WVN Newsletter #190: Town center delay?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The town center developers are complaining again about the
Planning Board. Attacks on some Board members, worries
about delays and dire hints of walking away will be familiar to
voters who watched the process that brought Wayland this far
toward a $100-million redevelopment of the former Raytheon
property. Molly Upton reports.
Also in this newsletter: Reminders about meetings and events
and a look at the special Town Meeting article likely to draw the
most spirited debate.
Political newcomer Tom Conroy narrowly defeated veteran Sue
Pope Tuesday for the Massachusetts House seat representing
Wayland, Lincoln and Sudbury. Both are Wayland residents.
Democrat Conroy had 8,472 votes (51%) to Republican Pope's
8,037 (49%). Pope carried Sudbury but lost in the other two
towns. The Wayland vote was 3,263 to 2,997.
HURRY UP AND/OR WAIT?
The town center developers have complained to the Finance
Committee and the Board of Selectmen about the permitting
process they accepted when they signed an agreement to build
the shopping/office/housing complex on Route 20.
"We're looking at a situation that is untenable for us," Dean
Stratouly of Twenty Wayland LLC told the selectmen Monday
night. He acknowledged that despite his reservations he and his
partners had agreed to a Master Special Permit process, which
requires permit approval by four of five Planning Board
members. As things stand, there is no guarantee that the
Planning Board will approve the project, he said. He and his
colleague Chuck Irving accused a minority of the Board of being
hostile to the project. Planning Board members were meeting a
few doors away but weren't invited to join the discussion or
counter the accusations.
Though Irving accused Planning Board members of "treating us
like the enemy," he and Stratouly mentioned practical concerns
that could be addressed in a practical way, and selectmen
responded positively. Twenty Wayland worries that if the required
special permit hearing goes on for 10 or more sessions as the
town planner estimates, the required supermajority might not be
reached. To be able to vote on the permits, Board members
must attend every session. Illness, work demands and
vacations could endanger that quorum.
Stratouly said a negative outcome could set the project back two
years, which would be unacceptable to him. He complained that
pursuing the project costs him $400,000 a month, including a
Nobody mentioned Article 4 on the Nov. 9 special Town Meeting
warrant, which would ease the quorum problem for all
adjudicatory bodies by allowing a member to miss one hearing
session and catch up by studying a recording of it.
The developers asked for a schedule that would guarantee that
the Board could conclude its work within a certain time. Irving
has suggested that one or two nights of hearings should be
sufficient. That could depend on how complete the developers'
application is and how well it conforms to the stated rules and
Irving had spoken earlier about delaying the process until after
the April 2007 town election when the plan might have a better
chance of approval, he said. One Board seat will be up for
The Monday meeting concluded with the developers saying
they're willing to work between now and April with boards (the
road commissioners, for example) to be ready for the special
permit process. The development team said such a plan "would
take a lot of issues off the table."
Stratouly began his discussion by saying that "the housing
market has fallen off a cliff" and the retail market could be
similarly affected. He noted the office market is "picking up,"
leaving the impression that perhaps the town center might not
happen at all.
He also said he needs to tie in the project's marketing with a
date certain for prospective tenants. "Retailers have the attention
span" of a 12-year-old boy, he said, and they're off to the next
deal. "Do we keep on course or change direction?"
The selectmen expressed dismay that the project might be in
jeopardy and talked about inviting the Planning Board for
discussion next week that would include fixing a timetable.
Finance Committee Chair Cherry Karlson said the town is
counting on new commercial revenue to avoid tax overrides; she
hopes for a small amount as early as 2009.
"The town should not count on delivery of tax revenues beyond
those of today," Stratouly said. "We're at a crossroads."
In Wayland and elsewhere, the permitting process is not simple.
This project needs approval from more than just the Planning
Board. Several town boards and departments have jurisdiction,
and the applicant also needs approvals from various state and
federal entities as part of the review conducted by the state
Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. The Conservation
Commission is reviewing the wetlands demarcation and at
some point would be processing the applicant's Notice of Intent
if site work is proposed in areas within its jurisdiction. The
developer's wastewater study is delayed because the EPA has
yet to issue a new permit for the operation of the town's
wastewater treatment plant. And the status of the developer's
negotiations with Raytheon regarding the existing deed
restrictions is unknown.
As an adjudicatory body, the Planning Board is required by law to
impartially evaluate the merits and characteristics of an
application to ensure that it can be built as proposed. Required
hearings by this and other bodies can often be lengthy. The
Zoning Board hearing required more than nine months to
complete the Wayland Commons housing approval, and a
recent wireless decision required more than a year. Planning
Board hearings for subdivisions (for example, Spencer Circle,
Lee Estates, Ellen Mary Way) typically take months. And these
are less complicated than the 56-acre, mixed-use town center
project, which will have an enormous impact on the town for
Although Irving was decrying the likely length of the Planning
Board's hearing on the project, he didn't explain that if the
developer presses the Planning Board to close the hearing, the
board begins to deliberate towards its voted decision and is not
allowed to accept additional information. Thus it is essential the
applicant be prepared to present all relevant information during
the hearing process.
So, is the developer prepared to start the MSP process? Twenty
Wayland still owes the Planning Board a complete traffic study
that was due prior to the Oct. 30 deadline for the Board's concept
plan review. Twenty Wayland granted the Planning Board a
two-week plan review extension, but the developer's traffic
consultant was a no-show for his presentation the week of Oct.
30. The traffic study is seen as critical in determining whether
there will be one or two roads to the project. The developers say
they could submit a special permit application within a few days,
but there is a lot of work to be done.
Stratouly noted that requirements for the traffic study exceed
industry standards. He acknowledged the requirement to study
impacts on neighborhood roads significantly raised the
complexity of the traffic issue.
The Planning Board is in fact on schedule, ready to start the MSP
process. The board has adopted the rules and regulations for
the MSP process as well as traffic study guidelines. It hired a
consultant, the Cecil Group, and conducted a successful
community forum. It has engaged a traffic consultant who is
waiting for the final traffic report from the developer in order to
provide his peer review. It has also drafted its determination
report that evaluates the concept plan and indicates what it
expects to see in the MSP design process. The Planning Board
expects to discuss this report Nov. 8.
Irving commended the public forum conducted by the Cecil
Group as "one of the best I've seen" and noted it resulted in
"probably a much better plan."
Thursday, Nov. 9, Special Town meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.
Field House doors open at 6 p.m. See story below.
Saturday, Nov. 11, Veteran's Day event. 10-11 a.m.: Service at
Wayland Trinitarian Congregational Church. Noon-12:30 p.m.:
Ceremony at the Wayland Veterans Memorial (Town Building).
Tuesday Nov. 14, 7 p.m., Town Building. Annual Board of
Assessors' hearing to hear taxpayer concerns and questions on
the assessing process and services provided by the assessors.
Wednesday, Nov. 15, Raytheon Public Meeting, 7:30 p.m. Large
Hearing Room. Site cleanup update, site redevelopment, Q&A.
The Raytheon Company is hosting a public information meeting
that will include a discussion on the unexpected delay on its
plans to clean up a plume of contaminants in what is called the
"northern area" that were discussed in May. See WVN at
180. Raytheon invites town departments, volunteers serving on
all governmental boards, committees and commissions and
members of the public to attend.
DEBATE OVER TURF PROPOSAL EXPECTED
One of the eight articles on the Nov. 9 special Town meeting
warrant will probably account for the majority of the voter turnout
and produce the most vigorous discussion.
That is Article 5, which asks voters to approve up to $300,000 in
Community Preservation Act funds to help pay for artificial turf at
the high school football field. Most of the arguments against it
are on environmental grounds, though other concerns have
The Conservation Commission, the water commissioners and
the Board of Health have discussed environmental and health
issues but haven't taken a formal position yet. The ConCom
concluded its hearing on Nov. 2 and won't meet again until Nov.
16. The BoH scheduled a meeting for Tuesday and the water
commissioners for Wednesday. Two of three water
commissioners said at an earlier meeting that they opposed the
proposal, but no vote was taken.
So residents may have to wait at least until Town meeting to
learn what the officials responsible for health, environment and
safety have to say.
The field would be composed of sand and ground truck tires, a
mixture banned in two Scandinavian countries but used
extensively on playing fields in the United states for a decade.
The field drains into the nearby Happy Hollow wells.
The material can contain such toxic substances as copper,
arsenic, chromium and thallium, but proponents say there is no
evidence of harm. Environmentalists argue that in time, as the
material deteriorates, the town water supply could be affected.
The Happy Hollow wells are above allowable limits of sodium,
and opponents say additional parking at the field could create
the tipping point, shutting down 40 percent of Wayland's water
Aside from environmental questions, some residents criticize
the use of preservation funds. The Community Preservation
Committee voted 5-2 to allow the town vote. Dissenters cited an
opinion from state lawyers that this use appears to be illegal;
legal action is pending in Newton over a similar proposal. Some
supporters of Wayland's CPA law, which takes advantage of
state aid on some projects and is designed to preserve open
space and encourage affordable housing, object to this
Critics of the law adopted a few years ago said it would be just
another way to raise taxes. Some of those voters may feel that
their skepticism has been vindicated.
Special Town Meeting doors open at 6 p.m. Thursday at the High
School Field House. Child care is available at the Commons by
advance reservation. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. and
should end the same night.
Article 6 is also likely to draw considerable interest. Proposed by
the Community Preservation Committee and the Surface Water
Quality Committee, it would allocate $75,000 in preservation
funds to study ways to deal with invasive weeds at the town's
large ponds. Since weeds can destroy ponds, this seems to be
an example of preservation even though the "open space" is
water, not land.
-- Michael Short
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor