234WVN #217: Critical traffic questions
- Sep 5, 2007Dear Wayland Voter,
Wednesday's hearing on the traffic impact of the proposed
$140-million Town Center project could be residents' last
chance to be heard about a subject likely to affect everybody who
drives on Wayland's major roads. If you've been grumbling about
the delays caused by the state's "improvements" on Route 20,
you know that traffic management isn't a simple matter. Molly
Also in this newsletter: Watering restricted.
"This is all about traffic." Thus spoke Mark Bobrowski, the land
use attorney engaged by the Planning Board when it began to
consider the Town Center project in the spring of 2005.
From the inception of the town's evaluation of the proposal for
the former Raytheon property, the overriding issue has been
expected additional traffic.
The Planning Board will hold its next hearing on traffic plans
Wednesday Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Large Hearing Room of the
Town Building. . This is the public's chance to comment. and
TWO MAJOR ISSUES (AT LEAST)
-- Will various town boards be able to collaborate and determine
at least some of the mitigation before the Planning Board votes
to bring the Master Special Permit process to a close? According
to town counsel Mark Lanza, determining mitigation before
deciding the MSP is not required. He told the Board of
Selectmen the Planning Board should weigh the burdens vs.
benefits of the development based on the information and
projections presented in its hearings, and that mitigating the
burden is a separate issue. Given the widespread impact of
potential increased traffic, wouldn't the traffic burden assume
more importance if the mitigation is unknown? OR how is the
board to weigh the benefits and burden of the project without
knowing mitigation plans?
-- Where will the traffic go on the major arteries or the
capillaries (i.e. neighborhood roads)? And what will be the
impact on two historic districts and other neighborhoods?
When voters at the May 3, 2006 special town meeting approved
the required mixed-use zoning, the understanding was that the
Planning Board would make a rigorous investigation of the
proposal and its impacts to the town when it reviewed the Master
Special Permit application.
Now, it appears that pressure is being applied, from the
developer's attorney and Wayland's Board of Selectmen, to
ensure the Planning Board limits its purview to the redesign of
the former Raytheon site. The BOS has not attended the last two
traffic hearings conducted by the Planning Board as part of the
MSP review. Before the MSP process began, the three boards
agreed to collaborate on traffic planning.
Yet at the beginning of the Aug. 15 Planning Board hearing, in a
prepared speech responding to criticism that selectmen had not
participated two nights earlier at a traffic hearing, Selectman
Chair Bill Whitney stated that the ground rules had changed.
That was news to the Planning Board and Board of Road
Commissioners (BORC), who met jointly about traffic on Aug.13.
At the last selectmen's meeting on Aug. 30, Whitney elicited from
town counsel that the BOS doesn't technically have a role in the
Master Special Permit process. Lanza noted, however, the BOS
has been invited, along with the BORC, so all parties might hear
the same presentations.
Lanza also told Selectman Michael Tichnor the BOS is not
required to make mitigation decisions before the MSP is
concluded, although he added that it would be good if the BOS
could decide specific recommendations regarding conditions in
the MSP. Developer attorney Adam Weisenberg promptly jumped
up and said any conditions in the MSP should be limited to those
already specified in the developers' agreement with Wayland,
adding that the jurisdiction of the Planning Board does not
extend off site.
Planning Board member and former chair Lynne Dunbrack sees
it differently. "I would certainly hope that we actually have the
traffic issues dealt with before issuing the Master Special Permit
and that we hold off on the Master Special Permit process until
we have a better handle on the traffic," she told the Boston
Globe. "That's the whole point of the Master Special Permit, so
the board and the whole town know exactly what the project is
going to look like."
The selectmen are the arbiters of placement of stop signs and
traffic lights, while the road commissioners technically review
plans and town road construction. Thus, without cooperation
from the BOS in making decisions about traffic mitigation,
neither the citizens nor the Planning Board can be assured what
traffic mitigation will occur. An observer noted that deciding the
MSP without mitigation is akin to performing heart valve surgery
without investigating the connecting veins and arteries.
Where will the traffic go? Will it be encouraged to stay on the
arteries -- Routes 20, 27 and 126 -- or will it be changing the
character and safety of neighborhood streets, particularly those
that connect 27 and 126 in the northern part of town, some of
which are now used to bypass the major intersection at
20/27/126? Some of the proposals for expediting traffic through
the main intersection involve widening roads, thereby reducing
the few green spaces in the historic district. The traffic
consultants caution that any changes made on a particular road
should be examined to see if such a change shifts the burden of
One set of data is consistently missing in presentations. What,
exactly, are the traffic counts for 2007 (pre-summer) conditions?
Those data were collected by the developer but have not been
reported. Twenty Wayland and its consultant, Vanasse &
Associates (VAI), are only too happy to present the "no build"
condition, but "no build" represents a fully occupied existing
office building. It has been five years since the departure of the
last major tenant, Polaroid, and some Waylanders have never
experienced traffic generated by the existing building. Another
piece of missing data is an indication of the length of queues
(i.e. how many cars are sitting at a light spewing exhaust).
After prodding from citizens and the town's consultant, the
developer's consultant VAI revised its data to acknowledge the
potential for additional traffic on neighborhood roads such as
Bow Road and Glezen Lane. In its letter of Aug. 8, VAI assumes
"approximately 25 percent of the traffic on Route 20 from the
east as well as traffic from Route 126 (North) will be attracted to
the cut-through routes.The increase in traffic on the east/west
neighborhood roads will be most dramatic on weekends."
Despite the developer agreement, and an earlier request by the
Planning Board that Twenty Wayland present a single plan that
would work with either one or two access points, Twenty
Wayland's Frank Dougherty declared at the latest hearing the
project would be dead if there were a single access point. This
is counter to the developer agreement, Section E paragraph 9,
which states, "In the event that the Master Special Permit
includes a condition restricting access to the Property from
Route 27 to residential vehicles and emergency access vehicles
only, Developer agrees that it will not appeal the imposition of
such condition and if the MUP (mixed use project) is built, will
comply with such condition." WVN readers will recall that this
isn't the first time Twenty Wayland has declared the project
would die if it didn't get what it wanted.
A right-turn-only exit from the shopping/housing/office
development onto Route 27 was one recommendation by the
town's consultant, TEC, but Dougherty earlier rebutted that same
suggestion from a resident, saying it would turn the development
"into a shopping center." But to many eyes, the circulation
through the shopping area would not be adversely impacted.
So, what is behind the developer's insistence on a road
connecting Routes 20 and 27? In addition to receiving Planning
Board approval, the project also needs to complete the state
environmental review that coordinates opinions from various
state agencies. Mass Highway has indicated it wants a bypass
between the two roads, with signs on Route 20 indicating the
cut-through. Since when is a cut-through road consistent with a
town center where one can safely meet and greet friends, and
kids can bike, as touted by enthusiasts of the project?
Mass Highway may be eager for an excuse to redo the recently
completed 20/27/126 intersection and try to alleviate the traffic
jams that came in the wake of its work. There is speculation
that Mass Highway didn't take into account the rapidly developing
area west of Wayland, but simply plugged in Wayland's growth
when planning the intersection began about a decade ago
When Twenty Wayland admonishes that mitigation measures
won't occur without the Town Center project moving forward, it's
important to remember that the state approves and pays for work
on Route 20.
Although there is no time limit for concluding the MSP public
hearing, which began on July 25, the chair of the Planning Board
hasn't corrected misguided impressions that there is a 90-day
clock ticking on the hearing length. In fact, once the Board votes
the hearing closed, when it believes it has received all the
information it needs to deliberate and vote, the board then has
90 days to issue a special permit. Wednesday may be the last
scheduled hearing on traffic.
Twenty Wayland has not answered the question asked at
several hearing sessions this summer regarding the actual size
of the building envelope, and the calculated floor area ratio. This
is one of the fundamental questions often demanded by
planning boards in other towns, and is germane because the
proposed Town Center building envelope keeps shrinking
because of pesky environmental constraints such as
endangered species, flood plain, wetlands, and contamination,
among others. For example, the location of the lot for a municipal
building has been changed, and may need further adjustment to
distance itself from the flood plain.
The location of the developer's proposed nearly 10,000 gallon
septic system keeps changing, and the latest design includes
10 single bedroom housing units located above some retail
stores to lessen the height of monolithic residential condo
buildings that would be visible from the Sudbury River.
And it is conceivable the large condo units may need to be
moved if chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOC) are
found extending to the southern edge of the `northern area' at the
Raytheon site. According to a diagram that superimposes
existing and proposed buildings along with areas of known
chemical contamination, the northern residential buildings are
sitting on the line of investigation for VOCs. To compile the
diagram, the town's licensed site professional (LSP) Ben Gould
used figures prepared in 2005 and 2001 by Raytheon's LSP,
ERM, as well as Arrowstreet's July 2007 "MSP Preferred Plan."
The developer is disputing the location of this line, and this
diagram has not been posted on the town's Web site.
The developer's designers frequently allude to squeezing the
balloon in one place, resulting in a bulge in another place.
Such unknowns bring another, very important issue to the fore:
Does granting approval for the MSP ensure the town gets the
project it expects? Twenty Wayland's attorney Adam Weisenberg
has argued that the site plan review process should
accommodate changes in layout. Long-time members of the
Planning Board counter that what's approved by the MSP is what
should be built; that site plan review only deals with items such
as the appearance of buildings.
As a result of the state's environmental review process, other
proposed developments have been reduced in size, as was the
case in Brookline for the Chestnut Hill Square project, according
to Metrowest Daily News
proposed Wayland Town Center project needs between 800 and
1,200 parking spaces depending on day/month, according to
studies, and the property is located more than five miles from a
highway, which means the traffic will be evident in several
WAYLAND WATERING BAN
Wayland has issued its first ban on outdoor watering in five
Water supplies are low because of dry weather. Until tanks are
replenished you may water outdoors only by hand, and from 7
p.m. to 7 a.m. No sprinklers. Violators may be fined.
Recent water usage has been higher than the average of about
2 million gallons per day.
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Michael Short, Editor