HOPEDALE — Selectmen are considering a move that could eventually add 10 homes along the border of
    Parklands conservation land.

    “It’s been used de facto as Parklands for 100 years, and all of a sudden we’re talking about all kinds of
    development in this area,” said Rob Fahey, who commented this week on behalf of his Hopedale family. “It is
    a sensitive area. It is the crown jewel of Hopedale.”

    The Parklands has been referred to "the crown jewel of Hopedale.”

    The land in question lies between Overdale Parkway and the 280-acre Parklands, which is on Hopedale
    Pond at 162 Dutcher St. and has 4 miles of walking trails.

    Resident Ricardo Lima, who owns 7 acres and four lots of it, asked selectmen this week to authorize a 1985
    Town Meeting article that would allow the use of an existing road as access to any new development.

    “Whether people have been traipsing all over these 10 lots for 100 years and thinking it’s Parklands, it’s
    not,” selectmen Chairman Brian Keyes said Monday. “These 10 parcels are not Parklands.”

    The swath of land, which extends into Mendon, covers at least 63 acres.

    Attorneys for the owners said Monday that, according to an agreement with the town, no more than 10 lots
    can be developed. The intention, one of the attorneys said, is for 10 single-family homes.

    Attorney Stephan Rodolakis, of Worcester-based Fletcher Tilton PC, represents Hopkinton’s Black Brook
    Realty, which owns the other six lots on the developable property. Rodolakis said his client is willing to either
    deed much of the remaining Hopedale acreage to Hopedale’s Parklands or otherwise restrict it as
    conservation land.

    “There are two parties here that own 10 lots that want to develop it,” Keyes said, adding that he expects the
    homes to bring in new tax revenue, “and if there’s an opportunity to be able to do that, then I think that’s a
    great thing.”

    The road is currently gravel and gated off, attorneys said. The developers would pave a 703-foot section
    beyond the gate and open it for travel to the proposed new homes.

    Residents said Monday the road is used to access the Parklands.

    Upon direct questioning by Keyes, Lima’s attorney Thomas McLaughlin, of Milford’s  Thomas McLaughlin
    PC, confirmed that the land and his client’s request has nothing to do with the nearby railroad. Selectman
    Louis Arcudi III noted that building the homes may even create a protective buffer for the Parklands.

    A plan for development has not yet been submitted to the town and would need to be approved by several
    local boards.

    It's not immediately clear why the road was not accepted by the town or developed over the 36 years since
    the referenced Town Meeting.

    Parks Commissioner Don Howes urged more research Monday, and wondered whether the road itself is part
    of the Parklands.

    “My biggest thing is I think this needs more time,” he said.

    Selectmen voted Monday to put off making a decision until a title report, outlining who owns what, is
    obtained. A tentative timeline of 30 days was proposed.

    Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or abosma@wickedlocal.com. Find her on Twitter at
    @AlisonBosma.



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    HOPEDALE — Jennifer Moore takes her dogs into Hopedale’s 280-acre Parklands conservation land every
    day, year-round.

    “When we had those big snows, I put on my boots and broke the (fresh) snow walking around,” she said.

    Moore lives in her parents’ Overdale Parkway home, where the Hopedale High School graduate moved
    back for the duration of the pandemic. The paved section of Overdale Parkway ends just past the last
    house on the road, at which point it continues as a wide trail deep into the forest. Rules for the Parklands
    are listed on a large sign a short distance down the road.

    Used for decades by residents like Moore as the entrance to the Parklands, the woodland road and land to
    either side of it are now part of a local controversy.

    Hopedale resident Ricardo Lima, also a police officer in town, and Hopkinton-based Black Brook Realty are
    looking to build a total of 10 houses on either side of the unpaved road. Lawyers for the two entities asked
    selectmen last month to authorize a 1985 Town Meeting article they said would allow use of the road to access
    their lots and proposed new homes. The developer would pave the road under the new agreement.

    “The intent of the town is to have Parkland,” said Denise Linder, Moore’s mother, as she and a small group of
    residents walked up the path on Thursday. “You start to take that away, what are you doing to the town
    legacy?”

    Though lawyers for Lima and Black Brook Realty said the land on which they are looking to build is not
    Parklands — which is protected from development — and that they will be restricted to the 10 homes,
    Overdale Parkway residents disagree.

    “I think most people feel a little bit threatened,” Linder said. “You take an inch, put a house here, and next
    thing you know there’s 60 houses.”

    Moore, Linder and others produced stamped town records showing the area labeled as Parklands, old town
    reports saying the Park Department has jurisdiction over the land, and a typewritten letter from 1917
    advising a park commissioner on how to make it obvious that the area is town-owned.

    A group of concerned residents meets virtually every week, Linder and fellow resident Joyce Lovewell said, and
    includes about 15 families from the neighborhood, as well as people from other sections of town.

    “It’s not strictly an issue for Overdale,” Linder said.

    On a nice day, 20 families might drive up and park at the dead end to use the trails, the group said, and
    Overdale Parkway residents like Moore use it all year. The cross country teams use it to get into the
    Parklands trails, Moore said.

    “Where are people going to park?” Lovewell asked.

    In addition to wanting to protect the Parklands, Overdale Parkway residents worry about possible
    contamination of their drinking water wells, and the availability of water for new homes. A previous attempt
    to develop the area proposed widening the road, which would have meant paving swaths of residents’ front
    yards.

    “The rationale might be revenue for the town,” Linder said, of approving the developers’ request and
    allowing the homes. “You’re not saving the budget on 10 homes. It’s not worth the risk.”

    Residents and a Park Commission member raised concerns about rights to the land at a meeting with
    selectmen last month, and selectmen requested a title search, which is ongoing.

    This is not the first time development has been proposed for the land, then opposed by residents. In 2000, a
    much larger development was planned, and residents prevailed in land court. Residents this past week pointed
    to other instances in their unearthed town documents in which the Park Commission in particular continued to
    assert its authority over the land and denied commercialization of any kind.

    “The frustrating thing is we already went through this,” Lovewell said, walking along the wooded path with
    Linder and her daughter.

    “It should be a non-issue at this point,” Linder agreed.

    Proposals for either Lima’s or Black Brook Realty’s developments would need approval from other town
    boards, in addition to securing the access road. Actual plans have not yet surfaced.

    Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or abosma@wickedlocal.com. Find her on Twitter at
    @AlisonBosma.

    HOPEDALE — A resident-driven challenge to a land deal between the town and the local railroad was dealt a
    hard blow last week.

    In late January, Hopedale selectmen and the Grafton & Upton Railroad signed an agreement, after months of
    legal battles and mediation, that split contested property off 364 West St. between the two. The railroad wants
    the 155-acre property, largely woodland through which its tracks run, to expand its business, while the town
    says it is important to protecting drinking water.

    A Worcester Superior Court judge denied an injunction set forth by a small group of Hopedale residents
    concerning contested property off 364 West St.

    A small group of Hopedale residents then filed a lawsuit in Worcester Superior Court against the board that
    included a request for an injunction, which would have put a stop to the deal while the residents’ court case
    continued.

June 25, 1985

    In addition to Overale Parkway, this Google Earth view shows the
    now capped landfill, part of Freedom Street, the railroad, the
    Hopedale-Mendon town line, and the pipeline. The area a little to
    the left of the center shows evidence of the 2012 forestry project.