WVN Newsletter #149: Town center talks as "soap opera"
- Dear Wayland Voter,
In the headlong rush to put a housing/shopping development
before voters again in the spring, the selectmen and the
Planning Board virtually stopped talking with each other and
used the town's lawyer for a local version of shuttle diplomacy.
This may strike some voters as a strange way to manage a
$100 million proposal that would change the character of
After hours of intense discussion Monday night, the selectmen
extended the deadline for submitting Special Town Meeting
warrant articles from Feb. 28 to March 7.
Meanwhile, the two boards will meet together Thursday, March 2,
at 7 p.m. to discuss the agreement with developers that would
complement a Town Meeting zoning article. The meeting is
scheduled to be televised live on the Wayland cable channel.
The Planning Board worked past midnight on Monday to draft an
article intended to protect the town's interests. Signage and the
developer's ability to change commercial tenants without
Planning Board input are the major concerns.
The selectmen are urging concessions to the developer. The
developer threatens to drop the whole idea if he doesn't like the
zoning article. Molly Upton reports on what brought it to this
'BETTER THAN A SOAP OPERA'
There was high drama in town hall Monday night. "Better than a
soap opera" and "the most exciting night I've seen in Wayland"
were among comments from observers. The top issues:
last-minute requests for changes by the developer, and whether
two zoning bylaws will be submitted, one by the Planning Board
and one by the selectmen.
The night before the Feb. 28 deadline for filing special Town
Meeting warrant articles, the Planning Board and the Board of
Selectmen were feverishly, separately working on a mixed use
overlay district zoning bylaw. Once an article is filed, it cannot
undergo substantive changes, although it can be fine-tuned.
In its room, the Planning Board continued its grinding review of a
draft bylaw presented by town counsel Mark Lanza after lengthy
consultations with the developer's attorney, Adam Weisenberg of
Goodwin Procter. This document strongly resembled the bylaw
that voters rejected in November but changeds several of the
special permit processes into less rigorous site plan reviews.
Associate Planning Board member Anette Lewis had warned the
selectmen and the developer at an early February meeting, when
the developer agreed to pursue the shopping center (but not to
forego its right to file for a 40B housing development), that the
board could meet its submission deadline only if the changes
were minor and focused on the three areas demanded by the
Twenty Wayland LLC's three concerns were: the right to
construct to the maximum sizes previously agreed, recognition
that time is of the essence, and a standard of
"reasonableness." The agreed-upon size is 165,000 square
feet of commercial and office space, 167,500 square feet
containing 100 condominium units, and an additional 40,000
square feet of municipal space (plus the existing wastewater
In the selectmen's room, with the developers in attendance, the
selectmen discussed their plans to submit a "placeholder"
warrant article (to meet the filing deadline but subject to later
modification) in case the Planning Board could not finish its
bylaw in time or to provide the ability to substitute language from
a subsequent agreement between the Planning Board and the
"It doesn't make sense to put in something the developer could
not live with," observed Selectman Bill Whitney. During the
evening, Lanza revealed that he planned to include in the
selectmen's proposed placeholder the provisions agreed to by
the Planning Board and the developer and to incorporate
provisions acceptable to the developer.
CONTROL OVER SIGNS AND TENANTS
Lanza told the Selectmen he had learned that day that the
developer has issues with the Planning Board's draft language
on permissible signs and with leaving decisions about changes
in tenant usage until the special permit process. "It certainly will
be a challenge getting through (the issues of) signage and use"
before the Tuesday Feb. 28 deadline, he said. The developers'
attorney told selectmen he had a brief proposal on "retenanting"
which he hoped the Planning Board would accept. He accused
the Planning Board of time-consuming attention to "edits that are
not critical." The planners are concerned about replacement of
tenants by those with dissimilar effects on traffic and water
Early in the evening, Selectmen Bill Whitney suggested that the
Planning Board, Lanza and the developer try to hammer out
issues after the Town Meeting warrant closes, but he added that
he would hate to have the deadline pass without the Planning
Board article. He also asked Lanza to "urge the Planning Board
After the Planning Board declined to interrupt its own meeting to
meet with the selectmen, the selectmen walked down the hall to
the Planning Board room for a crowded, intense discussion.
When the selectmen returned to their own room, they dispatched
Lanza on his rounds of shuttle diplomacy. The Planning Board
told him he had a conflict of interest, and that he was not to use
their draft for the selectmen's placeholder, which he admitted he
As the evening wore on, Whitney proposed extending the
deadline, and Lanza was dispatched to the Planning Board
room to ask if the board would take advantage of the time.
Members of the Planning Board, deep into document review and
clearly frustrated by the ongoing saga of new developer
demands, said they would think about it after reviewing the
document in front oft them. The selectmen, eager to adjourn
before midnight, decided to extend the warrant deadline until
Tuesday, March 7 at 10 a.m. The original Feb. 28 deadline was
about a week earlier than that of the previous year.
In the end, the Planning Board decided the selectmen had given
them a very tight timetable, over their objections, but they would
still uphold their word to try to meet the original deadline.
`BACK TO LAST SUMMER'
For some time, the Planning Board has been presented with
challenges requiring many hours of deliberation. At its meeting
on the President's Day holiday, Feb. 20, Becky Regan opined,
"the town should know what's going on." "We're getting forced
into substantive renegotiation of the bylaw, and are back to
where we were in the summer," she asserted. The Planning
Board found substantive changes although Lanza had assured
them they involved form, not substance.
Regan also said the developer agreement is critical, and the
Planning Board should have time to work on that with the
selectmen. All parties had agreed after November's vote that it
was essential to avoid earlier mistakes and construct the bylaw
and developer agreement in tandem. This has not happened.
The Planning Board earlier issued a list of items it thought
should be corrected in the new developer agreement. (See:
Two of the ten points: 1) "Did not include a guaranteed minimum
tax payment (or payment in lieu of taxes) throughout the
permitting and build-out period;" 2) "Developer could have
`walked away' from the agreement but the zoning bylaw still
would have remained intact for the use of this developer or a
future developer but with no agreement in place to protect the
This is a different project from many in which developers build
large shopping centers close to major roads with little local
control because they are at the edge of town. Many of these have
large signs, and the developer is free to change tenants at will.
In contrast, the Wayland site is in the middle of town, traffic is a
grave concern to many residents, and ecological factors such as
water and wastewater are very real, given the Route 20 site's
proximity to the town's Baldwin drinking water wells and a
designated wild and scenic river. The failed 2005 proposal was
advertised as a town center, not merely another shopping center.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor