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154WVN Newsletter #149: Town center talks as "soap opera"

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  • waylandvoters1
    Mar 1, 2006
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      In the headlong rush to put a housing/shopping development
      before voters again in the spring, the selectmen and the
      Planning Board virtually stopped talking with each other and
      used the town's lawyer for a local version of shuttle diplomacy.
      This may strike some voters as a strange way to manage a
      $100 million proposal that would change the character of
      Wayland forever.

      After hours of intense discussion Monday night, the selectmen
      extended the deadline for submitting Special Town Meeting
      warrant articles from Feb. 28 to March 7.

      Meanwhile, the two boards will meet together Thursday, March 2,
      at 7 p.m. to discuss the agreement with developers that would
      complement a Town Meeting zoning article. The meeting is
      scheduled to be televised live on the Wayland cable channel.

      The Planning Board worked past midnight on Monday to draft an
      article intended to protect the town's interests. Signage and the
      developer's ability to change commercial tenants without
      Planning Board input are the major concerns.

      The selectmen are urging concessions to the developer. The
      developer threatens to drop the whole idea if he doesn't like the
      zoning article. Molly Upton reports on what brought it to this


      There was high drama in town hall Monday night. "Better than a
      soap opera" and "the most exciting night I've seen in Wayland"
      were among comments from observers. The top issues:
      last-minute requests for changes by the developer, and whether
      two zoning bylaws will be submitted, one by the Planning Board
      and one by the selectmen.

      The night before the Feb. 28 deadline for filing special Town
      Meeting warrant articles, the Planning Board and the Board of
      Selectmen were feverishly, separately working on a mixed use
      overlay district zoning bylaw. Once an article is filed, it cannot
      undergo substantive changes, although it can be fine-tuned.

      In its room, the Planning Board continued its grinding review of a
      draft bylaw presented by town counsel Mark Lanza after lengthy
      consultations with the developer's attorney, Adam Weisenberg of
      Goodwin Procter. This document strongly resembled the bylaw
      that voters rejected in November but changeds several of the
      special permit processes into less rigorous site plan reviews.

      Associate Planning Board member Anette Lewis had warned the
      selectmen and the developer at an early February meeting, when
      the developer agreed to pursue the shopping center (but not to
      forego its right to file for a 40B housing development), that the
      board could meet its submission deadline only if the changes
      were minor and focused on the three areas demanded by the

      Twenty Wayland LLC's three concerns were: the right to
      construct to the maximum sizes previously agreed, recognition
      that time is of the essence, and a standard of
      "reasonableness." The agreed-upon size is 165,000 square
      feet of commercial and office space, 167,500 square feet
      containing 100 condominium units, and an additional 40,000
      square feet of municipal space (plus the existing wastewater
      treatment facility).

      In the selectmen's room, with the developers in attendance, the
      selectmen discussed their plans to submit a "placeholder"
      warrant article (to meet the filing deadline but subject to later
      modification) in case the Planning Board could not finish its
      bylaw in time or to provide the ability to substitute language from
      a subsequent agreement between the Planning Board and the

      "It doesn't make sense to put in something the developer could
      not live with," observed Selectman Bill Whitney. During the
      evening, Lanza revealed that he planned to include in the
      selectmen's proposed placeholder the provisions agreed to by
      the Planning Board and the developer and to incorporate
      provisions acceptable to the developer.


      Lanza told the Selectmen he had learned that day that the
      developer has issues with the Planning Board's draft language
      on permissible signs and with leaving decisions about changes
      in tenant usage until the special permit process. "It certainly will
      be a challenge getting through (the issues of) signage and use"
      before the Tuesday Feb. 28 deadline, he said. The developers'
      attorney told selectmen he had a brief proposal on "retenanting"
      which he hoped the Planning Board would accept. He accused
      the Planning Board of time-consuming attention to "edits that are
      not critical." The planners are concerned about replacement of
      tenants by those with dissimilar effects on traffic and water

      Early in the evening, Selectmen Bill Whitney suggested that the
      Planning Board, Lanza and the developer try to hammer out
      issues after the Town Meeting warrant closes, but he added that
      he would hate to have the deadline pass without the Planning
      Board article. He also asked Lanza to "urge the Planning Board
      to compromise."

      After the Planning Board declined to interrupt its own meeting to
      meet with the selectmen, the selectmen walked down the hall to
      the Planning Board room for a crowded, intense discussion.
      When the selectmen returned to their own room, they dispatched
      Lanza on his rounds of shuttle diplomacy. The Planning Board
      told him he had a conflict of interest, and that he was not to use
      their draft for the selectmen's placeholder, which he admitted he
      was doing.

      As the evening wore on, Whitney proposed extending the
      deadline, and Lanza was dispatched to the Planning Board
      room to ask if the board would take advantage of the time.
      Members of the Planning Board, deep into document review and
      clearly frustrated by the ongoing saga of new developer
      demands, said they would think about it after reviewing the
      document in front oft them. The selectmen, eager to adjourn
      before midnight, decided to extend the warrant deadline until
      Tuesday, March 7 at 10 a.m. The original Feb. 28 deadline was
      about a week earlier than that of the previous year.

      In the end, the Planning Board decided the selectmen had given
      them a very tight timetable, over their objections, but they would
      still uphold their word to try to meet the original deadline.


      For some time, the Planning Board has been presented with
      challenges requiring many hours of deliberation. At its meeting
      on the President's Day holiday, Feb. 20, Becky Regan opined,
      "the town should know what's going on." "We're getting forced
      into substantive renegotiation of the bylaw, and are back to
      where we were in the summer," she asserted. The Planning
      Board found substantive changes although Lanza had assured
      them they involved form, not substance.

      Regan also said the developer agreement is critical, and the
      Planning Board should have time to work on that with the
      selectmen. All parties had agreed after November's vote that it
      was essential to avoid earlier mistakes and construct the bylaw
      and developer agreement in tandem. This has not happened.

      The Planning Board earlier issued a list of items it thought
      should be corrected in the new developer agreement. (See:
      Two of the ten points: 1) "Did not include a guaranteed minimum
      tax payment (or payment in lieu of taxes) throughout the
      permitting and build-out period;" 2) "Developer could have
      `walked away' from the agreement but the zoning bylaw still
      would have remained intact for the use of this developer or a
      future developer but with no agreement in place to protect the

      This is a different project from many in which developers build
      large shopping centers close to major roads with little local
      control because they are at the edge of town. Many of these have
      large signs, and the developer is free to change tenants at will.
      In contrast, the Wayland site is in the middle of town, traffic is a
      grave concern to many residents, and ecological factors such as
      water and wastewater are very real, given the Route 20 site's
      proximity to the town's Baldwin drinking water wells and a
      designated wild and scenic river. The failed 2005 proposal was
      advertised as a town center, not merely another shopping center.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor