The now familiar Waldingfield kerfuffle that spurs a chuckle pits the interests of moneyed horsepower against that of moneyed corporate expansion, all set against the tranquil pastures of 55 Waldingfield Road. The equine crowd has formed a posse known as the Friends of Waldingfield, and has charged headlong against the ORA Corporation’s intended purchase of the property for their new headquarters. This on-going horse opera has it all; money and influence, lawyers, elitists and plebeians, allegations of conflict of interest on the part of public officials, anonymous influencers from parts unknown, and occasional grains of truth.
Admittedly, I may suffer from an undiagnosed case of myopia as I can’t envision what ORA does for business. Perhaps they create oracles, which would be a good thing as they certainly seem in short supply around here. At post time, ORA appears to hold the pole position in this steeplechase, with the Friends of Waldingfield late from the gate and hoofing it off the outside rail. The FOW wants to purchase the property to preserve their grazing rights on the open range and convert the mansion to a boutique hotel themed all things boots and saddles. Both parties appear regularly before the Planning Board, jockeying for position and approval from the judges. The latest chukker, as reported in The Local News, involves the FOW giving ORA a hook and demanding to see their purchase and sale agreement on the property. ORA cried neigh, and the drama remains, as one local attorney told me years ago, the fodder of what makes good court cases and horse races. The smart money is betting on a photo finish.
If the FOW win by a nose and are able to create their hotel, lodging in Ipswich will certainly have come a long way from the days of the original Whittier Motel, Sunnyside Cabins and the tragic Hayes Hotel of yesteryear. I wonder though, in this curious age of the great resignation featuring low unemployment yet no one seeming to work, if the FOW would be able to round up an adequate stable of wranglers and bunk house hands to serve the needs of the mounted guests. Most of the old retirees are already working at Home Depot, Market Basket, or substitute teaching and delivering flowers.
I don’t have a dog in this fight other than wanting the prize awarded to whoever pony’s up the most tax revenue to the town and drinks less water from the Ipswich River. I do know that the rich are very skilled at avoiding taxation. It’s one of the reasons they remain rich. The town deciders need to exercise a lot of horse sense in this regard. As an alternative, allow me to offer a humble suggestion.
As you recall, the Selectboard feared that any future Town Manager candidate would gallop away from the job if required to buy one of the many homes currently on the market and move to Ipswich. They then stampeded Town Meeting to alter the charter eliminating this requirement. Those of us old nags who believed the chief administrator should actually live in the town where they make hay were put out to pasture by a lopsided margin.
To right this wrong, save the mansion, and fill the Town’s feedbag, I suggest that we bushwhack both ORA and the FOW and take 55 Waldingfield through the process of eminent domain. We then advertise the property as an Executive Mansion to house the Town Manager. They wouldn’t get the whole place of course, I’m thinking along the lines of three bedrooms, two baths, a kitchenette and rumpus room. The remainder of the building and grounds we lease to either ORA or the FOW for the top dollar, or to both if we wish to. The TM could receive an extra stipend to run the hotel at night and over the weekend, or get a seat on ORA’s board of directors. Such an action would make Ipswich a trend setting outlier for all municipalities and once again put us on the map as the birthplace of something. The revenue stream would be steep and dependable, and not likely to be manipulated by sneaky conversions of portions of the property to open space. (This isn’t my first rodeo and I know how some minds work in this regard).
So chew this one over and let me know what you think. This trifecta of a solution is better than a tip from a dead jockey.