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A David beats a Goliath

Teresian Carmelite monks win a ruling ordering American Tower Corp. to sell them land on which they want to build a monastery, wind farm

The monks prevail.

The Teresian Carmelites, a tiny religious community in Worcester, have won their lawsuit against American Tower Corp., which the monks had accused of breaching its agreement to sell them a 99-acre site in Central Massachusetts where they want to build a monastery and wind farm.

As a result of the ruling, the Teresians are scheduled to take ownership Thursday of the Paxton property, a hilly woodland site called Asnebumskit Hill with panoramic views of Wachusett Valley and the Berkshire Mountains.

"The little David won against the Goliath," said Brother Dennis Wyrzykowski, prior of the Catholic order, whose members live a life of contemplation that includes six hours of prayer a day.

The Teresians, who received loans and donations to pay for the land, still face daunting financial hurdles. They must now raise money to construct an environmentally friendly monastery, a project Wyrzykowski said will cost "in the millions," and a wind farm that would subsidize electricity for hundreds of low-income homes.

A lawyer for Boston-based American Tower, one of the nation's largest owners of towers used to transmit wireless signals, did not return a call for comment.

In April 2005, the Teresians signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for the property with American Tower, which agreed to sell it to them for $230,000. Within a week, the Teresians learned the site had been designated "one of the best locations for wind energy on land in the state" by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which wanted to put two wind turbines there.

In October 2005, the day the monks were scheduled to take ownership of the land, American Tower asked for a monthlong delay to review documents. The following month, according to Wyrzykowski, he received a call from a company executive who said American Tower wanted to lease the land for 99 years rather than sell it due to its commercial potential.

The monks then sued, and since last fall have been represented free of charge by a Cambridge law firm, Anderson & Kreiger.

On March 29, Judge Ernest B. Murphy of Worcester Superior Court granted the Teresians summary judgment, effectively ending the case.

One legal issue remains to be resolved: a claim by a Marshfield wireless communication company that leases two acres of the site and contends its lease gives it the right to buy the acreage if the land is sold. A lawyer for the firm, Industrial Communications and Electronics Inc., did not return a call.

But the monks' purchase of the property should not be affected by ICE's claim, according to a lawyer for the Teresians. And Wyrzykowski was notified this week by a Paxton official that American Tower has told the town the land is being transferred to the monks.

"This has been a dream since 1978, which is most of my life, so this is a real exciting time," said Wyrzykowski, 44. "We went through all these years of issues and problems and obstacles, but I kept going forward, I didn't quit, I never gave up hope, and I knew in my heart this was going to happen."

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at