The luxury home builder Toll Brothers has expressed an interest in purchasing the 88 acres on Boardman Lane formerly chosen by the Army Corps of Engineers for their military base. They have entered into discussions with the landowner, and presented preliminary plans to city officials, according to City Planner Bill Warner.
The land is currently zoned for Interstate Trade, and would have to be re-zoned to allow a housing development. Warner said to me that both he and Mayor Giuliano told Toll Brothers that they would need to obtain the support of the Westfield Residents Association (WRA) before the city would consider re-zoning. Toll Brothers has not contacted the WRA.
In July of 2008, the Army announced that they had selected this parcel to build an Army Reserve Training Facility. Following community outrage, especially on the part of the WRA, the army backed away from Boardman Lane. One of the concerns of neighbors was the effect of a large training facility on wetlands. To stop development of the Boardman Lane property, the city offered to the Army the little-used Cucia Park, which is surrounded by I91 and industrial land, less than half a mile from the Boardman Lane property. The Army has selected a contractor to build the base on the Cucia Park site.
Ironically, the Boardman Lane parcel is being looked at again by the Army, according to Warner. This time, however, their goal is to perserve it for wetlands protection and habitat enhancement. The construction plans for the facility in Cucia Park require a permit for the destruction of a small amount of wetlands, and the Corps of Engineers environmental division has insisted that the Army mitigate nearby wetlands in order to obtain the necessary 404 permit.
The Boardman Lane property contains wetlands in the same local watershed as Cucia Park, and is still for sale. These features make it an ideal site for mitigation.
Diane McCartin, the project manager for the Reserve Training Facility, confirmed that the Army is talking with the land ownership group, represented by Pedro Wasmer, "We are both interested in preserving the land as much as possible." McCartin said that if the Army bought the land, it remained to be determined whether the Army would retain ownership of the land for the long term, or turn it over to a separate agency of the government or to a private land preservation organization.
She indicated that the land would be permanently protected, with deed restrictions that would not only prohibit development, but would also require ten years of monitoring, removal of invasive species, and enhancement and maintenance of habitat for the Eastern Box turtle.
Disclosure: I am vice-chair of the WRA executive committee.