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WVN Newsletter #186: Public offers design ideas

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Residents turned out at a forum to suggest ideas on building a town center project that won t look like just another shopping center. Molly
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2006
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Residents turned out at a forum to suggest ideas on building a
      town center project that won't look like just another shopping
      center. Molly Upton reports.

      Also in this newsletter: Wayland goes to court over trees illegally
      felled by a housing developer, and it turns out that override
      opponents were correct in estimating how much taxes have
      gone up in recent years.

      PLANNING FORUM ELICITS IDEAS

      Waylanders enthusiastically contributed their ideas on features
      they would like to see in the mixed use development on Route
      20 at the former Raytheon site. Some of the comments at the
      Oct. 4 session were new, some reiterated previous public
      comment to the Planning Board.

      Representatives from the Cecil Group, consultants to the
      Planning Board, divided the room into three groups and worked
      hard to keep up with the ideas offered by residents. The Cecil
      Group will categorize the results and present them to the Board.

      Among the frequent comments were: make the streets more
      natural, i.e. with curves, rather than straight lines; draw up
      alternative plans with and without Route 27 access; minimize the
      frontage of large stores for more interesting pedestrian
      perusing; vary the set-backs of retail buildings for more visual
      interest and outdoor gathering spots; move the municipal
      building and parking lot away from the flood plain and move the
      grocery store so trucks don't romp through the parking lot and
      loading dock noise isn't so close to neighbors.

      For the residential portion: mix some housing with the retail
      areas; construct some large, colonial-style structures adjacent
      to the retail that are multi-dwelling units; move some historic
      buildings to the site.

      Some comments about the site and the river: make the
      condominium buildings invisible from the river by adding trees
      and/or moving the condominiums; make the view of the river
      more accessible to visitors of the site; respect the adjacent river
      by restricting the light reaching the area and by constructing
      parking drainage in the form of below-grade swales with shrubs.

      The grocery store drew several thoughtful comments: be sure to
      screen from the neighbors; move it away from the neighbors;
      ensure the HVAC system is silent; better integrate the foot traffic
      to the grocery store with other stores.

      The suggestions listed above were a few elements suggested
      by one of the three groups.

      The Planning Board will be working on the concept plan at its
      meeting Oct. 11. Residents having suggestions should email
      them to jlaydon@...; the sooner the better.

      TOWN SEEKS INJUNCTION

      Wayland has filed papers applying for injunctive relief from
      Wayland Meadows Development, Inc., for the clearcutting that
      occurred on the Wayland Commons site and on town-owned
      land on Route 27. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. in
      Cambridge.

      On the first count, the town is seeking injunctive relief for violation
      of the comprehensive permit (40B). The town alleges the
      developer violated conditions 1 and 52 of the comprehensive
      permit, which was quite specific about what trees and screening
      were to be left intact.

      If the hearing grants a preliminary injunction, the developer will
      be required to cease any further development of the site until all
      the trees that were cut and removed in violation of the
      comprehensive permit are replaced with the same species and
      size. If a permanent injunction is granted, the developer must
      replace the specified trees with those of the same size and
      species and in the same location, and provide the town with a
      security deposit to insure replacement of any transplanted trees
      that don't survive for three years after planting.

      On the second count, the Town seeks treble damages for the
      trees destroyed that were on the town property and to cover the
      town's legal costs.

      The town sent a demand letter to the developer Sept. 1
      requesting replacement of the destroyed trees, and upon
      inadequate response, is seeking an injunction and damages.
      Town Counsel Mark Lanza initially recommended against a suit.
      Other officials pointed out that the developer can't proceed
      with substantial work without getting special permits.



      OVERRIDE OPPONENTS' NUMBERS VINDICATED

      When an anti-override group said last spring that property taxes
      have risen 47 percent on average since 2000, the Finance
      Committee played a prominent role in trying to discredit the
      assertion.

      The FinCom's chair and vice chair wrote a column for the Town
      Crier decrying what they called "inaccurate and misleading"
      figures from Responsible Spending Voters Project.

      The pro-override group SOS quickly distributed copies around
      town, saying "misinformation" had been circulating.
      WaylandeNews, taking the column at face value, told its email
      readers that "officials have elaborated factual errors in RSVP's
      materials" and hinted that RSVP might have broken the law. A
      link was provided to a state law which it said "forbids a person
      or committee from distributing false information."

      FinCom Chairman Chris Riley told the Board of Selectmen that
      RSVP had misled voters by using the average -- the total of all
      taxes divided by the number of households. Only the median (the
      midpoint from highest to lowest assessments in town) could
      accurately measure the impact of the override, he said. RSVP's
      figures came from the state, and Selectman Alan Reiss said that
      Wayland hadn't yet published median figures. Reiss
      recommended that the Board of Assessors create a standard
      table showing both median and average.

      Bear with us for one last statistical point. The median and the
      average (or mean) are equally valid, though they can result in
      different snapshots of a collection of numbers. The FinCom
      believed the median would yield a lower figure.

      Finally, in a Sept. 25 memo to the the selectmen the assessors
      reported their analysis: the six-year increase is virtually identical
      by median or average.

      It turns out that RSVP was not misleading anybody by using state
      figures. For a house assessed at the fiscal 2006 median of
      $599,400, taxes increased about 48 percent since fiscal 2000.
      For a house assessed at the average of $693,259, the increase
      is about 47 percent.

      RSVP's campaign materials were not entirely free of error. And
      the FinCom's arguments weren't always above politics. For
      example, Riley attacked RSVP for saying that town finances were
      out of control. Riley said that Wayland enjoys the highest Moody's
      bond rating. That is true but largely irrelevant. Moody's assesses
      the likelihood that a town will pay its debts; it doesn't judge how
      much money is spent or what it is spent on. RSVP wasn't
      suggesting that the town might default.

      Whether the squabble affected the voters or not, the override
      passed by a 55-45 percent margin in April and your bill has
      gone up again. If you're curious about what has happened to
      your taxes over time, divide your current annual tax by the same
      figure for fiscal 2000; the figures after the decimal are the
      percentage increase.

      -- Michael Short

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