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WVN # 116- UPCOMING TOWN MEETING, ETHICS COMPLAINT

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  • waylandvoters
    Dear Wayland Voter, Though Wayland officials are planning for an overflow Special Town Meeting beginning Nov. 1, we ve been hearing talk around town that the
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2005
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Though Wayland officials are planning for an overflow Special
      Town Meeting beginning Nov. 1, we've been hearing talk around
      town that the issue of the proposed Town Center project is so
      clear that the vote is a foregone conclusion. That assumption
      could be a mistake.

      On one hand, proponents sometimes say something like, "Why
      would anybody vote against this, the only chance we're likely to
      get for many years to bring things we'd like to that land? A small
      minority is trying to thwart the majority."

      On the other hand, opponents are saying something like, "This
      project as presented is dead. Two important boards are against
      it. Why would anybody vote for a rushed, flawed scheme with so
      many unknowns and loopholes?"

      We mention this neighborhood chatter as a reminder that it is
      important to attend Special Town Meeting Nov. 1 and 2. The
      zoning bylaw changes that would allow the project to proceed
      require a two-thirds vote, and will be taken up after the cell tower
      articles. Plan to come early. Doors open at 6 p.m. Car pooling is
      encouraged. Satellite parking and bus service are available from
      the Middle School, Sandy Burr and St. Ann's Church. Additional
      seating is available at Little Theater and Cafeteria if the High
      School Field House reaches capacity.


      The week in summary:


      SELECTMAN ACCUSED OF TOWN CENTER CONFLICT OF
      INTEREST

      Selectman Bill Whitney is named in a complaint filed with the
      state Ethics
      Commission involving his negotiating with the developers of the
      Town Center project while his company was involved with one of
      the project's developers on a New Hampshire deal. Whitney
      denies any conflict of interest but acknowledges that he failed to
      file a disclosure form as other Wayland officials have on other
      matters. See story below by Michael Short.

      FINANCE COMMITTEE LOOKS FOR DETAILS ON PROJECT:
      NET GAIN OR LOSS?

      Finance Committee and Planning Board meetings highlighted
      the many financial unknowns about the proposed
      450,000-square-foot commercial/residential development at the
      former Raytheon property on Route 20, partly because the
      developers haven't provided enough specifics. What happens to
      Wayland tax revenues before the project is completed years from
      now? Will the town net $445,000 annually by 2012 or will added
      town expenses or project-related expenses eat up the surplus?
      And the Waste Water Commission slams the development
      agreement signed by the selectmen. Story below by Molly Upton.

      SCHOOL COMMITTEE BUDGET FORUM, MEETINGS NOW
      BROADCAST

      The School Committee held a budget hearing to kick off its FY07
      budget process (this will be covered in next week's WVN
      newsletter) and a subsequent meeting which is reported below.
      Waycam recorded both and will broadcast the meeting tonight
      and Sunday (10/21 and 10/23) and next Friday and Sunday
      (10/28 and 10/30). The hearing will be broadcast on 10/26 and
      11/2. Reports at the meeting indicated a continued drop in the
      school population and an interestingly large response to the
      high school survey. Report below by Tom Sciacca.


      FINANCE COMMITTEE REPORT

      CELL TOWERS. The FinCom heard public comments regarding
      the location of cell phone towers outside the overlay district, a
      controversial article on the Special Town Meeting warrant.
      Comments focused largely on potential additional litigation as
      well as reduced assessments in the area. FinCom noted that
      reduced assessments in one area would not impact the town's
      revenues. The implication was that other areas would make up
      for the reduced revenues that might occur in the Reeves Hill
      area. One attendee asserted that placing a cell tower outside of
      the district would crack open the bylaw and leave the town facing
      more requests for cell towers outside of the district.

      TOWN CENTER. Blair Davies of the Waste Water Management
      District Commission, who told selectmen earlier, "We do not
      support the development agreement," had a lengthy dialogue
      with FinCom regarding costs, benefits, and risks of a new,
      expanded treatment plant vs. a new plant of the same capacity at
      the 57-acre site. Developer Frank Dougherty said he has quotes
      of less than $3 million for an expanded plant. Davies pointed out
      those quotes would be for the existing method of discharge. He
      said the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
      could require the effluent to be piped to a leaching field in
      another part of town, which would escalate costs beyond the $3
      million cap offered by the developer. The enabling legislation for
      the plant was to protect drinking water, he said. The site is a
      recharging area for town wells.

      He also noted that the WWDMC is responsible for decisions at
      the plant, whereas the development agreement seems to
      confuse the issue. Dougherty agreed his group needs a
      separate agreement with WWDMC. An expanded plant could
      enable more growth in that area, Davies added. A 40B housing
      project is planned for adjacent land in addition to the 120 units
      planned by Dougherty's group.

      Bob Lentz of FinCom termed the wastewater issue "noise" that
      won't impact the town's bottom line because it is managed by an
      enterprise fund. Davies noted this is true, unless the WWMDC
      reverts to the Board of Health. In addition, the existing users,
      which include the town, would be forced to pay large fees for an
      expanded plant, he noted. Dougherty explained the developer
      can build the proposed project with the existing plant capacity,
      but is willing to pay up to $3 million for a new expanded plant that
      would enable more restaurants, which yield larger revenue. The
      developers would pay 60 percent of costs above $3 million.

      FinCom indicated that it has been receiving comments from
      town departments regarding the fiscal impact of the proposed
      redevelopment of the Wayland Business Center, but shared no
      information.

      A resident told the FinCom that to fairly estimate the real net tax
      revenue from the project, one should take that number
      ($445,774) and subtract from it the recent net tax revenues. This
      would leave a net gain of considerably less, he said.

      Another attendee wondered why the town would go through this
      "headache" and effort when the revenue at stake is less than 1
      percent of the town's budget.

      A person endorsing the project said she assumed the
      developers would provide a "New England" atmosphere and that
      she has friends who are not moving to Wayland because it lacks
      a town center.

      The developer passed out a flyer touting "Wayland Town Center
      Project Financial Benefits" totaling $14.15 million. The
      developers' website (www.towncenteryes.com)
      and a newspaper ad tout this as "developer-funded extras for the
      town." However, even the $3.03 million "lump sum contribution"
      (referred to as a "gift" in the developer agreement) to the town
      will likely be consumed by project-related costs such as
      constructing sidewalks to the property from the existing town
      center, periodic traffic monitoring, and any improvements
      needed on neighborhood streets.

      The flyer also lists a $3 million value for the municipal building
      pad. (When an acre sells for $500,000, how can a
      20,000-square-foot parcel be worth $3 million?) There's more.
      To see the full analysis, go to
      http://www.waylandcard.blogspot.com

      This writer thinks the town's general fund will be lucky to see
      anything beyond the $250,000 allocation for a bike path.

      PLANNING BOARD. At the board meeting, FinCom member Karl
      Geiger said he may ask fiscal consultant Judi Barrett -- the
      source of the $445,000 estimate of annual tax revenue -- if she
      needs to revise her figures, and whether she used fully loaded
      school costs/pupil. He said her assumptions were that the
      affordable housing units would yield .6 children per unit and the
      market rate units .32 children per unit. Planning Board members
      also wondered whether her estimates had considered what the
      triggers are for a new school.

      Geiger said it's almost impossible to figure the tax revenues
      from the property because there is no timetable and the
      sequencing of building is unknown.

      Chairman Larry Stabile reiterated that the Planning Board does
      not support passage of the zoning bylaw, adding the developer
      agreement and bylaw were not developed in tandem, and there
      are many things missing in the developer agreement that open
      the town to risk. In addition, the board doesn't have confidence
      the special permit aspects would "allow us to reject or improve
      whatever we wanted." (The elephant in this room was the
      prospect of legal action arising from non-specifics in the
      development agreement.)

      Geiger asked the Planning Board if it had in mind what
      percentage of housing, retail, and office space it would like to
      see if it were starting from scratch.

      He also asked how the project compares to the town's master
      plan adopted last year, what are the options if the bylaw fails,
      and if the planners foresee the need to add employees to handle
      the additional workload imposed by the development.


      AD HOC BUDGET COMMITTEE. The ad hoc committee solicited
      public comments for cutting town expenses. Suggestions
      included reducing costs and raising revenues at the landfill;
      avoiding litigation with town employees through better
      communication between boards and employees; examining the
      cost effectiveness of town counsel; asking FinCom to review
      legal expenses; urging the School Committee to adhere to the 8
      percent budget reduction request; ensuring that the Children's
      Way day care center at the Town Building is paying its full share;
      investigate a new phone system; suggestion box for employees
      (done) and reward (under consideration).

      The FinCom indicated plans for a Department of Public Works
      are on a fast track. The idea of a DPW has been percolating for
      some time. It would consolidate the activities at the highway
      garage (highway and park and rec) as well as those at the
      landfill.

      School Superintendent Gary Burton said the schools have turned
      down their thermostats to 68 degrees and some buildings have
      motion detectors for lights within buildings and he'll look at
      similar cost cutting for outside lighting. Chairman Chris Riley
      said one possibility is to turn off some streetlights or investigate
      bulb replacement. Currently the town spends $125,000 annually
      on streetlights. He said the Police Department daily advises
      officers of gas stations offering the lowest prices.

      The FinCom is looking for any and every suggestion to cut costs.
      Email the FinCom through Town Administrator Fred Turkington
      (fturkington@...).


      ETHICS COMPLAINT

      A complaint has been filed with the Massachusetts Ethics
      Commission accusing Selectman Bill Whitney of a conflict of
      interest when he negotiated an agreement with the developers
      of the proposed Town Center retail/residential development.

      The three-page complaint is accompanied by copies of real
      estate dealings totaling 26 pages.

      According to the complaint, at the time Whitney was the
      selectmen's negotiator, Whitney's boss was dealing with one or
      more of the Wayland developers on commercial property in
      New Hampshire.

      Whitney is a vice president of The Druker Company, a major
      Boston-based real estate developer. One of the companies
      involved in the Wayland proposal is KGI Properties.

      "It has come to my attention that while Mr. Whitney was
      participating in this town matter involving KGI interests, Druker
      corporate entities were engaged in business transactions with
      KGI corporate entities," says the complaint, which was filed by
      Wayland resident Gerald E. McGonagle on Oct.17.

      The Ethics Commission doesn't necessarily investigate every
      complaint received. Investigations often take considerable time
      and can result in penalties including fines.

      According to the Wayland town clerk's office, Whitney never filed
      a notice disclosing transactions between Druker entities and
      KGI entities. Public officials routinely file such declarations to
      avoid being accused later of hiding a possible conflict of interest.
      Wayland Select Chairman Michael Tichnor and Planning Board
      member Lynne Dunbrack, for example, recently filed such
      declarations on other matters.

      Whitney told the Wayland Town Crier that he had made the New
      Hampshire land deal known in May and had been assured by
      Town Counsel Mark Lanza that there was no appearance of
      conflict of interest. Whitney said he was not involved in the New
      Hampshire deal.

      No evidence has been produced so far that Whitney disclosed
      the Druker-KGI business. Whitney said he was unaware that the
      law requires him to file written notice of a possible conflict.

      The connection alleged between Druker and KGI involves other
      corporate entities, such as TDC Holding Çorporation and
      Druker Management Corporation, all with the same Boston
      address. The Druker Company and other entities are controlled
      by Ronald M. Druker.

      Supporting real estate records include the names of two
      developers of the Wayland project, Dean Stratouly and Charles
      Irving, as well as Irving's signature.

      Irving and Stratouly signed the development agreement that
      Wayland Selectmen agreed to earlier this month.

      The ethics complaint doesn't accuse Whitney of being involved in
      the New Hampshire transactions, but asserts that he might hold
      a position in a corporate entity other than the Druker Company
      and that as vice president of a corporation with relatively few
      employees he was likely to know what other Druker corporate
      entities were doing.

      Tichnor issued a statement attacking the complaint as
      "mean-spirited" and defending Whitney, but offering no
      specifics.

      McGonagle wouldn't discuss his complaint further.



      SCHOOL COMMITTEE OCTOBER 17

      This regular meeting of the School Committee was held after the
      public budget hearing, but the Waycam tape will be broadcast
      first this and next Friday and Sunday nights (10/21, 10/23, 10/28
      & 10/30) at 7pm. The budget hearing will be broadcast on 10/26
      & 11/2 at 7pm, and will be the subject of the next WVN
      newsletter.

      STUDENT ACTIVITY FEES- High School Principal Charlie Ruopp
      objects in general to student activity fees, which help offset the
      stipends for advisors to after-school and optional activities. But
      when the School Committee imposed those $50 fees they failed
      to make an exception for community service clubs, and students
      strongly objected to having to pay to do good things for other
      people. Ruopp asked the Committee at least to fix that problem,
      and the Committee admitted its gaffe by unanimously voting to
      exempt such clubs at all levels.

      BUDGET BOOK LAYOUT- Business Manager Joy Buhler
      reported that the layout of the budget book, mailed to all
      households before Annual Town Meeting, has been the same
      for 35 years. She said she would like to send out something
      less cumbersome and put details on the website rather than
      spend money printing a mass of details that most people
      probably never read. She has examples of alternative formats
      from other towns. Chair Jeff Dieffenbach and member Barbara
      Fletcher agreed to serve on a subcommittee to work with Buhler
      and come up with a new format.

      ENROLLMENT- Total system enrollment this year is 2916, eight
      fewer than last year and 11 fewer than projections. The high
      school has 912 students, 15 more than last year, which brings it
      to the same student count as in 1983-84. There are 132 Metco
      students, including (for the first time) one kindergarten child. The
      population next year is projected to drop by another 45, based on
      declining birth rates. The high school population next year is now
      projected to be 922. Previous estimates used to justify the failed
      proposal for a new high school were that the population would
      grow to over 1000 by 2007.

      The complete enrollment report is posted on the School
      Committee website, at
      http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/admin/super/..\business\2005_1
      0_enrollment.pdf

      Member Louis Jurist suggested that, based on the new
      enrollment data, some classes could be combined next year
      without any classes becoming excessively large. Superintendent
      Gary Burton agreed.

      SUPERINTENDENT'S GOALS- Burton presented the final
      version of his goals statement for this school year to the
      committee. Burton commented "I'll be held accountable for
      them." It is posted at
      http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/admin/super/goals05_06.html
      Member Heather Pineault responded "thank you for making it
      more concrete and measurable" as she had requested
      previously.

      HIGH SCHOOL SURVEY- Dieffenbach reported that about 2000
      responses had been received to the survey sent out to explore
      the reasons for the failure of the new high school proposal, and
      that another month or two would be needed to compile the
      results.

      When High School Building Committee chair Lea Anderson and
      member Dianne Bladon met with the committee earlier in the
      year they voiced an expectation of far fewer responses (400 to, at
      most, 800), based on general experience with response rates
      for surveys. (See WVN #95) There were no control mechanisms
      in place to prevent multiple responses or organized efforts by
      particular groups to respond in unusually high numbers.


      WVN HARD-COPY NEWSLETTER DELIVERIES- We are
      astonished and gratified at the success of our program to enlist
      our email readers to network with their offline neighbors by
      printing and delivering copies of our newsletters. Some people
      are using US mail to send fellow townsfolk their copies, while
      many more are hand-carrying them. As a result, hundreds of
      mostly older technology-challenged folks are now reading these
      reports. But there are still a few pockets of WVN-deprived
      Waylanders, and we would like to highlight three: Sycamore
      Road, Main Street near King Street, and the Morrill Drive/Maguire
      Road area. If any email readers live in or regularly pass those
      neighborhoods and would like to reach out to their fellow voters
      with the gift of information, please contact us by replying to this
      message.


      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors
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