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Special Town Meeting July 19 for Lachat Lease

A Special Town Meeting will be held at 6:45 pm on Thursday, July 19 to determine whether the town should lease a Lachat Town Farm building to the Friends of Lachat, Inc., who would in turn sublease it to a resident farm manager. The meeting will take place at the Town Hall Meeting Room. As always, bring identification or proof that you are a qualified voter.

The meeting will consist of discussion and a show-of-hands. There will be no machine voting and no absentee ballots. In scheduling the meeting, the Board of Selectmen anticipated it will run about 45 minutes. The Town Charter requires a Special Town Meeting to approve "the purchase, sale or leasing of real estate by the Town."

Friends of Lachat, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that operates the farm. According to director Carol Baldwin, the farm manager will receive housing in exchange for services, which include keeping the property beautiful, mowing lawns, general cleanup, eliminating invasive plants, caring for the goats and chickens who will soon live there, maintain the greenhouse and buildings, set up for events, and generally be the welcoming face to greet visitors and answer questions.

A newcomer to town might think Lachat has sprung up overnight as one of Weston's most attractive features. The historic homestead structures are significantly restored, fields are increasingly active, and a greenhouse has been built. The farm hosts programs for all ages on cooking, gardening, exercise, arts, crafts, and nature. Musicians perform at intimate gatherings in the barn. The farm has a successful summer camp.

The popular Farmers Market, which is more like a town party, just opened its second season (see our related video report) and continues on the last Friday of each month from June through October.

Lachat is a hit. But it didn't happen overnight. A few years ago, Lachat appeared to be doomed.

Left: the Godfrey House at about its worst. Right: the Godfrey House today.

In 1997, the farm — 42 acres on Godfrey Road West — was deeded by Leon Lachat to the Town of Weston and the Nature Conservancy. Mr. Lachat specified that the property be dedicated to public and educational use. For many years, nothing came of it. At one point, the Nature Conservancy wanted to develop, but the Town said no.

In 2011, the Town and the Nature Conservancy came to a dual lease arrangement, where the Nature Conservancy would oversee about 22 wooded acres abutting Devil's Den and the Town would be responsible for the 19-acre front meadow and buildings.

But by that time most of the buildings were dilapidated, including the historic Godfrey house, which dates back to the 1770s. The prevailing opinion was that the homestead would have to be demolished.

The newly-formed Friends of Lachat disagreed, began to raise funds, and reached an agreement with the Town and the Conservancy to manage the farm. It receives no taxpayer funding, and is overseen by a town commission. Nearly everything you see going on at the farm is done by volunteers.

The lease to be voted on at the July 19 Special Town Meeting represents a key part of the long range plan Friends of Lachat has developed for the farm. Click here to see the legal notice of the Special Town Meeting question. To see the lease itself, click here.

— Our thanks to Carol Baldwin, Ellen McCormick, and Lynne Barrelle.

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