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WVN Newsletter #195: Town center delay possible

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Twenty Wayland LLC has said it plans to open the town center housing/shopping development in the fall of 2008. But at the present rate of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 25 5:20 PM
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Twenty Wayland LLC has said it plans to open the town center
      housing/shopping development in the fall of 2008. But at the
      present rate of progress it's questionable whether the developer
      will even apply for the required master special permit before
      spring. In the following analysis Molly Upton recaps recent
      developments and calculates the odds.

      Also in this newsletter: Contrary to what you might have heard,
      the Wayland Boosters may not have raised the entire $700,000
      for artificial turf before the Town meeting vote.


      At a meeting of three boards on Dec. 19, the real and nominal
      discussion topics varied. WVN will give you the blow by blow, but
      the bottom line is that it appears increasingly unlikely the
      developer will file its master special permit application until after
      town elections in April. In the meantime, the developer continues
      complaining to sympathetic selectmen and trying to make the
      town appear at fault for any delay.

      A couple of things are going on. The deadline for comments in
      the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) state review
      process is Jan. 5, and the town seems to be busy discussing
      other issues the developer keeps tossing up -- all of which could
      delay the filing of the Master Special Permit (MSP) application
      and distract the town from the time-sensitive MEPA process.

      The Dec. 19 meeting involved the Board of Road
      Commissioners, the Planning Board, and the Board of
      Selectmen. One resident attending her first meeting of any town
      board asked afterwards who were the gentlemen on the right
      hand side of the room. When told they were the selectmen, the
      response was: "I thought they were the developer's attorneys."
      Selectmen Michael Tichnor and Bill Whitney have been the most
      active development proponents on the board.

      Twenty Wayland wants assurances before filing the MSP
      application that the Planning Board will: provide and meet a
      schedule; allow the developer to withdraw the application without
      prejudice; and schedule hearing sessions only when all regular
      members of the board are present. On the topic of traffic, there
      was much square dancing around the developer's accusation
      that the town's traffic consultant, who is engaged in a peer
      review, is not being "allowed" to talk with the developer's traffic
      consultant. These issues have been aired repeatedly since Nov.

      What has been omitted from these conversations is the failure of
      the developer's traffic consultant to present and explain his traffic
      impact report, originally scheduled for the Oct. 30 Planning
      Board meeting.

      Despite the Planning Board's issuance of a statement on the
      application and a schedule, and a statement by Chair Lynne
      Dunbrack that the Planning Board is ready to receive the
      application, the Board of Selectmen is still providing ample air
      time for the developer concerns on these issues.

      In the background is the repeated chorus of the Finance
      Committee warning that delays in the project could mean an
      override in fiscal 2009 because the FinCom is counting on
      "substantial" revenue from the project. An old southern saying
      comes to mind: "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."
      Even if the application is filed promptly, the developer could
      decide to phase or change the project, which could also mean
      less near-term revenue to the town.

      Voters may ask whether it is prudent for the FinCom to count on
      revenue that depends on 1) the developer's timetable and 2) the
      town's obligation to deal adequately with traffic, environmental
      and esthetic concerns. The 2006 property tax override was sold
      on the premise that revenue from the $100-million Route 20
      development would help to avoid future overrides. It is unusual,
      possibly unprecedented in recent history, for the FinCom to
      pressure adjudicatory boards to grant permits.

      The Board of Selectmen allows time with the developer to hear
      complaints without inviting the pertinent boards to attend. Voters
      who pay attention only to what the selectmen are doing might get
      the impression that the Planning Board and other town officials
      aren't doing their job well.

      In this week's example, while town counsel Mark Lanza had not
      yet arrived for the meeting, selectman Bill Whitney questioned
      the Planning Board on what the developer had called an
      inadequate response to the developer's request for assurance
      that it would permit Twenty Wayland to withdraw its permit
      application without prejudice. The Planning Board's response
      was drafted with Lanza's assistance. This contrasts with Whitney
      and Tichnor' strong defense of Lanza's earlier opinion
      supporting the use of Community Preservation Act funds for
      artificial turf. Whitney said then that the town should speak with
      one legal voice; but this time he discounted Lanza's opinion.

      In its stated response to Twenty Wayland the Planning Board
      cited customary practice of allowing applicants to withdraw
      without prejudice but stopped short of guaranteeing the same.
      Withdrawing without prejudice entitles the developer to resubmit
      the application within two years.

      When Lanza arrived, he squarely stated that such a request for a
      statement is highly unusual, and in fact the Planning Board
      "cannot make any binding decision until after the application is
      filed." Other matters, such as a schedule, are at the discretion of
      the Planning Board. He also discouraged creating additional
      memoranda as he doesn't think it "will lead to a satisfactory
      conclusion." He recommended another face to face meeting
      involving Twenty Wayland and town officials.

      Lanza said he had discussed the issues recently with the
      developer's attorney for close to 45 minutes.

      Regarding the two traffic consultants, the issue is the scope of
      discussions. The Planning Board and road commissioners
      have made it clear that TEC, the town's consultant, is contracted
      for peer review, and it is not TEC's responsibility to participate in
      suggesting mitigation steps or solutions to the developer.

      The only substantive mention of the traffic issues came from
      resident David Bernstein who said the developer's traffic impact
      analysis report focuses on peak rather than aggregate traffic
      over the course of the day; presents dubious estimates of
      numbers; fails in its documentation of cut- through traffic on side
      roads to identify what if any portion will come from the town
      center. He also urged the boards to consider the traffic mitigation
      in toto rather than piecemeal.

      As the town's attorney on the project in 2005, Mark Bobrowski,
      loudly proclaimed, "This is all about traffic." It would appear the
      developer is intent on drawing the town's consultant into the
      mitigation remedies in order to give more credence to its

      Chuck Irving, a town resident and one of the four named
      principals of Twenty Wayland, stirred the water with yet another
      issue: the use of the $400,000 allocated by Twenty Wayland to
      the town for consulting services. On the one hand, he has
      reminded the selectmen the town can pocket any money left if it
      spends less than the $400,000. On the other hand, he has
      proclaimed several times that his firm is paying for the
      consultants and the town should use this sum to get the
      consulting it needs. This week, he added a new twist, saying
      there is "reckless mismanagement of consultant funds so far"
      and raised the specter that the town might want to spend more
      than $400,000 on consultants.

      Why might the application be filed after the election? Talk has
      changed from filing between mid-November and mid-December,
      and a new estimate is Feb. 1. If one takes into consideration the
      developer's insistence on full attendance by regular board
      members, and the fact the Planning Board needs about three
      weeks to draft its decision prior to the town election, that doesn't
      leave much time for the expected seven hearing sessions. In
      addition, the newest elected full member of the planning board
      has indicated he expects to be away for four weeks during the

      During the Concept Phase review which began when the
      developer submitted its first plans in August, the need to
      expedite and complete the review by Nov. 1 was an unrelenting
      theme expressed at various public meetings. The Planning
      Board kept its commitment, got the job done and met that
      schedule. Instead of presenting the long-awaited traffic study,
      the developer offered a time-extension the Planning Board said it
      did not want or need.

      The word trust was echoed at the Dec. 19 joint meeting by
      various residents who have been outspoken project proponents
      as well as the participants. As long as the developer is asking
      the town for accommodations it cannot grant, somehow the
      developer's drums are sending the message that any delay is
      the town's fault.

      Meantime, the selectmen are not scheduled to meet again until
      Jan. 8, so it appears they don't plan to respond to the Draft
      Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) filed by the developer to
      MEPA. Residents may submit comments The draft can be
      viewed at


      When voters approved spending up to $300,000 in Community
      Preservation Act funds to help pay for artificial athletic turf at the
      high school, they had good reason to believe that the Wayland
      Boosters were ready with the remaining $700,000 in private
      funds. It turns out that this may not have been true.

      In the warrant for the Nov. 9 special Town Meeting the Finance
      Committee declared that "major benefactor(s) have stepped
      forward to fund $700,000 of the $1 million estimated cost..."

      On Sept. 6 the Community Preservation Committee approved the
      language of the Town Meeting article, stipulating that no town
      funds will be disbursed until the Wayland Boosters demonstrate
      that they have the money. Anna Meliones, the Park and
      Recreation Commission appointee to the CPC, was asked, "You
      already have the money, right?" Her answer: "Yeah, oh yeah, we
      have all the money. All set."

      Yet earlier this month a Wayland Boosters email went out to "All
      Our Friends in the Wayland Athletic Community" seeking
      $150,000 to reach the $700,000 goal.

      "To date, we have raised approximately $550,000 of the required
      $700,000 from private donations," the email said. "So we need to
      raise a final $150,000 and we need to do so in the next 45 days if
      the field is to become a reality by next fall...we need many $250
      and $500 and $1,000 checks...we also need a few $2500 and
      $10,000 checks..." Tax-deductible checks can be made out to
      Wayland Boosters--Turf Field.

      "Please spread the word and, remember, we have only 45 days
      left," the email continued. "Otherwise, we are doomed to yet
      another season with no turf field for youth, adult and high school,
      soccer, football, lacrosse and field hockey teams..."

      Keep in mind that the Wayland Boosters is a private organization
      and can do what it wishes as long as it meets the legal
      requirements of all 501(c)3 non-profit organizations.

      And most people probably wouldn't judge town officials harshly
      for believing in good faith what they were told.

      One of the taxpayers who recently filed suit against the town,
      alleging illegal use of CPA finds, called attention to the recent
      fund-raising and asserted in the Dec. 14 Town Crier that the
      selectmen and the FinCom should investigate "what appears to
      be a deliberate and material misrepresentation...used as a main
      argument to convince the town to vote in favor of this proposal."

      Private donations are likely to play an increasingly large part in
      Wayland projects, as they have in many other places. In cases
      like this, which merge public and private funds, it shouldn't be
      surprising that taxpayers might hold private organizations to a
      high standard. Consumers may yawn at misleading advertising
      in the private sector, but some voters may take these recent
      events as a reflection on town governance.

      -- Michael Short

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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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