How Long Before Waltham Fields Gets a Lease with the City?

by Chris Wangler

October 13, 2022

Waltham Fields Community Farm (WFCF) will celebrate its annual Farm Day on Saturday, October 15 with fun farm activities, live music and free rides to and from Waltham Common on the Tick Tock Trolley.

But there’s some trouble down on the farm for roughly half a dozen tenants after the city acquired the former Waltham Field Station at 240 Beaver Street from the state earlier this year for $17.4 million.

“WFCF does not currently have a lease,” said farm executive director Stacey Daley in a statement. “All former tenants at the former UMass Field Station are considered tenants-at-sufferance by the City of Waltham.”

Daley criticized “a stressful and resource absorbing process” concerning the tenants and leases. She said WFCF respects that process, but there are worries it could be bogged down by red tape.

As a required first step, the Waltham city council recently voted to transfer care, custody and control of the land to the city’s Consolidated Public Works Department and the buildings on site to the Building Maintenance Department.

Those departments would need to declare the land and buildings surplus before a bid process could be initiated, allowing the current tenants to apply for leases.

Meanwhile, the 28-acre property has problems dating back to UMass ownership. Greenhouses on site are loaded with asbestos, while there is contamination on the property requiring mitigation.

As the environmental problems simmer, Waltham Fields said the lack of a lease has prevented it from executing one of its core missions.

Earlier this year, the Baker-Polito Administration issued a food insecurity infrastructure grant for more than $110,000 to WFCF, but the city can’t approve a building permit without a lease.

“Without the opportunity to submit a proposal for our continued tenancy,” Daley said, “WFCF faces this additional obstacle which directly affects the development of our infrastructure and our ability to provide greater access to local food.”

During a recent council discussion of the process to transfer the land and buildings, Daley said “We were disturbed by comments made during the 9/19/22 meeting. They were counterproductive and demeaned WFCF’s accountability, specifically to the legal agreements which were refined annually with UMass.”

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy could not be reached for comment.

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