You’d have to admit, Lee Chisholm was persistent. He started a Christmas tree farm in the northern reaches of Wilmington, and in 1974, he sought a permit to remove about 25,000 yards of gravel. The selectmen repeatedly turned him down.
“Why are you back?” asked George Boylen when Chisholm came before the board for the sixth time, on Sept. 13, 1976.
Boylen said they had been friends for a number of years, but that Chisholm was straining that friendship.
Chisholm lived on Andover Street, with his house fronting on Foster’s Pond. He first came to Foster’s Pond in 1910 and had been a Wilmington resident since the early 1930s. He and his son owned about five acres of land, zoned rural, on Foster’s Pond Road.
Leland Chisholm, Jr. had bought the land from the Foster’s Improvement Association in 1951, thinking he would eventually build a home there. However, he became a landscape architect and city planner and settled in Connecticut.
Under the terms of sale, if he ever sold it, he would sell it back to the association at cost plus taxes. In 25 years, though, the land value had appreciated to a point where a sale under those terms would no longer be reasonable.
Because the land was zoned rural (60,000 s.f. lots), subdividing it would yield three houselots. Had it been zoned residential, (22,500 s.f. lots) there would have possibly been nine. So they turned to the definition of rural property and started a farm, a Christmas tree farm.
They leveled much of the property, digging away a hill. Without a permit to remove the gravel, piled the gravel in one corner. They then planted 3,000 trees, Scotch pine and Douglas fir on the leveled area.
Leland Chisholm Jr. said the level ground, five feet above the water table, would greatly reduce the runoff of fertilizer
There was opposition to the gravel removal from some Andover residents living nearby. Foster’s Pond road begins in Wilmington, and, as one might deduce, leads to Foster’s Pond, much of which is in Andover.
The Foster’s Pond Improvement Association had conducted a similar gravel operation on abutting property in 1975, purportedly for a playground. The playground, though, was never built.
The Chisholms tried again in 1978. There was a different Board of Selectmen with three new members. This time, the board granted a permit to remove the gravel.