WVN Newsletter #186: Public offers design ideas
- 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
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
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
-- Michael Short
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor