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115WVN # 115- Town Center, Fincom, School Committee Update

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  • waylandvoters
    Oct 14, 2005
      Dear Wayland voter,

      Voting 5-0 but with less than unanimous enthusiasm, Wayland
      selectmen agreed on a deal on the proposed "town center"
      project, as WVN Editor Michael Short reports.

      WVN reader Molly Upton reports on the Finance Committee's
      efforts to trim the budget for next year. If you have ideas on how
      the town might save money, please send them to the Ad Hoc
      Budget Advisory Committee through Town Administrator Fred
      Turkington (fturkington@...).

      An important hearing is scheduled on the budget for Wayland's
      schools, which account for two-thirds of the town's expenses, as
      WVN reader Ken Isaacson explains below.


      SELECTMEN OK DEAL WITH DEVELOPERS, WANT VOTERS
      TO DECIDE

      After some last-minute negotiating with the developers, Wayland
      selectmen unanimously approved an agreement to proceed
      toward a 450,000-square-foot commercial-residential
      redevelopment at the former Raytheon site on Route 20.

      The agreement will become effective if voters at a Special Town
      Meeting on Nov. 1 approve mixed-use zoning by-law on which
      the Planning Board recommends a No vote. Under the
      agreement, the developers will work toward approval of a
      master special permit, followed by specific building permits.
      That complicated process is estimated, perhaps optimistically,
      to take about two years, and the project is expected to be
      complete by 2012.

      Doug Leard and two other selectmen expressed reservations
      about the project but concluded that the matter should be left in
      voters' hands.

      "I think this was the best deal we've been able to get out of the
      developers," said Joe Nolan.

      Alan Reiss expressed less confidence that this was the best
      possible deal, but agreed that it would be unwise to go to Town
      Meeting without a development agreement exerting some control
      over the developers.

      Chairman Michael Tichnor and Bill Whitney, as they have
      throughout the process, expressed no reservations. Tichnor
      predicted that the development could help to relieve the burden
      on residential taxpayers.

      After approval by lawyers, signing and printing, the agreement is
      scheduled to be mailed to voters next week. Selectmen missed
      their deadline for inclusion in the printed TM warrant.

      The agreement, like the proposed zoning changes, is not written
      for laymen. WVN will have comment and analysis in future
      newsletters.

      Many agreements between municipalities and developers
      specify in detail such things as the number, size and use of
      buildings. Wayland's, though, was conceived as an "envelope"
      within which the developer enjoys flexibility.

      During the meeting on Oct. 11, developers agreed to small
      changes which Nolan later said met his concerns. Not all thrusts
      were successful.

      Reiss tried to squeeze out a little more to help pay for possible
      repairs to the aging waste water treatment plant. Other users of
      the plant would suffer seriously from added costs, he said, and
      the end result might be a loss of tax revenue.

      "Think about it before you say no," Reiss told the developers
      facetiously.

      They said no.

      Selectmen acknowledged, at least indirectly, they they hadn't
      consulted enough with other town boards that have an important
      role in development matters. There are significant health, waste
      water, road and environmental issues.

      "I don't think we have any choice" about voting before the end of
      the meeting, Tichnor said. Without an agreement, they would
      have faced the choice of asking voters to approve zoning
      changes without further limitations or asking Town Meeting to
      pass over (take no immediate action) on the zoning articles.

      During public comment, several residents asked the board to
      delay. Others urged the selectmen to proceed despite the
      Planning Board's rejection of its own zoning articles five days
      earlier.

      A supporter of the development asked for "trust and faith" in the
      developers and town officials.

      Another resident asserted that financial and other risks haven't
      been sufficiently addressed. "Take a little more time," he asked.

      Meanwhile, residents continue to argue for and against the
      proposal in the Wayland Town Crier and online media as well as
      before the Board of Selectmen. (www.towncenteryes.com,
      www.waylandCARD.blogspot.com.)

      Proponents frequently say that if the shopping
      center/condominium/apartment project isn't built, the only
      alternatives are office use (as in the past for four decades) or
      affordable housing. Opponents counter that the 57-acre
      parcel isn't zoned for housing and that the Massachusetts
      Appellate Tax Board declared that an office park is the best and
      highest use of the land.

      Opponents often say they merely want a smaller development,
      not a mall visually dominated by national retailers.

      One resident told the selectmen on Tuesday that rumors are
      being circulated that opponents are the same "anti-school"
      voters who rejected a proposal in January to build a new high
      school. That's not true, the resident asserted, adding that the
      opponents she knows voted for a new school.



      FINCOM ASKS 8 PERCENT BUDGET CUTS

      WILL SOLICIT DEPARTMENT VIEWS ON ZONING BY-LAW

      At its meeting Oct. 11, the Finance Committee approved its
      Fiscal Year 2007 budget guidelines memo to be sent to all
      departments asking for an 8 percent budget reduction to cover
      an expected shortfall, and for detailed information on how
      departments plan to meet this expense reduction.

      The shortfall has been estimated at $3.3 million.

      Chairman Chris Riley reiterated that the two largest expenses
      are those over which the Fincom has little or no control:
      pensions and health insurance. The Fincom is working on the
      insurance issue, and is contemplating some "out of the box"
      thinking regarding Wayland's participation in the Middlesex
      Retirement System pension plan.

      The Fincom hopes to have firmer numbers on insurance costs
      and state aid by the end of December before it decides how to
      cover the shortfall. It has said that no articles should be
      submitted for town meeting that impact cash reserves. One such
      article for November's special town meeting is from the Council
      on Aging for van expenses. Fincom has told the COA to ask the
      selectmen for funds from its budget.

      Fincom also discussed the recent abatement settlement for the
      former Raytheon property. The town owes the owners of the
      property $149,338 for FY03 and $240,252 for FY04. The town
      has $100,000 remaining in overlay abatement funds from this
      period, so Fincom estimates the town will have to pay out about
      $336,000, (including about $50,000 in interest) which will be
      added to the amount needed from the 2007 tax rate. The
      appellate tax board has not ruled on the 2005 abatement
      application.

      The Fincom is planning to meet with other boards next Monday,
      Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. to solicit their perceptions of the fiscal impact of
      the "town center" mixed use overlay district zoning bylaw (and
      development agreement) before writing its recommendation on
      this important article.

      On Monday the 24th, the Fincom will hold a budget hearing at
      6:30 p.m., followed by voting on the special town meeting
      articles.



      OPEN FORUM ON SCHOOL BUDGET

      The Wayland School Committee has agreed this year to hold a
      public budget hearing on Monday, Oct. 17, 7-9 p.m., at the Middle
      School. There is a vast difference from last year's hearing.

      This meeting will be an open forum for input from voters, prior to
      any decisions by the School Department about how the budget
      will be built. This is significant for Wayland because last year's
      School Committee had already accepted the Fiscal year 2006
      Budget Guidelines before the hearing.

      This year the School Committee has adopted a more open and
      inclusive budget hearing process that would allow real public
      input. The School Committee last month voted to hold the Oct.
      17 hearing, bringing the public into the decision process.

      Again in 2006, there is expected to be an override vote, which
      could result in a tax Increase that could be another 8 percent
      plus or minus. That would mean an almost 18 percent increase
      in two years. The town's finances are in dire straits already. An
      ad hoc committee, headed by Chris Riley of the Finance
      Committee, has been working since spring trying to head off the
      huge budget shortfall expected.

      That committee is calling for an 8 percent cost reduction across
      the board. But even the most drastic cuts that town departments
      could make will be a drop in the bucket. That's why some believe
      the only way to reduce the shortfall significantly is by making
      prudent reductions in the School Department as well, and that
      the School Department shouldn't be immune from budget cuts.

      Monday evening will be an opportunity for the voters to
      understand how their budget is spent and to begin to inform
      School leaders whether any reductions in School Department
      budgets should be made to ease the tax burden on town
      residents. This year it is possible for the public to have their say
      before the school budget is finalized.

      Some voters feel the School's budget should not be tampered
      with because reductions will mean reduced quality of education
      and lower property values. Others feel the Wayland Schools are
      trying to provide a "private school" education with limited public
      funds. If you have an opinion on how the schools should be
      prioritizing their budget under our strained economic condition,
      you should attend the Middle School hearing. As a Wayland
      voter, this is YOUR Hearing.

      Participation in government is a basic right and responsibility.
      For a short two hours on Oct. 17 you have an opportunity to play a
      big part in Town government.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
      your friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors