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750WVN #548: Town Meeting Tonight

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  • waylandvoters1
    Apr 3, 2014
      7:30 P.M., High School Field House
      Doors open at 6 p.m.

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      With a tax increase in the neighborhood of 10% looming, Town Meeting voters may pay special attention to the proposed 2015 budget. The motions for the articles as well as errata are posted on the town website:

      As usual, the budget will come up early in the annual meeting beginning April 3. Some of the 38 articles may be dispatched quickly, but the meeting is scheduled to resume on April 7, 8 and 10 if necessary.

      The $74.4 million budget article is #6, beginning on Page 32 of the warrant mailed to Wayland households. Newcomers to town meeting will find that the moderator proceeds methodically, item by item. The town cannot spend money without voter approval.

      Before the budget come three routine articles and then #4, OPEB Funding for retiree health benefits. For an OPEB summary see WVN #545:

      Article 5 looks simple, asking $88,400 to fund an anti-drug program whose federal funding expired last fall. But it has been the subject of two committee studies and much discussion about whether it should be or needs to be taxpayer-funded. It may receive close scrutiny.

      After the budget is voted, there’s a breather, with Articles 7 and 8, the town clerk’s salary and a change in the wage and classification schedule for non-union employees.

      Then come Articles 9, 10 and 11, guaranteed to produce debate on the future of Dudley Woods.

      Energy Project in Budget Article

      A unique proposal this year is at once the largest single item in the proposed capital budget and a major project that proponents say over time should end up costing the town almost nothing. In Motion 5 The Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee is proposing the town hire an ESCO, or Energy Services Company, to implement approximately $2.8 million of energy efficiency improvements to virtually all the town and school buildings. The money to fund the project will be borrowed, but 95% of the debt service would be paid for out of the resulting energy savings. Part of the project addresses longstanding complaints about lack of preventive maintenance of town buildings by replacing such items as aging boilers, which could fail at any time, with new high efficiency models. Savings are guaranteed by the ESCO under the state law which encourages such projects, and the energy savings will fulfill Wayland’s responsibility as a Green Community.

      Selectman Tony Boschetto at last Monday’s meeting decried the fact the utility cost report he obtained (several months after requesting it, he said) bore no resemblance to the figures in the warrant. He asked how the town could expect to prove savings if it doesn’t know the current true costs. But the usage data used in the project analysis is pulled from official state databases.

      A public forum on this proposal by the energy committee on March 2 was attended by one resident. Current plans are for two phases, with repairs to the Town Building postponed until the fall. The reason for that is an evolving concept most taxpayers know nothing about, possibly moving some town offices out of Town Building to occupy leased space at the Town Center project.

      Invitation-Only Meetings

      During the last three months, Town Planner Sarkis Sarkisian held a number of small meetings, by invitation, on the Town Center private property to brainstorm ways of addressing municipal facilities needs. The public has been unaware of these private meetings because none of them were required to be posted. No quorum of a town board was invited.

      The selectmen’s agenda for its March 10 meeting included a presentation by Planning Board chairman Kent Greenawalt titled “Potential Uses of Municipal Buildings.”

      WayCAM’s recording of the March 10 discussion, beginning at elapsed time 00:35:35, includes no mention of the private meetings held in recent months.

      Greenawalt was seeking the selectmen’s reaction to using already-paid Town Center permitting fees to hire consultants to explore a range of municipal facility needs, not just those that could be located at Town Center. Interim Town Administrator Robert Mercier confirmed the need to reconcile the account holding those fees. Selectman Boschetto recommended determining what those fees were intended to be used for and whether it’s appropriate to use those funds for planning projects elsewhere in town.

      For anyone first hearing about the possibility of moving some town offices to the Town Center, including perhaps bringing such a proposal before voters for approval at a fall town meeting, a logical place to look for background information is the Planning Board website. Unfortunately, there are no meeting minutes posted for 2014:

      The motion prepared for the March 26 warrant hearing showed the ESCO appropriation would be expended by the Permanent Municipal Building Committee. At the warrant hearing, the FinCom reported a change in the motion, giving that responsibility to the Facilities Department. Facilities Director John Moynihan retired on March 31 but is continuing to work for the town during the transition to a new director. Nobody representing the Planning Board attended the warrant hearing.

      Scroll to article 6, motion #5.

      Future of Dudley Woods

      The proposed disposition of 7.2 acres known now as Dudley Woods is the result of a $75,000 study and committee consideration over 18 months. It is linked with expanding affordable housing in the town.

      The site is largely wooded, leading from Route 27 to Dudley Pond. It is the only publicly accessible, natural space amidst the most densely settled area of town.The parcels comprising the woods became property of the town through tax title and through gifts, some specifically for recreation.

      Where is Dudley Woods? Entrances are located off of Main Street (Route 27) and Mathews
      Drive. Home-made signs encourage the public to visit, in preparation for Town Meeting.
      It is near, but not adjacent to Dudley Brook Conservation Area, a marsh south of Mathews Drive.

      The property has come before voters before. The parcels present a patchwork quilt with ownership by the Board of Selectmen and the Recreation Commission. Separately, the waterfront parcel is now under the Board of Public Works and is proposed to transfer to the Conservation Commission.

      However, prior votes ignored the requirement that a board owning land must vote to give up the land before it can be assigned to another board for any use. The town never pursued the votes in 1975 and 1977 to transfer the land to the housing authority for construction of elderly congregate housing. And in fact, those votes probably weren’t viable because no committee agreed to give up its land.

      After 18 months or more of deliberations, public discussion, and presentations by consultants, the Dudley Area Advisory Committee presented its findings to the Board of Selectmen. The committee consisted of representatives from the Housing Authority, the Housing Partnership, Recreation, Conservation, Surface Water Quality, Neighbors for Responsible Land Use, the Planning Board, the Dudley Pond Association, and the Board of Selectmen.

      At Town Meeting voters will consider four interrelated articles with a complicated history.

      The advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend transferring Rocky Point, the waterfront, to Conservation. This is Article 11 and hasn’t stirred controversy. Articles 9 and 10 evolved amid complexities including conflicting votes as well as conflicting ideas.

      The committee recommended 7-2 to transfer the the entire remainder of the land to Recreation for passive activities, and a possible distributed wastewater treatment facility to alleviate nutrient loading to the pond, which has been termed in fragile health by the state. There was a second vote at the end of that meeting, 6-3, to retain an area for potential housing and that three housing units in the general area be purchased for affordable housing before that last piece of land is transferred to the Recreation Commission.

      Instead, Article 9 would authorize the transfer of the entire parcel pending only the earmarking of $51,339 of money that has already been appropriated for housing. (The Wayland Housing Partnership and the Wayland Housing Authority call this unacceptable.)

      The Board of Selectmen modified committee recommendations to produce Article 10 on funding affordable housing. The final version retains four small, nonconforming parcels in a different area on the site than that identified for potential housing that now serves as a natural bioswale to slow stormwater heading toward the pond. These parcels would be released to Recreation upon the appropriation of $51,339 toward affordable housing under Article 10. That odd sum was money found in the budget available for allocation, and already earmarked for housing. The selectmen voted to also allocate at least $350,000 to the proposed Municipal Affordable Housing Trust that is due from development of River Trail at the new Town Center for affordable housing.

      Details of the committee’s study and recommendations are at http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_BComm/Dudley/index

      Article 12 proposes a Municipal Affordable Housing Trust with its own board. The purpose of the trust is to be able to expend money quickly in procuring affordable housing. Currently, CPC funds cannot be used unless town meeting approves a specific project. Real estate in Wayland does not wait for town meeting. Other similar towns have municipal affordable housing trusts.

      Petitioners submitted Article 13, which seeks advance notice on changes in traffic speed limits. Town counsel says it is inconsistent with state law. Article 14 has been withdrawn.

      River’s Edge

      The next big items, Articles 15 and 16, are the second attempt to build a housing project on Route 20 where motorists now see the decommissioned Wayland-Sudbury septage treatment plant. After vigorous debate last year, voters narrowly rejected a larger version of the scheme.

      The Economic Development Committee went back to work and came up with a slightly scaled-down version of a zoning bylaw allowing a maximum of 190 units. However, the minimum requirement for senior housing (age 55+) is 25%, which is the maximum quotient that commercial developers will accept. The articles cover 17 pages in the warrant and are likely to be debated thoroughly.

      The idea of making progress toward affordable housing goals and adding town revenue appeals to some voters. Others call the site inappropriate for housing, pointing to environmental factors and complexities of dissolving the agreement with Sudbury and cleaning the site.

      A significant complication is an outstanding appeal of last year’s Conservation Commission decision to allow the existing road to the transfer station, permitted on a strictly temporary basis in 1978, to remain permanently. The appeal to the state Department of Environmental Protection seeks to have the road removed to restore the wildlife habitat of the river marsh. If the appeal is successful, the most logical place to relocate the Transfer Station is to the Route 20 end of the road, on land the EDC wants to use as part of its project. The EDC argues that if access to the existing Transfer Station is removed Wayland should just move to curbside pickup. So voters may be effectively voting on whether to end the centuries-old tradition of going to “the dump”.

      In addition to the fact that nobody from the Planning Board attended the March 26 warrant hearing to represent their zoning articles, there was no Planning Board report available at the March 26 hearing. The Moderator disclosed that Sarkisian had sent him the required report electronically that day, but he had not had a chance to read it to be able to answer questions.

      That document dated Feb. 12 was posted on the town website on March 28. The warrant went to the printer on March 7 without the Planning Board report.

      Disclosures: WVN reporter Tom Sciacca is a member of the Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee, and is the lead petitioner of the Landfill Access Road appeal. WVN reporter Betty Salzberg serves on the Housing Partnership and the Conservation Commission.

      --WVN Staff
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor