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175WVN Newsletter #167: Are the flyers believable?

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  • waylandvoters1
    May 2, 2006
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Wayland mailboxes were festooned this week with green and
      orange flyers promoting and opposing the town center project.
      There is still time before the special Town Meeting on May 3 to
      examine competing claims.
      ================================================
      PLEASE REMEMBER: Be prepared for a huge crowd at the High
      School. Satellite parking and shuttle buses at the Middle School,
      St. Ann's and the town building. Doors open at 6 p.m. Meeting
      starts at 7:30.
      =================================================
      In the analysis below you'll see that recent information casts
      doubt on figures used by town center supporters to argue that
      the 332,000-square-foot retail/office/housing proposal is far
      superior to the alternative 40B all-housing plan. (Contributing to
      this report is Dawn Davies, a Wayland resident and former real
      estate appraiser.)

      "Don't Mall Wayland" is the slogan of Citizens Against Reckless
      Development (www.waylandcard.blogspot.com). Supporters
      (www.soswayland.org and associated groups) counter with "Fits
      our town, Funds our future." Neither is essentially incorrect.

      Is it a mall? The town center project would not be nearly as large
      as Shoppers World, but it is many times larger then The Mall at
      Lincoln Station. And whether the development fits Wayland is a
      matter of personal preference. There are strong feelings on both
      sides. "Funds our future" could be more accurately stated as
      "Funds one percent of our future" (according to estimates).

      CARD points to predictions of tenfold increases in traffic at times
      and a lack of adequate impact studies. Developers and their
      supporters say the traffic will be managed. Earlier WVN
      newsletters reported in detail.

      Here are a few examples of how tricky the arguments can
      become.

      The green flyer from SOS contains inaccurate or questionable
      information about the consequences of rejecting the mixed-use
      zoning Wednesday night:

      -- A $52,000 annual loss from a 40B affordable housing project
      compared with current tax revenue. This estimate assumes that
      the town will need another fireman and a very expensive fire truck
      to handle six-story buildings. The estimate also assumes
      higher town costs because of 480 bedrooms projected for the
      200-unit project.

      But Wayland would negotiate height and other matters. Current
      sewage capacity limits the number of bedrooms to 409. Fewer
      bedrooms (particularly three-bedroom units) means fewer
      children and therefore lower school costs. The site is not only
      polluted but so environmentally sensitive that it can't be
      assumed that state and federal authorities would allow greater
      sewage discharge or even greatly increased water usage.

      -- Little or no control over the 40B project, no required impact
      studies, and no mitigation. This is untrue, as laid out in WVN
      Newsletter #166 and previous coverage. Proof? See the report of
      recent negotiations with another 40B developer in Wayland. In
      an interview with WVN, a staffer at MassHousing described the
      SOS flyer as "extremely misleading."

      -- CARD and SOS both estimate the net gain to the town from the
      town center at $450,000 annually after the project is complete,
      probably five or more years from now. Recently available
      information calls that figure into question.

      The projection came from independent fiscal consultant Judi
      Barrett, who was not provided with estimates from an appraiser
      as promised. It is now known that she also didn't see a decision
      last year in which the state Appellate Tax Board agreed with the
      owner that environmental problems made the property less
      desirable and lowered the taxes. If Barrett had been aware of
      that, by using standard calculating methods she would have
      lowered her estimate of the property's value by about $4 million,
      and the anticipated tax revenue accordingly.

      Some supporters say the shops, restaurants and amenities
      promised at the town center are good for the community
      regardless of tax revenue. But even the amenities are not as
      simple a matter as sometimes advertised. For example, the
      promised bike path is plotted partly on land, not owned by the
      town or the developer, where a Nextel cellphone tower is
      expected to be built. And a canoe landing mentioned by
      Selectman Michael Tichnor as an amenity is in the works, but it
      has nothing to do with the town center. Other groups are working
      with the state to create the landing in an area still owned by
      Raytheon as part of its environmental cleanup.
      ==================================================
      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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      they will be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign
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      after receiving an e-mail confirming the subscription.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor