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WVN Newsletter #129: Town Center idea alive?

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  • waylandvoters1
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2005
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      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
      discounted prices.

      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
      planned.

      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



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      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove and Michael Short, Editors
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