Preserve Trees and Wetlands


125 Oakland Street


Adjacent to Centennial Park




This 14-acre property at 125 Oakland Street, which abuts Centennial Reservation, is zoned “Educational.” However, the Sisters of Charity, owners of the property, have been able to operate a facility for various elderly-living and nursing services for decades through a religious exemption. They were seeking a zoning amendment at the November 2023 Special Town Meeting to allow for the sale of the property to a non-religious entity. This zoning amendment did not provide for permanent protection of the trees and wetlands around the perimeter of the property. After much public engagement regarding protection of natural assets, and an unfavorable vote by the Advisory Committee, the request was withdrawn. Future plans are unknown. 


Details and Timeline: 

The 14-acre property abutting Centennial Reservation is owned by the Sisters of Charity. It is located in the Town’s Educational district. However, the owners of 125 Oakland Street have been operating various assisted elderly housing, independent elderly housing, nursing home and/or skilled nursing facilities and related services for decades through a religious exemption. 


In June of 2023 the owners, based out of Nova Scotia, notified residents through counsel that they were seeking a zoning amendment to allow for the sale of the property to a third party to continue the operation of the existing facility under non-religious ownership at the 2023 November Special Town Meeting - Article 15 on the Warrant. 


Many residents were concerned that the zoning amendment as proposed did not provide for permanent protection of the trees and wetlands around the perimeter of the property. While the Sisters of Charity have always valued the natural assets on the property, they would be ceding ownership to another owner, and any future owners. 


An outpouring of concern for Wellesley’s natural assets at large, Centennial Reservation, and the Sisters of Charity ensued, which included dozens of emails sent to town officials, numerous appearances by residents at government meetings, and a letter signed by hundreds of Wellesley residents advocating for the preservation of the natural resources at the site.


On August 24, 2023, the Planning Board heard from the proponent and then voted to not sponsor the Article on the Town Meeting Warrant. In a second vote that same evening the Board voted to place the unsponsored Article on the Warrant as a courtesy to the proponent, eliminating the need for the proponent to gather the 100 signatures required to place a citizen petition on the Warrant. Minutes. Video of meeting


On October 3, 2023, Wellesley’s Natural Resources Commission (responsible for the care, custody, and control of Centennial Reservation), voted to make a statement in opposition to the zoning amendment as written. 


On October 4, 2023, The Wellesley Conservation Land Trust offered to purchase a Conservation Restriction of up to 6 acres at full independently appraised value on the property at 125 Oakland Street. The offer was subject to a mutual agreement on boundaries and raising funds from public and private sources. 


On October 4, 2023, residents spoke to the Advisory Committee and stated to the proponents: We want to reiterate that we share your values and appreciate your contributions to our town, while also urging you to protect natural assets for future generations through permanent protections. 


On October 11, 2023, the Sisters of Charity, through its counsel, declined to consider the offer from the Land Trust, and urged the Land Trust to refrain from further pursuit of a Conservation Restriction until such time as a new owner/operator has been secured.


On October 11, 2023, a resident presented to the Advisory Committee a letter signed by over 430 Wellesley residents requesting that Conservation Restrictions or other vehicles be used to protect the existing open space at the perimeter of the property, in perpetuity. 


On October 17, 2023, the Wellesley Trails Committee issued a memo in support of Conservation Restrictions at 125 Oakland Street in order to preserve the natural assets on the property as well as protect Centennial Park and its trails. 


On October 19, 2023, the Advisory Committee voted 11-2-1 against approving Article 15. 


On November 4, 2023, Counsel to the Sisters of Charity wrote to the Town Meeting Moderator: 


“On behalf of the Sisters of Charity, please be advised that I will not be moving Article 15.”


No further information is available at this time. 


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Join over 460 Wellesley residents who have signed the following letter requesting conservation restrictions be put in place in order to protect this town-wide natural asset that contributes to our town’s climate resiliency, natural environment, and our health.



To Add Your Name to the Letter to the Sisters of Charity,

Email with your Name and Address



Letter to Sisters of Charity:


Dear Attorney Himmelberger,

Thank you for listening to the concerns of the community and for sharing your revised
proposal for 125 Oakland Street. We appreciate you reaching out to us, as we also share
the goals of the Sisters: that they be financially able to both age in place, and continue their
philanthropic activities.

The over 300 residents from across Town who signed the original petition believe these
goals can be achieved while preserving existing open space on the property, which is an
integral part of the largest conservation district in town. This land has provided natural
habitat and climate resiliency to our area well before the founding of Wellesley, and through
decades of stewardship by the Sisters.

In the spirit of ongoing dialogue, we share with you the following requests to be codified in
any agreement:


  • Language which clearly indicates that any future redevelopment occurs within the existing developed footprint of the property.
  • Application of Conservation Restrictions or other vehicles which will protect existing open space in perpetuity.


Protecting this open space would benefit all in the following ways:

  • Streamline the process for any future sale
  • Meet the needs and goals of the Sisters
  • Solidify the Sisters’ legacy of land conservation.

We trust any proposed buyer would also share these land stewardship values which are
important elements of any sustainable development.

By saving this land, existing and future residents of the property can enjoy the same
benefits the Sisters of Charity carefully created at this peaceful setting, and future
generations can benefit from the preservation of Wellesley’s natural resources.

We look forward to further discussing these suggestions. Again, thank you for reaching out
to the community.

To add your name:
• email:
• state you wish to sign the letter
• provide your full name and address






More information: 


The Sisters of Charity, located at 125 Oakland Street adjacent to Centennial Park, would like to sell their 14-acre property and are seeking zoning relief from the Town through Fall Town Meeting in November, to do so. 


We believe there is ample room on this 14-acre parcel to balance increased development with appropriate conservation measures which meet the objectives in Wellesley’s Unified and Climate Action plans. 


We ask for conservation restrictions to protect the wetlands, mature tree canopy and other sensitive natural resources. Watch a resident speak to these issues here.




The Wellesley Conservation Land Trust, a private, non-profit organization in Wellesley since 1958, has offered to purchase up to six acres of land for a conservation restriction.


Please see the Sisters’ refusal/response to the offer.


(Note: the reference in the letter to the residents who requested a Special Permit does not represent the Friends of Brookside. The Friends of Brookside have always advocated for conservation restrictions or other tools to protect these lands in perpetuity.)




The owners have proposed a new revision to their amendment request, adding a requirement of a Special Permit from the Wellesley Zoning Board of Appeals.

A Special Permit is the least restrictive preservation option. The strongest protection for our trees and wetlands continues to be conservation restrictions, or a development agreement with the current owner, either of which would protect natural resources in perpetuity. Land preservation options were discussed by the Natural Resources Commission on October 4, 2023 and September 7, 2023.

Read letters from the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission and the Wellesley Trails Committee. (Below, under "Documents")

(You can view the NRC land preservation slides here.) 

Take three minutes and watch what a resident - who was the first Chair of the NRC and who negotiated the acquisition of Centennial Park from the Sisters in 1980 - had to say about protecting the natural environment at 125 Oakland Street.


Please take a moment to watch three residents make important points regarding 125 Oakland Street at the Advisory Committee Public Hearing. Watch the entire meeting here


Catch up on Meetings: 

8.24.23 Planning Board Meeting

8.21.23 Planning Board Meeting

9.7.23 Natural Resources Commission (NRC) Meeting - Land Preservation Discussion, and see slides, above

9.27.23 Advisory Committee Public Hearing

10.2.23 Planning Board Public Hearing and vote

10.3.23 Natural Resources Commission (NRC) 

10.19.23: NRC discussion here starting at 12:55.

10.19.232: Advisory Committee vote here starting at 2:33.