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WVN Newsletter #191: Voters OK turf

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  • waylandvoters1
    VOTERS DEBATE, APPROVE TURF Special Town Meeting approved $300,000 in conservation funds to help pay for artificial turf at the high school football field.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 10, 2006
      VOTERS DEBATE, APPROVE TURF

      Special Town Meeting approved $300,000 in conservation funds
      to help pay for artificial turf at the high school football field. The
      308-128 vote was the only article on the Nov. 9 warrant requiring
      a count. One article was passed over and the other six were
      approved with little or no opposition.

      Taking up most of the hour allotted for debate, proponents and
      opponents of the turf project disputed questions of
      environmental impact, legality and appropriateness.

      The Board of Health, Conservation Commission and Board of
      Water Commissioners have studied the potential impact but
      haven't yet taken a voted position or issued a report.

      Water Commission Chairman Joel Goodmonson said his board
      consulted research and authorities and "finds no reason to
      oppose" the project. But any impression that he spoke for the
      board was dispelled when another member, Ed Lewis, rose to
      express skepticism. Citing expert geological opinion, Lewis
      said that it would take five years to gauge the impact of the
      project on the water supply. Installing the turf now at this
      questionable site would be "a leap of faith," he said.

      Responding to opponents' fears that the two nearby Happy
      Hollow wells -- which exceed allowable sodium limits -- could
      be destroyed by increased runoff related to the project,
      Goodmonson said the town has six other wells. He didn't explain
      how the town would deal with the loss of the 40 percent of the
      supply that comes from the Happy Hollow wells.

      When the commissioners last met in October, two of the three
      commissioners spoke against installing turf in that location.

      Wayland's water superintendent left nearly two years ago and
      hasn't been replaced.

      The Board of Health read a statement to Town Meeting
      representing a "consensus" that because of the field's proximity
      to town wells the Board will monitor the project now and in the
      future. The statement noted that turf specifications and materials
      haven't yet been decided. The Conservation Commission
      conducted a lengthy hearing but won't meet to deliberate and
      vote until Nov. 16. Responding to a Town meeting question
      about the ConCom's position, Chair Megan Lucier speculated
      that a majority of the ConCom would approve the project with
      conditions.

      Turf proponents said that thousands of such fields have been
      installed in the United States, some atop water supplies such as
      the Long Island aquifer. (Opponents reply that drainage into a
      huge, diluting aquifer isn't comparable.) The Wayland Boosters
      say that private donations will cover costs above $300,000 for the
      project, which is estimated to cost $1 million. Though
      maintenance costs would decline after natural grass is
      replaced, the top surface would have to be replaced in 10-12
      years at a cost estimated at $400,000. Boosters President Craig
      Foreman said the group plans a replacement fund.

      Foreman told the ConCom hearing that the discharge could be
      rerouted away from the wells if necessary, but it isn't clear how
      much that might cost and whether it is even possible, since
      much surrounding land is owned by the federal government.

      Michael Patterson, former chairman of the Community
      Preservation Committee, opposed the article on legal grounds.
      He said the Massachusetts Community Preservation Coalition
      was skeptical about the plan and referred the CPC to lawyers at
      the Department of Revenue, the agency which regulates
      expenditures under the Community Preservation Act. A DOR
      lawyer said the plan as described didn't represent preservation
      and thus appeared to be illegal. Two municipal lawyers agreed
      with that view.

      A suit is pending in Newton over a similar use of CPA funds.
      Patterson noted that the Finance Committee's arguments
      published in the Town Meeting warrant didn't mention any legal
      dispute. He asked whether the FinCom had discussed where
      money would come from to replenish the CPC account should
      the use be found illegal. When pressed by moderator Peter
      Gossels, a FinCom member said it hadn't been discussed.

      Proponents including Selectman Michael Tichnor argued that
      town counsel and the Boston law firm Kopelman & Paige had
      provided opinions that the use is within the law. Kopelman &
      Paige argued that artificial turf constitutes preservation because
      the grass field would be destroyed by continued use. Town
      Counsel Mark Lanza has said he is confident that the town could
      withstand a suit.

      Opponents didn't question player safety or the usefulness of
      artificial turf. But some said that when they voted to create the
      CPC in 2001 they didn't imagine that preservation funds would
      be used this way. Some recalled arguments for the CPC
      emphasizing preserving open space and historic areas and
      encouraging affordable housing. One said that abiding by the
      original intent was a matter of "integrity." Another called the
      proposed use "at best a loophole."

      The $300,000 represents most of one year's CPC tax receipts.
      Opponents said the funds should be used carefully to ensure
      that if a major tract of land becomes available there will be
      money to save it from development. Proponent Tichnor argued
      that this use of CPC funds would be a model of the "concept
      of leveraging" town funds with private donations, and predicted
      that th approach might be used for such things as library and
      high school improvements.

      Over a scattering of "No's" voters approved Article 4, which
      immediately gives adjudicatory boards the flexibility to allow a
      member to miss one session of a hearing and retain the right to
      vote by catching up using submitted documents and whatever
      recordings or transcripts exist. The law requires that member to
      sign off on having reviewed all such material. Hearing delays
      have been in the news recently because the town center
      developers are criticizing the Planning Board for what they fear
      will be a lengthy process for obtaining a Master Special Permit.
      Former Zoning Board of Appeals member Susan Koffman said
      the article favors developers over town interests.

      Article 3, which was needed to allow development of the former
      Nike missile site in North Wayland for affordable housing,
      resulted in more discussion than voters might have expected. In
      order to allow 16 units totaling 37 bedrooms, voters approved a
      deed restriction on land about a half-mile away to satisfy state
      environmental regulations. Thus waste water from those
      units will be offset in a sense by several acres left undeveloped.
      Mary Antes of the Wayland Housing Authority called it a
      "housekeeping article" that ultimately allows "our children" and
      town employees to live in Wayland. Brian O'Herlihy of the Nike
      Site Reuse Advisory Committee said that most opposition came
      from people who live near the site and "prefer less or no
      development." The vote produced a handful of "No's."

      But there was unanimous support for two articles to protect the
      town's large ponds from invasive weeds. One will use $75,000
      in Community Preservation funds to study ways to control milfoil
      on Dudley Pond and Lake Cochituate. Unlike the artificial turf
      article, this was endorsed by the Community Preservation
      Coalition. The other article transfers $16,000 from reserve funds
      to pay for a fifth, and perhaps last, year of mechanical harvesting
      of water chestnut at Heard Pond. By attacking the weeds one
      more year,the town hopes to reach the point where only
      volunteer hand-pulling will be needed.

      Other articles:

      -- Gary Slep, lead petitioner seeking $15,000 to study ways to
      mitigate flooding on Pelham Island Road asked, as expected,
      that the article be passed over, meaning set aside for now.
      There are indications that the petitioners' concerns will be
      addressed next year.

      -- Voters approved changes to make a wheelchair-accessible
      trail at the former Nike site more interesting and harmonious
      with the surroundings.

      -- Voters extended the deadline for the town to acquire land on
      Brackett Road and Nob Hill Road.

      Attendance at the 2-1/2-hour meeting was light except during the
      turf debate. As at other recent meetings, the moderator implored
      voters to be quiet as they exited the bleacher seats.

      -- Michael Short
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