HOPEDALE — The Supreme Judicial Court has refused a developer’s request to review a state Appeals Court decision that prevents construction of a subdivision on Old Salt Box Road, ending a long battle between the developer and a neighborhood coalition.

The court last week denied further appellate review of the case between Black Brook Realty Corp. and Overdale Parkway Coalition, said the coalition’s attorney Mark Bourbeau.

“They basically decided there is no further appeal for the developer,” Bourbeau said. “In other words, the coalition wins…It’s all over.”

The state Appeals Court in June upheld the state Land Court’s prior ruling that Black Brook Realty lacks legal right to use at least the unpaved portion of Overdale Parkway to access the proposed 42-home subdivision from the closest public way, Freedom Street. The decision, like the Land Court’s, stopped the subdivision from being built.

In August, the developer filed a petition to have the case reviewed, but the SJC’s latest ruling has put an end to the case, Bourbeau said.

“We’re delighted…We’ve known all along that building that subdivision at the end of this street was wrong and illegal. We now have three court decisions to prove we were correct,” said coalition member Denise Linder, who lives on Overdale Parkway, a private, dead-end road owned by the town of Hopedale.

Linder said the SJC decision protects the parkway and “the landscape of Hopedale, which we all hold near and dear to our hearts.”

Black Brook’s attorney, John Powers, could not be reached for comment.

Overdale Parkway has fought the proposed development for about five and half years. It first appealed Hopedale and Mendon planning boards’ approval of the proposed subdivision in April 2000. The development, which was to be overseen by John Burns of Black Brook Realty, would sit in both of the neighboring towns.

The Land Court ruled against Black Brook Realty in February, annulling the planning boards’ approvals. Black Brook Realty appealed that decision.

“(The coalition has) had a lot of hurdles to jump along the way,” Linder said. “We’ve come a very long way.”

Through fund-raisers and donations, the coalition has raised and spent about $100,000 to fight the proposed subdivision.

Despite the SJC’s ruling, Linder said the Overdale Parkway Coalition will stay intact.

“We are ever vigilant to continue to protect this street and the open space at the end of street that abuts the Parklands. Our coalition and our efforts are still needed,” she said.

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 [email protected]. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.

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 withLinder 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 [email protected]. Find her on Twitter at

HOPEDALE — An agreement between the town and a pair of developers looking to add 10 new houses on the edge of Hopedale’s conservation land was solidified earlier this month.

Selectmen voted to accept the gift of an improved roadway off Overdale Parkway in May, according to Town Administrator Diana Schindler. Doing so allows resident and local police officer Ricardo Lima and Hopkinton-based Black Brook Realty to access their properties in the woods and build 10 houses.

“The board voted already to accept this gift of the road, which is an improved roadway, and this is the terms of, basically, that acceptance,” Schindler said of the contract that lawyers waed officials through this month.

The paved part of Overdale Parkway currently dead-ends at a gate in the woods. It then gives way to a wide trail, which is used to access walking paths in the preserved conservation land.

Lima and Black Brook Realty intend to pave the road in the woods before gifting it to the town.

A group of residents pushed back against the proposed development earlier this year, saying the land was Parklands and protected, but they do not appear to have filed legal action. Residents did not speak up during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting earlier this month, and the landowners say their property ends before the Parklands begins.

The agreement discussed this month would add four or five public parking spaces, beyond what is planned for potential new residents, for people intending to use the Parklands recreationally, as well as access to the conservation land. There are currently no designated parking spaces at the dead end,

“I look forward to the development Mr. Lima and the folks on the other side are developing,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Keyes said, “and ultimately, it’ll be a happy day when we can welcome 10 new families to the community of Hopedale.”

Lima would build four houses on his property, on one side of the road, while Black Brook Realty would build six on its property on the other side. Neither party is allowed to build more, and the agreement says they would give the town any land that is left over.

Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or [email protected]. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.

.HOPEDALE — Thirty Hopedale residents signed a petition this month requesting the town put a stop to a pair of housing developments bordering conservation land.

“This development will change both the experience and the integrity of the Parklands as a parcel,” said Rob Fahey, a nonresident who has commented against the project at a handful of public meetings on behalf of a Hopedale family. “It’s going to be more populated, there’s going to be development in there, there’s going to be noise.”

Two developers, local resident and police officer Ricardo Lima and Hopkinton-based Black Brook Realty plan to build a total of 10 houses between them, using land on either side of an unfinished section of Overdale Parkway.

Developers and the town finalized an agreement last month that would allow the project to go forward, though it needs to go through the local permitting process and associated boards

“At the end of the day, this is an item that has been fully executed and in the eyes of the board is done,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Keyes said this week. “I feel holistically comfortable with my portion of the vote and where things went, and … people are entitled to their everlasting opinion on it.”

Residents have targeted the unpaved road in their opposition, noting that it has long been used as a walking path to the 280-acre Parklands. The paved part of the road currently dead-ends at a yellow gate in the woods, and the two developers intend to pave the rest in order to provide access to the new homes.

“The opposition letter here is really to convey our position that the past precedent that’s been set … since 1916, has always been that that’s used for Parklands,” resident Stephanie Thomas told selectmen this week. “It’s a Parklands entrance.”

Residents at this week’s selectmen’s meeting questioned the town’s due diligence in making sure the development is legal, whether the unpaved road is protected, and whether the board has authority over it.

Thomas said she found a law that could mean the area is now a Town Common, and suggested the town could refuse to accept it as a road since it hasn’t been used for that purpose in 20 years. However, a lawyer for the town rejected that interpretation.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair statement,” Keyes said, in response to a resident saying she didn’t think the town had considered a handful of related information. “To say that we didn’t review all of the facts of the case, I mean, that’s not even close to being true.”

Selectmen said they ordered a title search earlier this year, and had lawyers comb through Town Meeting records and related laws, confirming that the land is not Parklands and the development is legal.

New members:Council names four at-large members to Community Preservation Committee

“At the end of the day, I think the most favorable way to look at this — and whether you’ll ever get there or not is completely up to you — the development will be a beautiful one,” Keyes told residents.

Opponents, many of whom live on Overdale Parkway, also complained that the new road will impair their experience walking into the woods. Selectmen pointed to a clause in the development agreement that would provide for public parking spaces specifically for Parklands access, compared to a lack of spaces at the dead-end now. Residents who do not live within walking distance could use the entrance, Keyes said.

“We’re not eliminating access,” he said. “In fact, we’re probably and arguably improving access.”

Keyes said he may discuss residents’ opposition letter with town lawyers, and potentially respond to it formally, but the board did not take any action.

Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or [email protected]. Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.

By Theresa Knapp
Local Town Pages – Hopedale, March 2022

The Hopedale Select Board has received a letter from an attorney representing the Overdale Parkway Association which claims the settlement agreement reached in August on the Black Brook matter is not valid and that all work must stop on the site at the end of Overdale Parkway or they will take “an appropriate action in court.” 
The letter dated Feb. 7 to the Select Board from Mark S. Bourbeau of Drohan Tocchio & Morgan PC in Hingham says the OPA residents “are opposed to and intend to vigorously contest the Town’s plans and agreement to grant rights in the publicly-owned parkway for the principal purpose of conferring a private benefit on Black Brook Realty Corp. and Mr. [Ricardo] Lima (the “Developers”), under the pretext of the Developers granting a “gift” to the Town of improving the unpaved portion of the parkway.” 
They say the development owner “was observed to be digging up a section of the town land which comprises a part of the unpaved portion of the parkway” and that the town “must immediately prohibit any further such conduct by a private citizen on town land.” 
The OPA claims the agreement signed by the Select Board and developers on August 9, 2021, is “unlawful and will fail under challenge” because: 
The Agreement ignores and violates the holding in the 2004 case involving the Town of Hopedale and Black Brook. The town lacks authority to divert public resources to principally benefit private parties. The contemplated grant of rights in the Parkway to developers for subdivision access would effectuate an eminent domain taking against the OPA Residents’ real property interests. 
The Town Meeting vote relied on as authority for the Agreement is stale and of no effect. 
Since Overdale Parkway is not a town way, and the Developers lack rights of private access, the Planning Board would be without authority to approve the subdivision of land which relies on access to the Parkway. The unpaved portion of Overdale Parkway is subject to Article 97 restrictions. 
At its Feb. 14 meeting, the Select Board acknowledged receipt of the letter but did not discuss it any further. The letter can be found on the Select Board’s webpage and at https://bit.ly/3JJFDkL.

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.

Thanks to Susan Elliott for the two maps above.

Click above to read the letter.