WESTFORD -- Because the current tenant renting the site of the former Drew Garden and Wildbird Center refuses to hand over her lease to selectmen, the board is now at an impasse.

Tuesday night, Chairman Andrea Peraner-Sweet asked Nancy Morton, of Tyngsboro, to cooperate with officials.

"Let me ask you the bottom line question. Will you give us a copy of the lease or no?" Peraner-Sweet asked.

Morton responded she'd only let officials "look" at the lease but they couldn't take a copy home for review.

The situation surrounding the Boston Road land -- protected by agricultural preservation restrictions -- is complex. The owners of the site, Tom and David Goddard, recently rented the land to Morton who says she's looking to run a garden shop with a program called "CNS Mustard Seed" allowing people with intellectual disabilities to farm.

Her plans also include running a café, which became the sticking point for selectmen Tuesday night. Peraner-Sweet told Morton the restrictions on the property don't allow a business to run a coffee shop.

Morton then said she felt as though she was being blamed by town administrators for truckloads of compost dumped on the site recently. Peraner-Sweet said a cease-and-desist order from the town was directed to the Goddards, not Morton, regarding the compost. Peraner-Sweet said that was an entirely "separate issue" from the one concerning her.


Town Manager Jodi Ross said she heard from staff in the Planning Department at Town Hall Morton has been difficult to contact. Morton argued that she's spoken with town departments several times since the last selectmen's meeting.

Selectmen said they hoped to see Morton's lease soon but warned her at this point she can't launch a café at her newly-opened store.

Officials will next move forward with forming a "Drew Garden Task Force," to see if the town would benefit from purchasing the land. About 30 residents applied to sit on that group, though there are only five spots available.

Follow Samantha Allen on Twitter and Tout @SAllen_89.