Wellesley’s Special Town Meeting, which starts on Monday, Nov. 6, might be a lot shorter than expected: The much discussed Article 15 will not be moved on behalf of the Sisters of Charity.
The last of 15 articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant would have the town amend the zoning bylaws to redefine permitted uses in Educational Districts. The Sisters of Charity, owners of some 14 acres at 125 Oakland St., seek to sell the property to a for-profit or non-profit that can manage the current assisted living and skilled nursing facilities on the campus through the lifetimes of nuns that retire there. Amending the zoning would make finding a buyer easier, according to the proponents.
Those opposed to the article have cited environmental and traffic concerns related to what changes a future owner might make, and efforts have been made to convince the Sisters to put conservation restrictions on land abutting Centennial Reservation. The article language has changed based on feedback, and this included that any expansion of existing use, buildings or facilities would require a special permit through the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Local attorney for the Sisters, David Himmelberger, confirmed this weekend that he has informed the town moderator on behalf of his client that he won’t be moving Article 15.
The town’s Advisory Committee, which vets articles before Town Meetings, voted last month by an 11-2 count recommending unfavorable action on #15. Earlier in the month, the Planning Board unanimously voted to support the article. Both bodies’ members struggled to reach their decisions, as there was widespread agreement that the Sisters have been responsible stewards of their property and significant contributors to the town.
The Sisters have tried to impress on town officials and bodies, as well as the general public, their financial need to sell the property sooner than later.
The Planning Board put the brakes on an earlier article proposed for Annual Town Meeting this past spring related to rezoning the area.
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