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Committee members chosen to oversee Weston’s Lachat property

The Board of Selectmen appointed seven members to a new Lachat Oversight Committee. Among the first order of business will likely be to oversee shoring up the deteriorating farmhouse, and then determining how to best solicit public input on what to do with the rest of the land. —Kimberly Donnelly photoAt a special meeting held Thursday morning, July 5, the Board of Selectmen appointed a seven-member committee to oversee the town-controlled portion of the Lachat property on Godfrey Road West.

Carol Baldwin, Ellen McCormick, Nick Bell, Judy Saffan, Amy Kalafa, Paul Deysenroth, and Sheila Koehler were named to the Select Committee for the Oversight of the Lachat Property.

The mission of this committee is to “vet community ideas for the use of the property, ensure that the ideas are consistent with the original deeds and provide recommendations for the use of the property to the Board of Selectmen. At the request of the Board of Selectmen, [the committee] may also provide project oversight and programming initiatives.”

First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said she asked Ms. McCormick to be the acting chairman until the committee could meet and elect its own.

Ms. McCormick said this week she is very excited to get started with the committee’s work.

“Carol Baldwin has really been spearheading this, and we’ve been working very closely together,” she said.

Ms. Baldwin, who works full time and is also a member of both the Historic District Commission and the Weston Historical Society, said she, too, is excited the committee is now in place — and she is just as happy not to be the chairman.

But that doesn’t mean Ms. Baldwin plans to slow down at all in her efforts to help restore the farmhouse on the Lachat property and to determine the direction the town should take in utilizing the rest of it.

Town and Conservancy

The Lachat property, purchased almost 20 years ago from the late Leon Lachat, is co-owned by the town and the neighboring Nature Conservancy. The two recently brokered a “separation agreement,” under which the town leases a portion of the property from the conservancy and the conservancy leases a portion from the town; no money exchanges hands.

The lease agreements make it possible for each entity to do what it chooses on its portion of the property, instead of having to agree on a common use — something that resulted in a stalemate for years, with nothing happening at all on the former farm.

Ms. Baldwin said she was always interested in what the town should so with the property, but she “really jumped in head first” in March 2011, when she learned the Board of Selectmen planned to tear down the farmhouse because it had fallen into such disrepair.

At that time, Ms. Baldwin established the non-profit Friends of Lachat to raise money to save the historic farmhouse. To date, the group — which just received its 501(c)3 tax exempt designation — has raised about $125,000 in private donations and pledges, and it has secured several grants.

The Friends have also raised awareness about the historic significance of the property and its potential future uses. “The one good thing about so much time going by [since the town started talking about what to do with the property] is at least a lot more people know about it now,” Ms. Baldwin said.

Two teenage students, Ross Wollman and Matthew Proctor, developed a website, friendsoflachat.org, which is a great way to help keep people informed, Ms. Baldwin said.

Ms. Baldwin said she agrees with the selectmen’s decision to create a committee to oversee any projects at Lachat rather than having Friends of Lachat lease it or try to be responsible for oversight.

“I feel strongly anything that happens there should be a TOWN project,” she said. Friends of Lachat will continue to help and to fund raise, but anything that happens there should be what the whole town decides, she said.

She is pleased with the make-up of the committee, which she believes represents many different constituencies in town. Friends of Lachat has always been apolitical, and she believes the committee is, as well.

Ms. Baldwin said there are three main things she wants to focus on in the immediate future: continue with fund-raising efforts until the Friends of Lachat goal of $250,000 is met; decide what to do with the farmhouse; and decide what to do with the property.

“One thing I think will be important for the committee to do is to set up a long range master plan so we don’t do anything that might preclude something else down the line,” Ms. Baldwin said.

She was happy to report this week that architect Bob Hatch completed the specifications for foundation work on the house and has submitted them to Town Administrator Tom Landry. The next step is for the town to put the work out to bid so the house can be shored up.

“One thing I’ve learned in all this, though, is everything takes more time than I ever expected,” Ms. Baldwin said.

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