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WVN Newsletter #190: Town center delay?

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, The town center developers are complaining again about the Planning Board. Attacks on some Board members, worries about delays and dire
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2006
      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.
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      =======================
      ELECTION RESULTS

      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
      $650-an-hour lawyer.

      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
      regulations.

      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
      election.

      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
      decades.

      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."

      MEETINGS

      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
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waylandvotersnetwork/message/
      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
      been expressed.

      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
      supply.

      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
      particular application.

      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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      Michael Short, Editor
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