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Homeowners Near Ward Park File Suit Against City, Seek to Stop Senior Center Construction

The lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court says the city did not get the required state approvals to replace recreation space with a two-story senior center.

Residents opposed to the senior center at Ward Park, who attended the Nov. 4 City Council meeting, held these signs. Credit: Mary MacDonald
Residents opposed to the senior center at Ward Park, who attended the Nov. 4 City Council meeting, held these signs. Credit: Mary MacDonald
A group of four homeowners has filed a lawsuit that challenges the city's construction of a senior center on a portion of Ward Park, and seek an immediate stop to the work.

The City Council authorized the Senior Center at Ward Park in November in a 10-1 vote, over the objection of residents who say the city park was acquired and has historically been used for youth and recreational purposes.

In the lawsuit, filed Dec. 27 by attorney Julie McNeill of Dracut, the plaintiffs argue that the city did not get the required permission of the state legislature, of the state environmental authorities, or the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The lawsuit argues that the park — acquired through an eminent domain taking in 1923 "for the purpose of a public play ground or recreation center" — is restricted in its use as a result of that action.

The entrance gate and archway, erected in 1925, is on the Massachusetts Historical Commission's list of historic places, as is the park.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents Michael Nickolas, Faith Nickolas, of Water Terrace, Ned Fenstermacher, of Hayden Street, and Paul Brodeur, of Hayden Street.

In the City Council vote authorizing the senior center, Ward 4 Councilor Robert Tunnera was the only member opposed. He had argued that the senior center was being placed in a location that it would soon outgrow.

The council in its vote approved a bond, which would provide $6.5 million for the senior center building, and $3 million for park improvements.

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