A perspective on Westford's Future  

Ira Allen

 February 2023

Recent discussions on local media have focused on pros and cons of the Planning Commission's proposed wastewater disposal system. I suggest that our focus should be significantly broader, since the longer-term effect of that system appears to have been not considered.

Some observations:

Consider this excerpt from "Westford's"; proposed project website, regarding existing area "drinking water wells"….. "in the Westford Village area, some of which have historically failed, or are currently failing, or are past useful life". Referring here to the existing water supplies of the potentially involved 34 properties and/or 31 structures.

Next, consider the 24,600 Gallons Per Day design capacity of the proposed disposal system in relation to the current anticipated initial utilization of around 11,000 gallons per day.

This "reserve capacity" of 13,600 gallons per day demands more than doubling the fresh, potable water supply from within this area. A proportional increase would result in approximately 75 plus total potable water wells in the same area, not accounting for those "failing or having failed".

I submit this to be highly unlikely and inadvisable.

What does feel very likely, and not necessarily advisable, is a Town Center, municipal water supply system, created to serve this same defined area, at unknown cost, but that cost likely comparable to, and additional to, the cost of the proposed waste water system.

So the proponents, being judged by their own words, know that the existing water supply system is borderline, or even failing, but without a solution, propose to double the fresh water demand.

If we are thinking about costs, perhaps we should not ignore the fact that we are currently studying the admitted need for a new or modernized, updated and expanded Town Office building.

Making a potential total of three simultaneous bond paybacks.

Plus, undetermined ongoing operation costs, and maintenance costs.

It seems that a comprehensive plan for the coming years would consider these factors.

What we are presented with feels more like an effort to comply with the application requirements necessary to obtain free dollars which would partially cover the down payment on the waste water portion of the above.

Recalling lately, a story of many years ago - involving a friend, the location being Ft. Bragg, NC, he, Wills by name, being the Company armorer, (charge of rifles), myself the Company Supply clerk; he being beguiled by a nearly new Ford Crown Vic, ( a '55 or maybe '56, with considerable testosterone appeal) succumbed to the sales effort, scraped together the required down payment, and brought the beauty "home".

As it developed, he hadn't adequately considered the ongoing payments, resulting in his dream becoming a parking lot feature, and he without the means to provide tires or fuel.

Applicable here? Dunno. Thanks for reading. And please think.   

 How might the proposed wastewater project affect the future of the Common,

 and why would someone vote no on the Bond Vote

Barb Peck

 August 2023

The Westford Common is not (and cannot be) protected by Vermont state statutes, and it cannot be protected by a Westford ordinance. Therefore, any assurances from any current town commission are in my opinion meaningless.

The Westford Common will be vulnerable to any development along Route 128 that needs additional parking, road widening, or 'Traffic Safety and Calming' measures.

I will vote NO on the wastewater bond because I do not think this project is an appropriate or cost-effective solution for the wastewater issues facing the town-owned buildings in the Town Center.  The current proposed wastewater plan is a shared leach field, whose future costs are unspecified and regardless of what happens in the future will be paid for by the approximately 980 Westford taxpayers on the grand list.

Options to Westford Wastewater Proposal

Carol Winfield

February 2023

In reference to :

Town Center Area Wastewater Alternative Studies - Summary of Findings

The one thing I don't see anywhere in all these documents is a statement "There are no options".

The link provided shows:

My conclusion: it's great our beloved town is looking to solve the Wastewater concerns of our village, which might very well welcome a few more families to our community. BUT:

IS there a better alternative, with 2023 technology, to a $4,000,000 plant that has so much excess capacity that we don't know if we'll ever need? Also wondering where this future development would get its potable water? And what's to be done about our outgrown Town Office?

Think about What's Best for Westford 

Joe Franz

February 2023

The State of Vermont is pushing for development in towns like Westford. Often what the state government wants isn't always what the local folks want.  Something to think about.

How will a few affordable houses in Westford make much of an impact on Vermont's affordable housing problem? This is big central government thinking.   Something to think about.

"Build it and they will come." The Westford wastewater project isn't just about the library or the town office, it is part of a state plan to make Westford more developable. The state looks at it as part of the affordable housing solution. Surely there are alternatives.  Something to think about

If you want more traffic on our rural roads, if you would like to see development in the common area stretching up Brookside Road, then vote for the wastewater bond this fall.

You could see higher taxes to pay for and operate and maintain this system as well.

Something to think aboutAs always, it is important to ask the hard questions and demand real answers before voting on this issue.

Engineers Study What they are Hired to Study

Barb Peck

February 2023

1) Engineering Firms typically work on and complete projects they are expressly hired to do.  Service provided to the town are not being questioned.

2) Town Center Area Wastewater Alternative Studies - Summary of Findings

clearly showed there is a gap and lack of Engineering published studies for smaller wastewater options and/or ideas between 2014 and now, other than on the former Jackson Property (now called Maple Shade).

So, In reference to the period circa 2014 to now: If Anyone, any Committee or any Commission has a link that shows a completed study by an Engineering firm hired by the Planning Commission that looks at smaller wastewater individual or group options and/or ideas for the Town Center which includes the following: 1) private residences 2) The Town Municipal buildings 3) The non profit buildings - please share this information.

Options to Keep our Town Common Rural

Sheila Franz

February 2023

The opposition to the proposed wastewater project is not in opposition to sustaining the existing wonderful historic buildings around the common but rather focused on the fact that existing buildings will only need 50% of the capacity. There will be new building popping up all around the Common….and this will totally change the quaint rural common we have now. The 1705 project is an example. We all support a wastewater solution for existing buildings. That is not what is being proposed.  We are urging the town to develop simpler viable options for existing building.   

Will Wastewater Project change the look of the Common?

 Barb Peck 

February 2023

1) Westford's form-based code and points out that it currently "encourages adaptive reuse of existing buildings and creation of new buildings" citing the Country Store and Historical Society buildings as examples, which implies future buildings will look similar.

2)  In my opinion, the most realistic answer to the question is:  Of course, implementation of the current wastewater project will change the look on the Common, it is a 20+ year vision.

FACT:  The State of Vermont has granted money through their agencies encouraging all VT towns to implement municipal services in their Town Centers.

Once implemented, there is state criteria for more money for further expansion.

Here's a  Quote from VTDigger reference below 1/17/23: 

QUOTE:  In hopes of alleviating Vermont's housing crisis, a tri-partisan group of state lawmakers has endorsed a slate of zoning reforms that would remove barriers to denser development, particularly in town centers and areas served by municipal water and sewer systems. END QUOTE

which, in my opinion, will make our formed based code passe.

So, The Question remains, and the Issue is:

Whether the current project, as proposed by the Planning Commission, is the best, most cost-effective and reliable solution for our Town.

Cost of Wastewater to Property Taxpayers

Lori Johnson

January 2023

Costs to the taxpayers for the Planning Commissions wastewater project for the Westford Town Center include the major cost of the operation and maintenance (O&M).

These costs will most likely be much greater than the bond repayment costs.

No costs have been determined yet, so it is premature to estimate any actual costs.

Consider these analogies-in the old days razors were often given away because the real money was made selling folks the razor blades.

A more modern example would be a computer printer. The printer isn't very expensive, but the inks or toner costs over the years will be the real expense.

Reconsider the Vision for the Westford Town Common

 Sheila Franz

January 2022

 What do the majority of Westford residents want the Westford Town Common to look like?

Many of us like the current small-town rural character of the Westford Town Common. We acknowledge that there is a need to upgrade the Town Office. We don't think the Town Common is the place for a multi-building, multi-unit housing project. There are wastewater solutions for the current Town Common buildings that are simpler and less expensive than the proposed $4 million dollar plan. We would like to see these simpler options explored.

The recent 1705 project survey, town feedback and the Westford Visioning Workshop did not fully gauge the sentiment of a significant number of residents. The result of this is that now, when the details and implications of these plans are coming to light, many of us are not in favor of the direction we see the Town Common heading.

1705 Future and Future of the Common 

 Lori Johnson

November 2021

What future do you want? The opposition to the 1705 plan isn't about "affordable housing". It is about density, the character of our town, and the impact of resources like septic and water that support new development. Imagine this, you are standing in the Gazebo on the Common looking north toward what was the Pigeon property. You see Rt 128 and beyond it, cars parked along the road, a sidewalk, and 2 buildings nearly twice as large as the hotel with parking lots behind and perhaps beside the buildings. No significant green space. In fact, yards in front of the buildings are "not permitted" as per the zoning. Now imagine this all around the Common.

I urge you to stand on the Common and imagine the scene of the future. What future do you want?

Westford Common Development

Lori Johnson

November 2021

Plan for the future, the "Westford 2021 Town Plan" and here is a link to it.

As you read it, it sounds pretty good, but then you need to study the "Form Based Code" that really sets the standards for development. As stated in the December newsletter this Form Based Code "shapes how new development occurs". It is good in that it will control what the buildings look like. But look closely and you will find that it is responsible for much of what folks are objecting to in the 1705 plan. For the properties around much of the Common, the Form Based Code requires the front of the building to be less than 10' from the road, allows up to 80% of the lot to be covered by a building, and requires that the building cover a minimum of 60% of the frontage. This means that if the property is 100' wide, the building must occupy at least 60' of that width. The Form Based Code specifically prohibits these properties from having a front yard.

Unfortunately, right now the only way to stop this development is to stop the wastewater project. Perhaps in the future we can have the opportunity to propose community gardens, solar fields, etc.

Here is a direct link to the Town center zoning map,

Here is a link to the Form Based Code. Go to page 2-34 to start and see for yourself the requirements.

 Are We Chasing Grants?

Joe Franz

November 2021

When you look for "FREE MONEY" there are ALWAYS strings attached.

How much of these three 1705 project proposals (presented by the planners) is directed at keeping Westford's rural character and increasing the tax base and how much is directed at meeting grantors requirements?

When you look for "FREE MONEY" there are always strings attached.

Certainly, much of the designs presented are aimed at meeting requirements for grants. Do we need a few low-cost housing units on the town common? What problem does that solve?

Do we need a boardwalk to the Browns River? What problem does that solve?

Do we need parking spaces paving over our soils? What problem does that solve? 

Let's step back and ask who is dictating what we do in Westford. Is it the citizens or is it the folks dangling a deal for "FREE MONEY".

Are we chasing grants? Harry Montague always said, "there is no free lunch".

Think about it!