WVN #103: Clear Divisions on Town Center Proposal
- Wayland Voters Network
August 8, 2005
Dear Wayland Voter,
The Planning Board has asked developers for a smaller version of the
half-million square foot residential-retail-office complex proposed
for the Route 20 site once occupied by Raytheon. Town boards continue
to work at a fast pace as complexities become more apparent.
The Board of Selectmen meets tonight, Monday, Aug. 8, and Wednesday,
Aug. 10, at 7:00. The Town Center Committee also meets tonight, Aug.
8, at 7:30. Both selectmen meetings are scheduled to be telecast
live. Public comment at BoS meetings is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
At 8:30 tonight, the selectmen are to discuss a schedule leading to a
special Town Meeting on Nov. 1. At 8:45 the agenda calls for meeting
with the Wastewater Management District Commission to discuss
concerns about sewage treatment at the former Raytheon site.
Wednesday's BoS meeting will be largely about the Town Center
Selectmen have received extensive statements and questions from town
boards and environmental groups as well as the general public. The
sheer volume of paper produced thus far indicates the difficulties of
At its 7:30 p.m. Monday meeting, the Planning Board will discuss
Wellesley's recent redevelopment experience, which may have relevance
This roundup of recent activity related to the Town Center proposal
was prepared by WVN editor Michael Short.
CLEAR DIVISIONS ON PROPOSED TOWN CENTER DEVELOPMENT
"While Wayland is located in an area that provides easily accessible
shopping, sightseeing, dining and entertainment," the town tells
visitors to its website, "Wayland itself remains a quiet bedroom
community in a
semi-rural setting with little industrial or commercial base."
A special Town Meeting that could radically change that description is
planned in less than three months.
Voters will be asked to change zoning to permit mixed-use development
of housing, retail stores and offices totaling nearly 550,000 square
feet at the essentially unused former Raytheon site on Route 20.
Public opinion -- at least the opinion of those who attend hearings
or write to town boards, the newspapers and WVN -- has crystallized
into two camps, as a July 25 hearing of the road commissioners
demonstrated. Many in the standing-room-only crowd at the Town
Building enthusiastically applauded or quietly snickered as speakers
voiced their ideas.
One position might be summarized this way: We're going to have traffic
problems to deal with whether the Town Center project is built or
not. If we build the Town Center, we'll get shops and attractive
public spaces that people can enjoy. We'll get land for a municipal
The other side: We're not against a development per se, but this
project is too big -- two-thirds the size of Shoppers World. Many
people moved to Wayland because they enjoy narrow, winding, quiet
roads, not more traffic headaches and a shopping mall with a giant
supermarket set beside a two-lane road.
The night before the traffic hearing, selectmen heard an interim
report from consultant Judith Barrett on the economic impact of the
$100 million development. Barrett emphasized that available data
allow only extremely approximate projections of tax revenue. The
project is in its conceptual stage. Nobody knows exactly what it will
look like, and though the developers talk of a 2007 opening they have
asked for up to seven years.
She estimated that 308,000 square feet of retail, 40,000 square feet
of offices and 100 condominium units (some of them designated
affordable under state standards) could generate $832,000 annually in
tax revenue after subtracting additional town expenses. Add another
100 housing units and the town might receive $974,000 annually. The
figures assume the space is fully occupied. No phase-in study has
been done so far.
Barrett cautioned that many towns seriously underestimate what it
will cost to provide services. (Hypothetical examples offered by WVN
readers: If a town allows condo units significantly taller than
allowable under previous zoning, the Fire Department might have to
buy a truck with a longer ladder at a cost of up to $1 million. And
if additional traffic on side roads creates a demand for speed bumps,
more signs and rigorous police enforcement,local taxpayers are
responsible for the bill.)
Selectmen instructed Barrett to revise her calculations to include 200
housing units while reducing the retail and office space
proportionally. Selectman Bill Whitney compared an appropriate
housing-retail ratio to a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds. A
recession could kill some businesses, but residential values would be
As for Wayland's existing businesses, Barrett said some would be
hurt, at least in the short run, but not necessarily fatally.
When a resident asked how the town could protect itself from economic
harm, Barrett replied that public service costs are her biggest
concern. Though a significant number of children in 200 Town Center
condos and the 48 adjacent units being planned by another developer
could swell school enrollment, she considered that a lesser
Though she didn't recommend it, Barrett noted that a dense, tall condo
complex tends to discourage families with children.
Because of increased town costs, according to Barrett's figures,
adding 100 units produces only $142,000 more in tax revenue even with
all of the proposed retail space. A market of about 55,000 square
feet is considered essential. (A similar proposal for a Route 20
location in Northboro is under fire by citizens worried about
Asked whether 40,000 square feet of office space seems excessive,
Barrett said a market study should be done.
Planning Board Chairman Larry Stabile, citing overall size concerns,
asked about the economic impact of a project of about 200,000 square
feet less than the developers propose. Barrett had no ready answer,
cautioning that a calculation is more complex than simply factoring
down higher numbers.
By the end of the week the Planning Board was asking the developers
for a scaled-down plan, saying that available data and public opinion
indicated that the developers' initial concept might be too large.
The developers' initial reaction wasn't positive. One developer
walked out of the Planning Board meeting. And Dean Stratouly of the
Congress Group, owner of the property, expressed disappointment and
said that to keep the project economically viable "you have to be
very careful about what's been removed."
The economic consultant's rough estimate indicates that the owner of a
house assessed at the median of about $530,000 might save $100 or more
annually in property taxes if the development is fully occupied. A
Road Commission hearing the night after the selectmens' meeting
became in part a public forum on whether the tax saving and new shops
are worth the inconvenience of additional traffic.
"This project in its size will forever change the character of
Wayland," one resident said.
On the other hand, another said it's important to have such things as
a convenient large market. "Whole Foods (which is about 13,000 square
feet) just doesn't cut it," he said.
At the road commissioners' request, yet a third traffic consultant
reported on the impact of the project.
Kevin Andrade of Transportation Engineering Construction of Andover
criticized the developers' proposal to tear out the new state-funded
improvements at the intersection of Route 20 to provide additional
lane capacity. Andrade said the additional cost and delay wouldn't
provide enough benefit. (It couldn't be done without state approval
in any case.)
He suggested small changes to the proposals studied earlier by two
other traffic engineering firms. One of the three proposed new stop
lights might not be needed immediately, he said.
Andrade agreed with most findings of the previous studies, including
the estimates of traffic increase. All estimates compare traffic
generated by the Town Center and that of the Raytheon site fully
occupied by office use. Some citizens have called traffic delay
estimates too small and asked for more extensive studies.
Office use would cause more traffic at peak commuting hours than the
mixed-use plan, but less traffic at other hours and much less on
weekends. (The developers' website, www.towncenteryes.com, sent an
email to its mailing list summarizing the estimates favorable to the
Town Center plan. It didn't mention the predicted weekend traffic
estimate that prompted Wayland Citizens Against Reckless Development,
www.WaylandCARD.blogspot.com, to distribute a leaflet noting that the
project would generate an additional 19,376 vehicle trips on
Andrade recommended analyzing the impact on existing Route 20
businesses and making quantitative studies of traffic on cut-through
routes such as Bow Road and Glezen Lane.
Wayland Police Chief Bob Irving had already noted his concern about
increased commuter traffic on Bow, Glezen and Pelham Island Roads.
At the hearing, residents of Moore, Plain and Old Sudbury Roads also
aired their concerns.
One Moore Road resident said that commuter traffic is already a huge
problem. A child was nearly struck by a car recently, he said, and
speeding drivers seeking an alternative route make obscene gestures
at joggers and walkers.
A Bow Road resident said traffic there is unbearable and asked for
understanding and a sense of camaraderie from the rest of the town.
One resident asserted that heavy commuter traffic generated by a fully
occupied office site would create more problems on side roads than a
glut of weekend shoppers: People going shopping are less likely then
commuters to look for short cuts.
One local owner predicted "a sure, slow death" for some existing
Route 20 businesses.
All three traffic studies declare Route 20 an overburdened state
highway that will retain an F grade no matter what happens in the
next few years. Though horrendous commuter delays are predicted if
the Raytheon site is reoccupied for office use, traffic from outside
Wayland is estimated to contribute only an additional one percent per
year to the total. Voters may ask how much worse commuter traffic
would be than it was when Raytheon used the space.
At the moment, voters may feel as short of hard data as financial
consultant Judith Barrett. If you lose two or three minutes or more
each time you drive through the town's major intersection, will it
cost you 10 hours a year? Fifty hours? Is it worth it for a small tax
saving? Aside from the calculation of time vs. money, will you derive
benefit and pleasure from a new development? Will the town be able to
afford a municipal building on the land offered by the developers, or
persuade the developers to pay for it?
Adding to others' expressions of environmental concern, the Sudbury,
Assabet and Concord Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council (RSC)
sent a detailed statement to the selectmen.
The RSC, which works with representatives of other towns and
environmental groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
National Park Service, said that Wayland should respect the fragile,
federally recognized Sudbury River by insisting on sound practices
that go beyond current environmental regulations. Among the
-- Minimize storm water runoff and maximize water recharging. (The
area recharges town wells.)
-- Conserve and re-use water. The town should confirm that the
development's water needs won't compromise the river or nearby
-- Build a new waste water treatment plant, using techniques to
minimize discharge of phosphorus, which promotes the growth of
invasive plants that choke rivers.
-- Build the proposed housing in harmony with the visual environment.
The nearest large structure visible from the river is Emerson
Hospital, 10 miles away. Taller buildings should be completely
screened by trees.
Anne Heller, chairman of the Wayland Library trustees, wrote a two-
pronged letter to the selectmen. First, she pointed to increased
difficulties in reaching the present library building if new stop
lights are added as part of the project. Then she listed concerns
that would apply "if the Library is considered for the municipal lot
in the Town Center."
The Finance Committee wrote to express concern about nine matters,
including reimbursement for increased town expenses "necessary to keep
the project moving forward" and "any abatement judgment on current
The Board of Road Commissioners filed a four-page list of concerns.
The Wayland Housing Authority asked that 30 percent of the housing
units be affordable as defined under state law and that they be
rented, not owned, and not age-restricted. "Other communities are
having difficulty finding buyers for age-restricted affordable
units," the WHA said. The WHA offered to manage the rentals. Few
Wayland seniors would meet the requirements for units bought under
affordability regulations, the WHA said.
The Board of Health reported five areas of concern, including sewage
and the health of town wells.
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors