WVN Newsletter #195: Town center delay possible
- 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.
DEVELOPER DELAYING TACTICS?
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
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
WAS THE TURF MONEY THERE?
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