES (Let’s Encourage Environmental Sustainability) Group was established by a group of citizens specifically interested in preserving the Lee's Farm property.

Today, the two groups are affiliated and the primary joint concern is the land at Lee's Farm, which was recently slated for an assisted living development to be constructed on the back half of the property.

What will happen on the front half of the property, about 4.6 acres that includes the current farm stand, remains to be seen. But the Pinebrook/LEES Association is hoping to raise the funds to buy the land and start a community supported farm stand.

"We tried to convince the town to buy the whole property," said Bill Sterling, a volunteer with the joint effort. He said the group proposed ideas for the land that included a Peace Garden or relocating Vokes Theater.

"In the end we sort of latched on to the idea of community-supported agriculture," Sterling said.

He said that a March 2012 appraisal of the parcel and existing farm stand led the group to estimate a purchase price of $300,000 for the land and farm stand.

Sterling explained that the idea is to establish the nonprofit Lee's Community Farm Corporation, which would function much as the Wayland Depot already does, where purchases support the operation of the business and profits are for charity.

The neighborhood group has drafted a letter requesting just under $440,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to purchase the property and farm stand, renovate the farm stand and pay "soft" costs such as electrical, sewage and water.

Sterling said the group has had preliminary conversations with Wayland's Planning Board and Historical Commission, both of which were generally supportive of the community farm stand idea.

Moving forward with that request, however, is contingent on successful negotiations with the Bongiorno family, who currently owns the parcel of land. Sterling said the group doesn't want to approach the Community Preservation Committee or submit paperwork to create the nonprofit entity without the Bongiorno family indicating they are willing to discuss the sale.

Another hurdle at this point is the construction of the assisted living facility by Northbridge Companies. After clearing several hurdles with the town, an abutter to the property has raised additional concerns that must be resolved before the project can move forward, Sterling said.

"We're delayed, too," Sterling said. "We have to wait until that's resolved. I think that it's important to keep these parallel tracks moving at the same time."

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