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234WVN #217: Critical traffic questions

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  • waylandvoters1
    Sep 5, 2007
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      Dear 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
      Upton reports.

      Also in this newsletter: Watering restricted.

      TRAFFIC THRASHING

      "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
      evaluate choices.

      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
      traffic elsewhere.

      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).

      NEIGHBORHOOD IMPACT

      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."

      ACCESS POINTS

      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.

      TIMING

      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.


      RIGHT SIZE

      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
      http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/business/x931142351. The
      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
      locales.
      =========================

      WAYLAND WATERING BAN

      Wayland has issued its first ban on outdoor watering in five
      years.

      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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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor