WVN Newsletter #191: Voters OK turf
- 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
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.
-- 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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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor