Busa Farm Update

Busa Farm viewscape

This page will continue to be updated with information about the Town of Lexington’s process for establishing a community farm on the Busa Farm property.

September 21, 2012

The Board of Selectmen invited public comment on their draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for a community farm.

You can read LexFarm’s comments here and our proposed evaluation criteria table here.

…and here are the comments from NOFA, whom we asked to review and provide comment, because of their experience with sustainable farming.

And for those who are interested, here are examples of documents from Newton and Medway from their municipal process for establishing a community farm:

Newton, MA Request for Expressions of Interest (RFI)

Medway, MA Request for Proposals (RFP)

August 1, 2012

Dear Members and Supporters:

We want to update you on the most recent Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, July 30 – because it marks an important endpoint to the politics that have surrounded the disposition of the Busa Farm and thankfully, a turning point for LexFarm and the community.  We thought you might also be interested in reading the most recent Colonial Times article  that traces some of the history of our work to bring a community farm to Lexington, and also helps explain some of the next steps.

view with model
View with model presented by Carl Oldenburg

Affordable Housing

At Monday’s meeting, Lexington’s Board of Selectmen delineated the area on the Busa Farm property that will be used for affordable housing separate from that which will be deeded as open space for a community farm.  Leading up to the meeting, the outpouring in the community for preserving the viewscape of the farm, including its extraordinary sunset views, clearly had an impact on the Board.  The independent work of architect Carl Oldenburg was also impressive and compelling as he provided a design that demonstrated how there could be very attractive housing of 4 units that could fit on 1/3 of the view frontage. The Board ultimately voted to provide for 4 units of affordable housing on no more than ½ of the frontage of the view from Lowell Street.

Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Community Farm 

Next, the Board of Selectmen made some decisions about what the RFP for the community farm should include.  These decisions gave us a glimpse of what to expect when the RFP is finalized and put out for bid, possibly by mid-September.  Of particular interest were decisions designed to help a start-up community farm, including an initial lease term of 10 years and an annual lease fee of $1500.

The actions of the Board help mark an important turning point for LexFarm: we can now turn our full attention from advocacy to preparing our response to the RFP, knowing that  the farm – and its viewscape – will be preserved. These important final decisions will continue the proud legacy of the Busa Farm and the Winship Farm before it, while also contributing to the success of the new Lexington Community Farm.

We find ourselves re-energized and excited, and hope that all those who have been wearied by a long and arduous process will join us in looking forward to what this farm has in store for all of us.

With gratitude to all of our members and supporters,

Janet Kern and Ken Karnofsky   

The following records our history of keeping the community informed about the disposition of the Busa Farm property from 2009 through 2012. Thank You to all who participated and helped preserve this farm for our future.

This page was used to convey the  latest information about the Town process for deciding on the ulitmate land use of the now-Town-owned Busa Farm.

For those who would like more details and history we have compiled a reference page: www.lexfarm.org/busa-farm-reference/

Here is the website that the Town has dedicated to the Busa Land Use Proposal Committee (BLUPC): http://www.lexingtonma.gov/committees/busalanduse.cfm

…and here is a timeline of the Town Process, as we have been following it:



March 19, 2012

The Board of Selectmen approved the use of “most of” the land for a community farm. By a vote of 3 – 2 (Mauger, Manz and Cohen in favor), they agreed to begin the RFP process for a community farm and to form an agriculture commission, necessary for oversight of the community farm. Still outstanding is the question of how much affordable housing and associated acreage will be designated at the viewscape of the property.

March 5, 2012 – 7:00 pm – Board of Selectmen – Cary Memorial Hall

The Board of Selectmen indicated that they would be ready to make a decision about the use(s) if Busa Farm at this meeting. They allowed more public comment, and then proceeded to make a decision about siting of affordable housing along the viewscape of Lowell St. Other decisions, including whether a community farm would be initial use of the open space parcel, were deferred until the next meeting.

February 27, 2012 – 7:00 pm – Board of Selectmen – Cary Memorial Hall

About 150 people attended Lexington’s Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, February 27 to hear LexFarm’s Janet Kern and architect Carl Oldenburg present alternatives for affordable housing that would preserve the farmland and views for the community. They urged the Selectmen to move forward with approving the use of the land as a community farm, and then engage in a collaborative process before deciding on specific siting for any affordable housing. Read the Patch article here.

February 13, 2012 – 7:00 pm – Selectmen’s Meeting

All those who attended the Lexington Board of Selectmen’s on February 13th  in anticipation of the decision-making process for Busa Farm finally proceeding – were disappointed. The agenda item was postponed due to the inability to accommodate the numbers of people who had gathered to attend the open meeting. Read this Patch article for more information.

We would like to send our sincere thanks and apologies to architect Carl Oldenburg, who had donated his professional time to produce thoughtful alternatives for how a limited amount of housing might be accommodated while maintaining a viable farm for the community.

We will let you know as soon as the meeting is rescheduled to a larger venue and hope that you’ll put it on your calendar and bring a friend!

January 30, 2012
The Selectmen’s meeting room was filled Monday, January 30, as the Lexington Housing Assistance Board presented their plans for how they might build 8 units of affordable housing along the viewscape of Busa Farm on Lowell St.

Selectman Peter Kelley expressed his concern that the plans presented would effectively destroy the “gateway effect” of Lexington. Several neighbors spoke in response to Selectman Cohen’s assertion that there are only “rocks” (and no productive farmland) in the area proposed for the housing.

Selectman Burnell asked about placing 2 – 4 units housing near, or in place of the farm stand. It was noted by Selectman Manz that housing in that area might remove necessary infrastructure for other uses such as a farm.

LexFarm Treasurer Derek Moody asked the Selectmen to consider alternatives for affordable housing that include mixed use. Others echoed that sentiment, asking for consideration of ideas such as a barn with attached apartments.

Chairman Hank Manz indicated that they will begin the final decision-making process about use of the land at their next meeting on February 13.

Wednesday, December 21 – Selectmen’s meeting – 6:00 pm – Public Services Building – 201 Bedford St. – Lexington
Town Counsel was on hand to explain the legality and possibilities for “mixed use” on Busa Property . Town Counsel was able to definitively state that there are many options for mixed use that are legal, but that the key was careful planning and good communication with the state agencies that would approve the deed restriction(s) in question. It was also nice to hear definitively from Town Counsel that an agricultural use on town land is considered a public benefit on par with housing, conservation and recreation.

Monday, November 21 – Regular Selectmen’s Meeting
Because LexHAB was on the agenda to provide a status update regarding their investigation into building housing units along the farm viewscape on Lowell St., without opportunity for public comment, LexFarm’s Janet Kern read this statement during the Public Comment period at the beginning of the meeting: http://lexfarm.wpengine.com/statement-to-board-of-selectman-112111/

The meeting was reported on Patch.com and in the Lexington Minuteman 

Tuesday, November 1:
This was the date originally scheduled , but the following meeting was posted instead on Oct. 21st:
Busa Farm at sunsetWednesday, October 26: 7pm – Public Services Building – 201 Bedford St. – Lexington

The Selectmen voted unanimously to ask LexHAB to make their best proposal for 4 – 8 units of affordable housing along the viewscape of Busa Farm. Housing advocates rejected the idea that “mixed use” of any piece of the property (e.g., farm stand with attached apartments) would be a good idea. Some questioned whether it were even “legal.”

Tuesday, October 11:  7pm – Public Services Building – 201 Bedford St. – Lexington

The Board of Selectmen met with its Busa Land Use Proposal Committee. Here is the article from the Lexington Minuteman.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011: 8:30 am

LexFarm presented its proposal for a community farm to Lexington’s Board of Selectmen and answered questions they had about how it might work. We were very fortunate to have with us Peter Barrer, President of Newton Community Farm to answer questions about Newton’s very successful operation. Also, many thanks to Ken Karnofsky, a LexFarm member and supporter who presented the community part of the presentation. The presentation slides and supporting material can be found on the Town’s web site here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011: 8:30 am – Selectmenʼs Meeting Room • Town Office Building • 1625 Massachusetts Avenue

The Board of Selectmen heard from the Recreation Committee, Recreation Department and supporting staff from the Department of Public Works, and the LHS Athletic Director. The presentation was focused on documenting the need for a new full-sized multi-purpose field to be built in Lexington. The case was made based on numbers of fields lost over the years for various reasons, and due to a stated increase in the requests for field hours from Lexington youth sports groups. The presentation did not provide any specifics about how a full-sized field could be practically implemented on the Busa Farm land, but stated only that a full-sized field with 47 parking spots would fit on the north side of the property. When asked, the Committee said that after the Selectmen make a decision, then they would provide more details through a master plan.

The second half of the meeting was focused on possible alternatives  in town to building a new field on the Busa property . The alternatives discussed included artificial turf and additional lighting at the existing fields off Worthen Rd. and providing lighting to extend hours available for play at the Diamond Middle School fields.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011: 8:00 am – Public Works Building • 201 Bedford St.

The Board of Selectmen was presented with new plans from the Housing Partnership Board for 10-14 units of community housing on the north side of the Busa Farm property, totaling 1.4 acres. LexHab, a different group who provides “scattered site” housing in Lexington indicated that they would prefer to build further south along Lowell St., if fewer units were indicated. By the end of the meeting, after five months of inaction, and failing to meet with the BLUPC committee, the BoS made its first decision about the use of the property: There will be some affordable housing on the site.

Monday, August 1st 7:00 pm* – Selectmenʼs Meeting Room • Town Office Building • 1625 Massachusetts Avenue

After five months of public inaction, the Board of Selectmen began discussing how they would approach the decision phase of the land use for Busa Farm. Rather than meet with the BLUPC to ask clarifying questions, they decided to instead begin questioning various proponents of uses, starting with affordable housing the next morning. Several residents attended the meeting hoping to speak, but were told that it was not a hearing.

June 13, 2011: Selectmen take tour of Busa property with Busa Land Use Proposal Committee members. No questions are asked of the committee.

May 16, 2011: “Next Steps for Busa property” on  Selectmen’s Agenda for 5/16/11

March 28, 2011: LexFarm has produced a Busa Farmland Fact sheet to address questions and issues at this juncture.

March 14, 2011 – Final  Report of the Busa Land Use Proposal Committee to the Board of Selectmen; the committee recommended a community farm on the property with some modest affordable housing integrated with the farm. You can read the report here.

February 28, 2011 – 7:00 pm – Last Regular Committee meeting – Location: Ellen Stone Room, Cary Hall

LexFarm summary/highlights (minutes not yet available): Most of the meeting was spent discussing two “minority reports”; the first was from Bill Dailey who continued to assert his belief that a farm operation could not be viable on only five acres as proposed by LexFarm and insisted that more land was needed…. He based his information on what he knows about private farm operations. Janet Kern of LexFarm had the opportunity to respond to some of the assertions, and tried to explain the basic differences between a private for-profit farm and a public not-for-profit farm supported by the community.

The second “minority report” was from member Al Zabin who had changed his minority view from 4 units of housing to 8 units since the previous meeting; committee members questioned him on several points in his report, that appeared to contradict sections of the main report, and tried to determine how to incorporate his statement into the main report, given its late nature and broad focus beyond just strictly housing issues.

February 16, 2011 – 7:00 pm – Regular Committee meeting – Location: Cary Hall

LexFarm summary/highlights (not official minutes): There was some continuation of the housing/placement discussion, with Al Zabin again stating his preference for 4 units. It was agreed that he would write a “minority opinion”, with the rest of the committee not recommending more that 2 units in one building. In the course of the discussion, Deb Strod and Ric Fulop stated that they wanted to be counted with Pam Shadley as preferring NO housing on the property, but they were willing to compromise to one building and up to two units.

Ginna Johnson wanted to go on record as saying that although she appreciated all the work and research Bob Pressman had done, that she didn’t think it made sense to try and launch a farm operation with two separate pieces of property.

February 16 Approved Minutes

February 9,  2011 – Regular Committee meeting

The meeting focused primarily on the issue of how affordable housing might fit on the property, and how, due to the irregular shape of the property, the limited options for housing might affect the neighbors and a  farm operation. Issues discussed related to Lowell St. frontage available, parking and the ability to maintain the farm infrastructure (greenhouses and farm stand) needed for operating a viable farm.  Member Ginna Johnson continued to advocate for a solution that would both house a farm manager and provide shared community space.

February 2, 2011 – Regular Committee meeting

Each of the six committee members present (absent: Ric Fulop) gave their individual views on how the property should be used. The consensus of the committee is that the land would be best used as a community farm with some “scaled down” affordable housing, with 3 of 4 members advocating for 1 – 2 units and one member (Al Zabin) desiring 2 – 4 units. The question of where such housing would be sited was left open. Although the committee was hoping to present their final report to the Board of Selectmen on February 28, the Selectmen have chosen a date of March 14th.

February 2 Approved Minutes.

January 19, 2011 – Regular Committee meeting

The committee spent most of the meeting discussing the draft proposal evaluations that had been completed by members and the format of the final report that will include recommendations to the Board of Selectmen for use(s) of the property. At their next meeting, February 2, members of the committee will offer their individual opinions regarding what those recommendations should include. The committee plans to have its final report by the end of February and is working to schedule a meeting with the Board of Selectmen in early March to present it.

January 19 Approved Minutes

January 5, 2011 – Regular Committee meeting

The committee did a “charette” – using a site plan and cutouts of scaled ballfields and buildings – tried to satisfy primary goals of each use on the property. The conclusion was that a full-sized ballfield simply could not fit at all.  Questions about whether the committee’s charge calls for a report with a recommendation or simply an evaluation is a question that will be taken to the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, January 10th. The committee will be preparing its final report that should be in draft form by the next meeting on January 19th.

January 5 Approved Minutes

December 16, 2010 – Regular Committee meeting – Approved minutes here.

Committee comes to consensus agreement that the farm should stay in tact as a community farm, with an eye towards possibilities for affordable housing that would be integral to the farm, e.g., such as that which might house a farm manager. Read the compelling  statement from Ginna Johnson, committee member, including the excerpted quote  from “A Letter to Thoreau”  in the prologue of the book, The Future of Life, by Lexington resident, E.O. Wilson.

Read the Lexington Minuteman Update here: “Busa Committee leaning towards community farm

December 16 Approved Minutes

December 7, 2010 –   Regular Committee meeting

December 7 Approved Minutes.

November 18, 2010 7:00 pm: Regular  Committee meeting

LexFarm summary: A great deal of the meeting was spent hearing from a resident who gave the farming history of the Waltham St. Fields and encouraged the committee to include in its report to the selectmen the possibility of having a community farm on those fields instead or in addition to the farmland of Busa Farm, as a way of providing more options for the Busa Farm, for recreation and/or affordable housing. The committee had a number of questions and concerns, but did not discuss any of the proposals in detail. In particular, they did not review any of the answers to any of the questions they had posed for all concept proposal presenters. They expect to begin sketching their own plan at the next meeting, drawing from elements of each of the proposals presented.

November 4, 2010 7:00 pm: Twenty-minute concept presentations from interested groups; Read LexFarm’s Presentation and Proposal here. See video of the presentation in 4 parts here.

October 27, 2010 7:00 pm, Arlington Town Hall: Open forum for Arlington residents with the BLUPC. Read the story in the Lexington Minuteman.

October 21, 2010 7:00 pm: Regular committee meeting

October 7, 2010  7:00 pm: Public invited to give committee input. Read the story in the Lexington Minuteman

September 28, 2010: Regular meeting of the committee; town of Arlington representatives spoke with the committee; October 7 will be continuation of public forum from September 15.

September 15, 2010: Public invited to give committee input.

Read the story in the Lexington Minuteman.

See a calendar of re-broadcast times, on LexMedia , including online streaming  of this meeting from September 21 – 29: http://lexfarm.wpengine.com/lexmedia-re-broadcast-schedule/

Video clips of individual speakers are being added to this playlist on Youtube:

Pick a few clips and be inspired all over again!!

http://bit.ly/Sept15_clips or see a montage of clips: bit.ly/ojjCau

August 26, 2010: BLUPC meeting: Committee confirms September 15th public forum and Oct 7 and Nov 4 to hear more formal proposals. Committee to request approval from Selectmen for site survey on Monday, August 30.

July 29, 2010: BLUPC meeting. Committee sets date of September 15th to hear from public. Read Minuteman article here.

July 27, 2010: BLUPC has a tour of Busa Farm

July 8, 2010: First meeting of the “BLUPC”. All meetings are open to the public and scheduled on the town calendar:


June 21, 2010: Busa Land Use Proposal Committee is appointed with members: William Dailey, Ric Fulop, David Horton, Virginia Johnson, Pamela Shadley, Deborah Strod and Albert Zabin.

April 10, 2010: Selectmen approve charge to Busa Land Use Proposal Committee; read it here.

Feb. 4, 2010: Community Preservation Committee is informed that the Goldinger parcel will not be sold to the Town in the near future.

Dec. 4, 2009: Town of Lexington closes on the former Busa Farm on Lowell Street. Dennis Busa leases the property back from the Town for the 2010 growing season.

May 9, 2009: Selectmen discuss the the composition of a “land use committee” to determine ultimate use or uses of the farm. Further discussion is postponed over the summer until more information is available about the possible purchase of an abutting piece of property, the “Goldinger” parcel.

May 6, 2009: Lexington Town Meeting votes unanimously to purchase the Busa Farm property with Community Preservation Act funds, but leaves the decision on use to a later date by purchasing the property for “recreation and/or affordable housing and/or open space purposes…”

May 5, 2009: Citizens speak up to Lexington’s Community Preservation Committee asking that the purchase of Busa Farm be made with “and/or” language that would preserve all possibilities, including farming, i.e.,  “open space and/or recreation and/or affordable housing” :

See Busa Farm Reference page for more detailed history and more videos.