Petitions over Pond Road senior living proposal circulate ahead of Wellesley Select Board meeting

Those for and against the proposed development of a 130-unit assisted living and memory care facility at the top of Pond Road on the Wellesley/Natick town line have launched signature campaigns in hopes of impressing town decision makers.

Wellesley’s Select Board is expected to take up the matter of this proposed project at its Jan. 16 meeting.

Welltower, the developer, is seeking approval from both Wellesley and Natick to build the facility, which it says will meet a need for such senior housing, at the site of a current Natick mansion. It pulled back on a citizen petition before Natick’s Spring Annual Town Meeting last year in the face of residential opposition and a lukewarm reception by the Planning Board. It recently scored a favorable decision by Wellesley’s Planning Board—in part by dangling a possible $1M payment to the town under a future development agreement— in advance of Wellesley’s Annual Town Meeting in late March. The developer’s strategy would be, if Wellesley OKs the plan, to then circle back with Natick, where the facility would actually be located (only the driveway at 200 Pond Road and some surrounding property is in Wellesley).

I was hit up twice in front of Roche Bros. in Wellesley over the past week by Welltower representatives seeking my signature as a Wellesley resident. The first rep was greeting passersby with “Would you like to help the elderly?” and then explaining what the signature collection was for. The second started with something along the lines of “I’m collecting signatures to support an assisted living facility.”

signatures at Roche Bros for assisted living facility
Seeking signatures at Roche Bros. to support a senior living project on Pond Road


As I lingered, most of the people who stopped to hear the pitch had no idea where Pond Road was (“Is that near Needham?” one asked). Pond Road is one of seven designated scenic roads in Wellesley.

I was a bit surprised that Welltower would even be allowed to do this in front of Roche Bros., not being a non-profit, but one of the reps said they’re protected by state law given that they’re going through a local political process, and that they’d received the store’s OK.

Based on updates from Swellesley readers, signature collectors have also been spotted at the Wellesley Whole Foods and Recycling & Disposal Facility, as well as at Natick’s Stop & Shop.

Welltower has also made its petitions, one for Natick residents and one for Wellesley residents, available on its 200 Pond Rd. website.

The Wellesley petition, which will be brought to the attention of the Wellesley Planning Board and Select Board, states that: “The undersigned petitioners request your support for the creation of zoning in Wellesley that would allow for the project at 200 Pond Road to move forward and help provide housing options for local seniors, the protection of Pond Road, and revenue for the Town of Wellesley.”

Pete D’Agostino, a local consultant for the project, wrote to us that “Some residents prioritize town revenue over conservation land; other residents prioritize conservation land over town revenue. In this case—the proposed zoning amendment and development agreement together—would address the concerns of both groups of residents, providing for the creation of conservation land to preserve the Pond Road hillside in perpetuity, while still allowing the Town to recover the potential loss of revenue that the Town might have otherwise received if the hillside was fully developed with two new large homes.”

The developer has said that if its senior living plan doesn’t go through, a likely outcome will be two homes in Wellesley alongside the road, plus a handful more up the hill where the current mansion sits. Of course, the horse has already left the barn regarding homes near the top of the road, with the two built in 2022.

Countering this effort is a petition launched on Jan. 5 with the title “Preserve Pond Road. From Commercial Development. Preserve Wellesley.” The petition states: “The threat of massive commercial development looms over the beautiful tree canopy on historic Pond Road. We are a group of concerned citizens and neighbors who are fighting to stop spot zoning, and protect our beloved neighborhood.”  It also warns that “your residential neighborhood could be next.”

About 800 people had signed as of Thursday morning on Jan. 11, with signers required to include their name and email address, but not their mailing address. Some left comments, such as “The arguments against are many, including public safety and environmental impact. I don’t think anyone involved opposes the idea of a high-end, private-pay, assisted living/memory care complex. It is the location and scale which are problematic and not appropriate (and unsafe) for a beautifully wooded area at the end of a very narrow, beautiful, residential road.”

The petition organizer, Neena Chand, lives next door to the proposed 200 Pond Rd. project and has been critical of it during public speak sessions at town meetings. Her husband, a developer, appeared at numerous Wellesley Planning Board meetings a few years back regarding the building of what is now their Pond Road home and the one next to it. Ironically, a petition was launched in 2020 by those against the original plans for those houses in the name of saving the tree canopy.

In order for the 200 Pond Rd. proposal to move forward at Wellesley Town Meeting the Select Board will first need to approve a development agreement, which would enable the town to limit what it would allow access to on the Natick property. It would also define a payment to the town in lieu of taxes as well as conservation restrictions. Initial discussion is slated to take place at the Jan. 16 Wellesley Select Board meeting.

200 Pond Road
200 Pond Rd.

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