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160WVN Newsletter #154: Important hearings, HS building plan

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  • waylandvoters1
    Mar 27, 2006
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      Dear Wayland voter,

      This is a busy week, with several public hearings of interest to
      citizens as well as committee meetings on the mixed-use zoning
      and development agreement necessary for a Route 20
      development.

      On Monday, March 27 the Board of Selectmen meets at 7 p.m. to
      work on "final elements" of the agreement with developers to
      build the mixed-use 373,000-square-foot
      housing/commercial/municipal development on Route 20.

      Tuesday March 28 at 7 p.m. the Finance Committee will hold a
      public hearing at the senior center on articles at special Town
      Meeting on May 3.

      Also on Tuesday, the road commissioners will hold a public
      hearing at 7:30 p.m. in the large hearing room about potential
      changes to the intersection of West Plain/Rte 126 and other
      mitigation efforts to counter the expected increased traffic from
      the Danforth housing development in Framingham.
      Commissioners welcome public participation.

      On items for the special Town Meeting, the Planning Board has
      posted meetings for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (if
      needed) to finalize the bylaw for the mixed use development on
      the former Raytheon site, review the developer agreement, and
      work on the proposed scenic roads overlay district bylaw. Details
      below.

      At 8 p.m. Tuesday, the selectmen meet again to approve the final
      development agreement.

      Meanwhile, the High School Building Committee is discussing
      an ambitious plan for renovation or replacement. See below.

      BACKGROUND ON ZONING TALKS

      At yet another Sunday morning meeting, three members of the
      Planning Board met with developers to discuss sign sizes for
      the three largest commercial buildings in the proposed mixed
      use overlay district.

      Using pictures from other "lifestyle centers" and a local
      supermarket, the board reached consensus with the developer
      on sizes, and is expected to vote on the language to be included
      in the zoning bylaw. The assumption is that these will be
      separate buildings from the rest of the commercial space.

      The board has scheduled meetings three nights this week to
      meet the deadline for sending the Town Meeting warrant to the
      printer, and it still needs to review and approve the final
      document. Also on the docket is review of the developer
      agreement, as well as changes to another article, a proposed
      scenic road overlay district.

      The plan is for the town to see one version of the bylaw in the
      warrant. The selectmen submitted a "placeholder" article, fearing
      that the Planning Board version wouldn't be acceptable to the
      developers. Essentially, the text of the article will be that of the
      Planning Board but the vehicle will be the placeholder article
      inserted by the selectmen because town counsel has said that
      any mention of signage dimension would be beyond the scope
      of the the Planning Board version. The last-minute meetings
      were necessitated by the developer's refusal to leave signage to
      later discussions with the Planning Board.

      --Molly Upton

      BUILDING COMMITTEE HOPES FOR QUICK ACTION

      The High School Building Committee has an aggressive plan for
      renovating or rebuilding the aging buildings, beginning with
      asking voters this fall for several hundred thousand dollars in
      design fees.

      The plan is designed to take advantage of the state's new
      reimbursement system which is slowly getting under way.

      At a meeting on March 23, members talked about becoming the
      "poster child" for the Massachusetts School Building Authority
      (MSBA). When the state begins accepting applications for
      funding on July 1, 2007, the committee wants to have its
      documents in place. If Wayland survives the first cut and is
      promptly invited to apply in Phase 2, voters could be asked as
      early as the fall of 2007 to authorize borrowing millions for the
      project.

      The timing depends partly on many unknowns involving the
      MSBA.

      In January 2005 Wayland resoundingly rejected the committee's
      $57-million plan to replace most of the buildings. Prospects for
      state reimbursement were hazy at best.

      What's new is that the state made a decided break with the
      former reimbursement system which ran up an $11-billion
      liability and was suspended. Under the new system
      administered by the state treasurer, the plan is for the state to
      oversee school projects from the beginning and pay its share
      as building goes on.

      When voters are asked to approve town borrowing, they will
      know that the state has guaranteed prompt reimbursement of a
      specific amount, as much as 40 percent. Towns will have to
      borrow only their share of the total cost.

      Part of the state sales tax will be devoted to reimbursement,
      which is scheduled to start at $500 million annually, enough for
      only a few large projects every year. There are about 1800
      schools in Massachusetts, many of them in need of repair or
      replacement.

      The MSBA has already made a rough survey of the condition of
      all schools. Wayland High School is listed at condition 3 on a
      descending scale of 4, except for a 2 rating for the field house,
      which puzzled the committee and school officials.
      Superintendent Gary Burton said he would ask for another
      inspection, since many observers believe the field house is in
      worse shape than the rest of the campus.

      In any case, before approving a project the MSBA will inspect
      conditions again and also compare its own enrollment
      projections with the town's.

      The MSBA defines a 3 rating as "approaching poor condition and
      some building systems may need attention." Committee
      members who met with MSBA officials said they were assured
      that a 3 rating is enough to warrant applying for a major project.
      Burton said he would try to find out how many schools were
      rated 4 ("may be in poor condition and a possible candidate for
      replacement") and therefore needier candidates.

      The MSBA is a new agency learning new things. How long it will
      take to get things rolling remains to be seen. But the system
      itself is designed to give voters a new degree of assurance.

      What is not likely to be new in the immediate future is Wayland's
      process. The School Committee wants to add four new
      members to the 11 it originally appointed to the building
      committee. If special Town Meeting voters approve on May 3, the
      selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee will
      choos the new faces. No matter who they are, they will be a
      small minority and would face an uphill battle to shift the HSBC's
      direction.

      Also unchanged are the architect (HMFH) and the construction
      management firm (Turner). Representatives from both attended
      the meeting last week.

      It is too early to tell what the committee's design might look like.
      But member Cindy Lombardo said it was likely to be a
      scaled-down version of the failed 2005 plan.

      That doesn't mean it would be cheap. Construction costs are
      volatile, and estimators sometimes use inflation factors of 8
      percent or more annually.

      The School Committee has talked about giving the building
      committee more flexibility than in the past to seek a "middle
      concept" rather than a best-choice process. Under the new
      reimbursement law a municipality can ask for approval of
      projects in stages. Committee Chairwoman Lea Anderson noted
      the hypothetical possibility of asking voters to fund academic
      buildings and leaving a gymnasium and large auditorium to
      private funding. The MSBA offers partial matching funds for
      private contributions.

      After July 1 the committee will be free of restrictions imposed by
      special Town Meeting voters in January 2005 and can spend the
      remaining $17,500 from the $355,000 allocated earlier for
      planning and preliminary design.

      The $50,000 article you'll find in the warrant for the May 3 special
      Town Meeting is for short-term high school repairs.

      --Michael Short

      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
      Michael Short, Editor