98WVN #98: Town Center Project - Planning Board Wants Your Ideas
- Jul 5, 2005Wayland Voters Network
July 5, 2005
Dear Wayland Voter,
The Planning Board's next meeting to hear the public's questions and
ideas re the proposed Town Center Project is Wednesday, July 6, at
7:30 p.m. at the Town Building.
The following summary of recent public comments re the proposed Town
Center development was prepared by WVN editor Michael Short.
TOWN CENTER PROJECT: PLANNING BOARD WANTS YOUR IDEAS
There can't be many Wayland residents who haven't heard about
the "town center" project at the former Raytheon property on Route
20. Developers of the $100 million concept are promoting the idea
with mailings, appearances at civic meetings, free ice cream and
We see artist's renderings of pleasant streets and landscaping, we
hear promises of added tax revenue and even a civic building on land
donated by the developer.
Some residents dream of a new library (or perhaps a library branch
containing the children's room and the computer center), or an
auditorium or an arts center, with an outdoor sculpture garden nearby.
Some hope to see restaurants, locally owned shops and perhaps a book
store as part of the 550,000-square-foot cluster.
Like many other things that at first glance might appear to be
something for nothing, it isn't that simple.
The Planning Board is working long hours to draft zoning changes
necessary for developers to create the largest business development
in the town's history, and it's looking for your ideas. See newspaper
coverage and the board's website at
www.wayland.ma.us/planning/index.htm. You can email your thoughts to
town planner Joe Laydon at jlaydon@....
The Planning Board's next meeting to hear the public's questions
and ideas is Wednesday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Building.
"We can create a real village which is an attractive destination for
people to shop, do town business, and can even reside in this area,"
says Planning Board Chairman Larry Stabile.
On the other hand, some say it will be invisible from the true center
of town and look more like Disney World than a real village. "Why
would a town like Wayland want this?" one person asked.
Though nothing quite like this has been built in New England, the
idea embodies recent national trends toward smaller, more accessible
malls that include housing. One such development in Florida is in
fact called "Town Center."
In Berlin, west of Wayland, voters turned down a proposal for a
typical big-box mall. Recently a developer came back with a plan for
a smaller, mixed-use development and offered to throw in a municipal
Below WVN has collected residents' comments and questions from public
meetings, correspondence and conversations. An "A." indicates a
response by the Planning Board or the developers, The Congress Group
Comments and questions fall generally into these areas: ENVIRONMENT,
TRAFFIC, ECONOMICS and ESTHETICS
-- Will Raytheon continue the hazardous waste cleanup it agreed to
when it gave up the site? (A Raytheon official expressed firm
commitment to the selectmen last week. CMG Environmental, Inc, a
consultant hired by the town, has explained deed restrictions on the
site that are "legally binding on the large majority of the
developable land." This limits the new developers until the cleanup
of the site is completed according to strict environmental
regulations. Raytheon's environmental contractors have already
removed a large amount of soil. Whether the town center project could
open in the next two or three years depends partly on factors outside
the developers' control. The development plans call for removing the
existing Raytheon building. What lies beneath would be subject to the
-- Will the lighting be up to the latest environmental standards,
using shades directing illumination at the ground to avoid the glow
that permeates the night sky in most urban areas?
-- The plan shows a large open space west of the project near the
Sudbury River. Are there plans to develop that, and is the land
buildable? (The developers say they haven't studied the environmental
questions but in any case have no plans to develop it. Much of that
area is unbuildable wetlands. Raytheon has removed and replaced some
of the soil.)
-- The site is a recharging area for the town's wells. Will the water
supply be protected from this huge change in the area?
-- What will be the effect of a plant treating a large amount of
waste water? Unlike household septic tanks, large-scale treatment
leaves phosphorus, which if discharged into wetlands and a river
promotes the growth of invasive plants. Where will the waste water
treatment plant be?
The Planning Board and other boards devoted an entire meeting to the
impact on traffic and presented studies by a consultant followed by a
review of that work by another consultant. Since the second
consultant did no original research, the results are similar.
Current plans call for three additional traffic lights: one on Route
20 at the entrance to the development, one on Route 27 where another
entry road would be built, and a third at the intersection of Routes
126 and 27 north of Route 20. The plans also recommend small changes
such as widening some approaches to the route 20 intersection to
improve traffic flow. Will these changes require tearing out the long-
overdue improvements now under way?
The consultants say that traffic resulting from growth outside
Wayland will increase by only about one percent a year in the near
future, but that even if the project isn't built there will be a much
larger increase by 2010. This projection assumes that if the project
isn't built, another sort of tenant will generate even greater
traffic problems. (Before the selectmen decided to delay a Special
Town Meeting until the fall, project proponents implied that a major
tenant might be signed very soon.)
Some residents said that three new traffic lights will spur commuters
to even greater efforts to find short cuts. Bow Road and Glezen Lane
were mentioned specifically, but who knows what determined commuters
might try to avoid additional stop lights? One consultant said that
commuter traffic on side roads would be "less likely if proper
mitigation is implemented."
There was talk of "traffic-calming" measures. Some residents of
streets with noticeable commuter traffic may wonder whether anything
short of police writing speeding tickets would be effective.
The increased traffic will be "a huge change for the town," said one
resident. "The road system doesn't change much (under the plan)," she
said. "You'll have to create a miracle."
Though the project would create fewer weekday commuter delays than
offices at the site, the consultants projected an average of 14,701
vehicle trips in and out of the development on Saturdays and 12,889
This traffic projection implies that on a typical Saturday more than
7,000 vehicles would enter and leave the development, carrying
customers, employees, deliveries and residents. Thus, it appears that
to be economically successful there must be a lot of traffic, and
managing it will be a challenge.
The consultants and developers made it clear that local customers are
the key to commercial success.
"Retail uses are not going to be a regional draw," said Dean
Stratouly, president of the Congress Group, which owns the property.
Wayland's high median income (about $101,000 annually) is a good
sign, he said. Some customers are expected to come from the edges of
Will Wayland residents who live five miles from the project shop
there instead of in Natick, Framingham or Cochituate? For some, the
municipal services available at the center could be a bigger
Could local mass transit deliver people to the development and ease
traffic? a resident asked. Stratouly and a consultant said that
rarely works where density is as low as Wayland's.
-- What will be the costs to Wayland, and will there be an escrow
fund for future costs borne by the town?
-- According to admittedly preliminary studies by a consultant,
additional tax revenues could be as little as $863,000 annually if
the project succeeds. (That figure is the net after subtracting
additional town expense to serve the area.) Is that worth the
possible effects on traffic, the environment and the character of the
-- We don't want to find that in five years the developers have sold
out and standards are declining. Can you guarantee that won't happen?
A. This should be taken care of with written agreements.
-- You hope to attract small business owners. What controls will you
have? A. The Planning Board invites further comment, saying that in
the end, it's up to voters: What do you NOT want there? (Voters may
want to be sure that written agreements reflect that.)
-- When would the new tax money start to flow? (The brochure issued
by developers lists 2007 as the targeted opening date, but others
predict a later opening. Environmental regulations could be a big
factor, as noted above.)
-- In my experience, developers are good at one thing, a particular
kind of development. Are you "town center" developers? Have you done
it before? Answer from Chuck Irving of Streetscape: Nothing quite
like this has been done in New England, but there are about 100
roughly similar projects nationwide. We're following a national trend.
-- Is an open-air mall feasible in New England? A. A study shows only
a 2 percent difference in retail sales when comparing open-air malls
in the Sunbelt and the North. Weather doesn't stop people from
shopping in Wellesley, for example.
-- Existing regulations have hampered Wayland businesses for years.
Now those controls are to be dropped. If Raytheon had been given the
same consideration that you plan to give this developer, Raytheon
would still be there.
-- Is anybody eager to open cafes or boutiques here? As for office
space, two sizable office buildings on Route 20 have been vacant for
-- If you hope to have three or four restaurants, will they be able
to get liquor licenses? A. The selectmen control that.
-- What will be the effects on the schools? The housing and the 40B
(partly affordably-priced) project could result in up to 250 new
-- Would building 100-200 units of housing endanger the progress
Wayland is making toward meeting the state standard of 10 percent
affordable housing? (The existing percentage is a little over 3
percent. The 12 affordable units planned for the adjacent 40B
development will provide a tiny upward tick in the percentage unless
hundreds of market-price units come on the market.)
-- Will there be coordination with the 40B project? Will the two
entities make a coherent design? A. There is a good chance of
agreeing on such things as a common access road. (The 40B project is
being planned by a totally different organization, and there is no
obligation to cooperate.)
-- What if we change the zoning and then the project is never built?
A. The Planning Board says that the zoning will be written to expire
if not put into effect.
-- Several buildings seem almost as large as the 55,000-square foot
space reserved for a supermarket. What kind of businesses will be
there? A. Some buildings may contain more than one business, and
there are plans for spaces suitable for small mom-and-pop operations,
though a number of financially strong tenants are required. Examples
of that kind of healthy business include Starbucks and Orvis.
-- The plan shows a wooded, hilly area to the east of the project.
Will the 40B development remove the trees and much of the hill? A.
The Planning Board says it will take the question "under advisement."
(The 40B project could require leveling a good deal of land and
cutting many trees.)
-- Will Wayland hire a landscape architect to create appropriate
designs for a town that describes itself as semi-rural?
-- The scale looks good but the parking areas add up to something
very large. There seems to be no green buffer with the adjacent
-- Is the size appropriate? For comparison, Shoppers World places
693,000 square feet of building on 84 acres. The town center proposal
is for about 550,000 square feet on 56 acres. In Wayland, the
development could look really big and really crowded.
-- What will this look like from Route 20 as you drive by, or from
the Sudbury River if you're canoeing? The Sudbury River is designated
as a "Wild and Scenic River" by Act of Congress partially in
recognition of the wilderness ambience from most of the river as it
runs through town. The proposed 55-foot buildings would be the
highest structures along the river for many miles in both directions.
(According to one of the developers, the Planning Board wants to
prevent misconceptions by avoiding specific early drawings or
computer simulations, since the design is in the earliest conceptual
stages. The projected housing could be a large mass, with underground
parking, reaching as much as 55 feet above the ground. Those who
prize the Sudbury River and its views might want to devise a way of
visualizing the effect.)
-- "This isn't a town center. It is a mall."
-- How do you plan to integrate the project with existing Wayland
businesses? Will established businesses be on the outside looking in?
You talk about a bike path along the rail lines as a integrative
device. Is that feasible? Route 20 and the unused MBTA tracks are
natural barriers. How can you surmount that? Only Russell's Garden
Center (which enthusiastically supports the project) seems to allow
easy access from the other side, because the plan calls for a stop
light there to cross Route 20. If traffic increases markedly, how
could people make a left turn out of the Wayland Village parking lot
(housing Whole Foods and more than a half-dozen other businesses) to
get to the new development? A. We need input on how to connect with
the nearby areas.
-- What will the project look like as you approach it from the east
on Route 20? Will we see the back of a 55,000-square-foot supermarket
close to the road? Will there be a cell phone tower nearby?
-- Why do you need to relax the existing limits on the heights of
buildings? A. Various heights are in keeping with the kind of
development envisioned, with buildings of various styles, some of
them multi-story. In some cases the highest point might be only a
cupola. If voters say they like the existing restrictions, we'll keep
them. But it could prevent certain architecturally interesting
things like steeply sloped roofs.
-- The only multi-use development in Massachusetts similar to the
Wayland proposal is Mashpee Commons. Even after many years, that
development seems lacking in greenery. And, while it isn't
unpleasant, it looks like a Hollywood set, not a "town center."
-- The plans calls for streets to be open to traffic. Assuming
restaurants locate there, would anybody really want to dine outdoors
surrounded by cars? Would people just enjoying themselves on the
street want to have cars constantly going by?
-- The plan doesn't look people-friendly. There are no parks. Where
would young people congregate?
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors