305WVN #269: New Town Center schedule
- Nov 24, 2008Dear Wayland Voter,
The Conservation Commission devoted another evening entirely to the the Town Center, one more step in the meticulous process toward approving the commercial/housing development on Route 20. One result is a new schedule of meetings.
Also in this newsletter:
Wayland residents and officials became alarmed years ago at plans for a huge huge housing project in neighboring Framingham that would disgorge traffic into Wayland. Wayland won a $1.45 million settlement to deal with the traffic.
A long-running saga, including changing ownership and bankruptcy, continues.
NEW TOWN CENTER MEETINGS SCHEDULED
The Conservation Commission held a second meeting devoted only to the Town Center in spite of the fact that the developer had canceled a meeting of staff members to iron out technicalities and also sent a new letter requesting waivers only
hours before the meeting.
Furthermore, the ConCom had a full regular meeting the next day.
By request of the developer, Twenty Wayland, the Nov. 19 meeting covered (1) the contested status of a stream as intermittent, (2) a possible incursion into the 30-foot no-disturb buffer, (3) a cursory discussion of stormwater issues and (4) the
new letter with changes in waiver requests. At the end of the meeting, a new meeting schedule was established.
PERENNIAL OR INTERMITTENT
Twenty Wayland presented slides to support its contention that the stream at the southeast corner of the project, where the Stop and Shop grocery is to be built, is an intermittent stream. This is crucial. Were it to be declared perennial, the plans for
the grocery would have to be radically changed.
The stream flows under Route 20 between the Whole Foods grocery store and Caraways Restaurant. The lower stream can be easily viewed (downstream from the project) from the western edge of the Whole Foods parking lot.
First, the developers reviewed state rules. According to those rules, you can use maps that designate the stream as intermittent or, if this is not possible, present dated photographs on four non-drought days showing that the stream is dry.
Disconnected pools of water are allowed.
The town consultants had already noted that the 2005 online viewer from the Massachusetts Geographic Information System (MassGIS) designated the stream as intermittent. However, the MassGIS National Wetlands Inventory data layer (2007)
designated it as simply a "stream" and the MassGIS DEP Wetlands (2007) calls it a "hydrologic connection". So map information is ambiguous.
The developers then presented several undated photographs showing pools of water. The ConCom members refused to accept these photographs as evidence.
However, because the old Wayland regulations under which the original submission was made did not clearly state that dated photographs must be used, the ConCom voted to give the developers the benefit of the doubt and ruled that the stream
could be designated as intermittent.
INCURSION INTO 30-FOOT BUFFER
The ConCom has a very strict rule, consistently enforced, that all new development must be beyond a 30-foot undisturbed buffer around any wetlands.
The developers want to put a road south of the grocery store on the southeast corner that juts 5 feet into the buffer for 100 feet, putting 500 square feet inside the buffer.
ConCom suggested moving or shrinking the grocery store or eliminating some parking spaces. Frank Dougherty of Twenty Wayland said that shrinking the grocery store would make it economically infeasible.
Dougherty also suggested that shifting the grocery store would require the whole project to shift to the northwest, making the northwest corner of the project extend into wetlands and requiring extensive destruction of wetlands. This contention
was met with disbelief by some commissioners.
Finally, Dougherty suggested that the 30-foot buffer restriction is illegal. ConCom agreed to discuss this with town counsel and refused to say anything further on this point.
CURSORY DISCUSSION OF STORMWATER
Twenty Wayland agreed to line basins, and thus gave up the idea of "rain gardens," a Low Impact Development feature. This is because the state requires lined basins in aquifer protection areas where there is a potentially hight pollution load.
Other technical points regarding stormwater standards were pointed out in the town consultants' reports and will also be addressed, but were not discussed at the meeting.
At 11 a.m. on the day of the meeting, the Conservation Commission received a letter from Twenty Wayland referring to comments made on Nov. 10. Town consultant Ben Gould hadn't received a copy from the developers. Nevertheless the
ConCom agreed to discuss waivers requested in the letter.
Several waivers were granted. For example, providing the correct scale for all drawings was granted and coloring of lines to show different boundaries in all drawings.
Several waivers were denied. Most of these regarded providing information, for example about where existing trees are or where the boundaries of the construction will be. This information is still required.
In summary, Dougherty suggested that the big points were the 30-foot buffer (not to be discussed until after the meeting with town counsel), and the intermittent stream (resolved). The next category of changes included miscalculations made by
the developers which were pointed out by Ben Gould, the town consultant. These include revised elevations. Finally, there were smaller items such as presenting a single Operation and Maintenance plan rather than several.
On Nov. 17, the Commissioners had sent a compendium of comments about the draft peer review to the developers and to Gould. These were not covered at the meeting, but would be considered by Gould before the finalpeer review. Gould
promised a letter about the comments by Dec. 1.
A continuance of the hearing on the Town Center may occur as part of the regular ConCom meeting Dec. 4.
The developers promised a full set of plans by Dec. 10 conforming to the agreed-upon points of discussion. This is contingent on a legal opinion from town counsel on the legality of the 30-foot buffer.
After obtaining the full set of plans Dec. 10, Gould and his associate, David Faist, will submit a final peer review by Dec. 24.
If things go according to schedule, the ConCom will continue the hearing on Jan. 8.
-- Betty Salzberg
FORECLOSURE TO BANKRUPTCY TO "BACK ON TRACK"
First came the Sept. 22 MetroWest Daily News legal notice announcing the Oct. 16 foreclosure auction of parcels of land in Framingham and Wayland.
Then came an Oct. 14 involuntary bankruptcy filing, prompted by a $15,000 claim by one of the property owner's partners.
And now at a Nov. 13 public hearing the owner's representative, local attorney Peter Barbieri, told the Framingham Planning Board that the permitting process for the Danforth Green (formerly Villages at Danforth Farm, then Sudbury River Landing)
housing project is "back on track."
More than five years have passed since the Framingham Planning Board granted a special permit to allow the former New England Sand & Gravel property to be redeveloped as a large housing project, based on special zoning provisions approved
almost 20 years ago at a Framingham town meeting. The underlying zoning is commercial.
Legal appeals were filed in 2003 by the Town of Wayland and various Framingham neighbors. All were eventually settled, resulting in the project size reduced to 525 housing units.
There is only one access to the project, via River Path. All vehicles will spill out onto Old Connecticut Path (Rt 126).
Wayland's settlement agreement included $1.45 million in mitigation, particularly to address traffic impacts.
The first payment, $50,000, was released to Wayland to design associated roadway improvements, including a traffic light, at the intersection of West Plain Street and Old Connecticut Path. Wayland road commissioners held a public hearing, bid the
design, and consultants prepared the roadway plans.
No further monies, including for construction of that intersection, will come to Wayland unless specific milestones in the permitting process are achieved. In short, it's not clear if or when Wayland will see the rest of the money.
NATIONAL TO RTM TO PULTE
Once the litigation was concluded, National Development sold the 170-acre property for $28 million to Virginia-based RTM. RTM teamed with Pulte Homes as the developer.
Pulte, one of the largest home building firms in the country, completed the construction of Wayland's 44 WillowBrook condos at Route 30/Oak Street back in the 1990's.
In mid-2006, the Danforth project moved forward with its Definitive Development Plan public hearing at the Framingham Planning Board. Pulte kept returning with modified site designs, while the Planning Board and its peer review consultants kept
asking for more than the signature massive monolithic-looking buildings seen in other projects elsewhere in the USA.
(The largest building was proposed to abut Wayland's Pod Meadow conservation area.)
As time passed, Pulte did not seem to respond effectively to the historic, New England design character and scale the board was seeking.
As the housing market declined, Danforth hearing sessions lost their steam; others were postponed. The Planning Board became increasingly concerned. Variances granted in 2007 by the Zoning Board of Appeals lapsed. Ultimately Pulte did not
renew or extend its Development Agreement with RTM this year. There was speculation whether or not the original 2003 Special Permit was still valid.
PLANS FOR $36.8 MILLION PLANT
News coverage of a recent Framingham selectmen's meeting disclosed their concerns for the future of the property, a large tract of environmentally sensitive and significant land along the Oxbow of the Sudbury River. Abutting the property are
inactive Birch Road drinking water wells. As MWRA water rates have increased, the Town of Framingham is planning to reactivate its own wells in order to draw over 4 million gallons of water per day out of the same prolific aquifer as the Happy
Hollow wells, which currently provides about half of Wayland's drinking water.
Framingham is designing a new $36.8 million water treatment plant for Birch Road; that proposed project is undergoing Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review.
It only became clear in recent weeks that Framingham will need to acquire more land around those wells to accommodate the new treatment plant. The land needed seems to be at the planned entrance to the Danforth Green project, straddling the
roadway and affecting two proposed buildings.
As time marches on, the composition of Framingham's Planning Board has changed. At the moment, only four of the five current members are allowed to sit on the panel that will vote on the proposed plans. At the Nov. 13 hearing, it was further
explained that of the remaining four members, two of those seats are up for election next spring.
The Planning Board tried to help by offering the applicant the option to withdraw, reapply and start over with a full five-member panel. Attorney Barbieri declined.
Time is of the essence, while the financial and housing markets could not be more daunting. The Oct. 16 foreclosure was stayed by the Oct. 14 bankruptcy filing, and that process had not moved forward yet. In addition, RTM was reported to owe
almost $450,000 in back taxes to Framingham.
Attorney Barbieri announced at the November 13 hearing that the project is "back on track," and his client wants to conclude the permitting process as quickly as possible. Needless to say, the property will be worth more with permits in hand.
The Planning Board tasked everyone with determining what the open issues are so the review can resume. The hearing was continued to Dec. 4 at 8:30 p.m. at the downtown Framingham Memorial Building.
-- Linda Segal
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor