WVN Newsletter #129: Town Center idea alive?
- ANOTHER SPECIAL TM ON TOWN CENTER?
Developers have declared the failed Town Center project dead,
but selectmen are still striving to bring it back to life.
The Board of Selectmen asked the Planning Board at a joint
meeting last week to try again. The boards agreed to work
together to see what might be done, though the precise process
was undecided. Both included the matter on their separate
agendas for this week.
Selectmen Chair Michael Tichnor raised the possibility of
another special Town Meeting in April, less than six months
after the Nov. 1 vote that killed the original proposal. Selectmen
later conceded that lack of support from the planners and other
boards might have affected the vote.
Selectmen's arguments were familiar: This is the right thing to
do, a window of opportunity, a chance for another bite at the
apple, a tremendous opportunity, a revenue producer -- and
time is of the essence.
Tichnor said that a 40B housing project now contemplated by the
developers could cost the town money by drawing school
children while bringing in less tax revenue than a mixed
retail/housing development. Twenty Wayland LLC has talked
about building 200 or more units with market prices in the
$700,000 range. Under the state's affordability law the
developers' profit is capped and a percentage of units is sold at
Planning Board members emphasized that Wayland residents
say they favor a village-scale retail development with small
stores. A rough figure of 100,000 square feet of retail space was
thrown into the discussion. That's half the size the developers
Planning Board member Ira Montague proposed analyzing the
failed zoning articles and development agreement to produce a
plan that the two boards and others could agree on. The town
could then find out whether Twenty Wayland is interested in
negotiating from that point.
Would that attract the developers back to the table? One thing
that remained unchanged as Town Center designs were
trimmed over the spring and summer was the developers'
stated need for several comparatively large stores operated by
financially strong regional or national chains.
Tichnor suggested leaving the waste water commissioners out
of further talks. Planning Board associate member Anette Lewis
responded that "the town could be left holding the bag...We don't
have the right to discharge water into the Sudbury River forever."
Environmental regulations supercede local control.
Selectmen have minimized environmental concerns. In addition
to federal and state flood plain, aquifer protection and waste
water restrictions, redevelopment of the 57-acre site on the
former Raytheon property is contingent on an environmental
cleanup expected to continue for years.
Though Tichnor defended the selectmen's agreement with the
developers as "very strong," Planning Chairman Larry Stabile
said it would have left his board facing great difficulties. The
developers could have "pulled out all the stops" to maximize
size and scale, even resorting to legal action. When a selectman
was skeptical, Stabile reminded him that Wayland has in fact
been sued over building permits.
The selectmen didn't present a plan for involving other boards if
there are further discussions, but at least one town body will not
be on hand. The Planning Board has dissolved the Town Center
Committee which it had appointed as an advisory body. The
committee and some of the selectmen did virtually all of the
preliminary work with the developers.
When committee member Dan Mesnick complained to the
selectmen late last month, he was told that an elected board has
the right to dissolve an advisory committee.
Committee members had little cause to be surprised. The
Planning Board had told them that they failed to keep the parent
board properly informed, exceeded their authority and become
an advocacy group for the project.
-- Michael Short
Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to
your friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive
their own copy, they can send an email to
waylandvoters@... and they will be signed up for the
listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up by sending a blank
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Click reply and send after receiving an e-mail confirming the
Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors