By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The committee crafting the reuse of the Westborough State Hospital property is poised to ask the Board of Selectmen to designate 36 acres of the property for private development, leaving 54 acres of largely undeveloped land in town hands, much of it set aside as recreational areas and to protect and provide access to Lake Chauncey.
Reuse Committee Chair Brian Bush said the committee will formally present its recommendations to selectmen in January, but laid out for the board Dec. 8 the broad strokes of what the committee has agreed to over the past year of work.
The parcel set aside for development would be rezoned to allow multiple uses and small lot sizes, Bush said, and existing open space requirements would be dropped in light of the fact that most of the overall hospital site is being kept in town hands and much of that in turn dedicated to conservation land.
Proposals for development would be sought and evaluated for their impact on the town as well as the funds they would help generate.
“This is exactly what the town thought we were going to do when we bought it,” said Selectmen Chair George Barrette.
The only residential use the committee wants to allow on the land to be developed is an expansion of the Senior Living Overlay District which requires housing be age-restricted.
The overall plan would have property along Lake Chauncey reserved mainly for conservation, with some small structures – such as a boathouse – allowed to encourage recreation and access to the lake. The so-called Great Lawn area would be preserved and the area around designated for use as recreational playing fields.
Selectman Ian Johnson, the board’s liaison to the committee, said the guiding principle of the group has been carrying out residents’ wishes.
“We always refer back to the meeting we have held and the charrette and what we hear from the community,” he said. “It’s really been about doing what the town wants.”
Next steps the reuse committee plans to take include completing an already approved property line and hazardous materials survey and developing criteria that can be used to evaluate development proposals.
Bush said he envisions a process similar to the one that resulted in the Nathan Fisher House being sold recently for redevelopment as a wellness center and restaurant.
“It won’t be just about the money but the use envisioned and the impact on the town and the harmonious development of the site,” he said.