WVN Newsletter #198: TC dead or not?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The developer's decision to walk away from the town center
project led to an unruly exchange between selectmen and
members of other boards. Here is a look at what might happen
DEVELOPER SAYS IT'S OVER -- AGAIN
Have town boards ever been so openly hostile to one another?
Has a chairman of the Board of Selectmen ever been so impolite
to colleagues on other boards?
Twenty Wayland announced Tuesday night at a selectmen's
meeting that it was ending its efforts to develop the former
Raytheon property into a $100-million housing/shopping/office
town center complex (much more about that below). The
developers praised the selectmen and the Finance Committee
and then cast all the blame on the Planning Board and the Board
of Road Commissioners. Chuck Irving called actions of the
Planning Board "crazy" and Dean Stratouly said the leadership of
the boards opposed the project.
Some selectmen joined the attack. Michael Tichnor said that the
developers hadn't been afforded "trust" and a "comfort level."
Members of the two boards had been invited to the meeting but
weren't allowed to respond. Interruptions broke out as criticisms
"Disgusting!" a voice called out from the audience.
"You've allowed these two gentlemen to come in here and tar
and feather two boards," said Road Commission Chairman
Mark Santangelo. "Do you think that is fair?" He accused Nolan
of misleading board members by inviting and then silencing
them, and asked for time to correct "unfounded, inaccurate
"This is a terrible action by the Board of Selectmen," said another
voice in the audience.
Selectmen Chairman Joe Nolan was adamant, raising his voice
over interruptions to say the developers had a right to speak and
that in fact he agreed with some of the things they said. There
was no time for "public comment," Nolan said, because the
meeting was behind schedule.
Why was it behind schedule? The proposed agenda issued
days earlier allowed 45 minutes for discussion of the project.
But the agenda issued at the meeting (not marked "revised")
called for 15 minutes. Stratouly and Irving spoke for more than a
Nolan tried to quiet the audience and finally declared a
five-minute recess. He said the selectmen would resume the
discussion later, but without comment from others. When the
time came for resumed town center discussion, the minute-taker
had been sent home, and the rest of the meeting wasn't
broadcast or taped.
"It's obvious that to allow the vilification of the chairman of the
Planning Board to go on as it did is not really acceptable,"
Santangelo said later.
The meeting will be rebroadcast on Wayland Cable Channel 9 at
4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19.
"I'M NOT BLUFFING"
Now, where were we before the shouting and interruptions
"We're withdrawing," Stratouly said near the beginning of his
long statement. As he had said the previous week, there was no
certainty that boards would issue permits and he didn't want to
spend further time, money and emotional energy on the town
center. Evidently referring to WVN Newsletter #197 of Jan. 15,
which he quoted inaccurately, he said, "I'm not bluffing."
This had the finality of statements he made after voters rejected
a 2005 version of the required zoning change. That time, he was
soon back at the negotiating table.
While the developers may have had genuine fears that their plan
wouldn't be approved as presented, the boards involved acted
very quickly for a project this size. Though Nolan says Planning
Board Chair Lynne Dunbrack "has not enthusiastically moved
the process along," boards have met all deadlines and the
developers have been behind schedule. Twenty Wayland never
produced market studies and was months late with traffic
studies. It declined to apply for the Master Special Permit even
though the Planning Board unanimously accepted the concept
plan and asked for the application in November.
"If we didn't want to approve the application, then why would we
put all those hours into it trying to accomplish that goal, which
meant working long hours on nights and weekends," Dunbrack
told the Town Crier.
"I don't know the reason why the developers aren't filing the
MSP," Road Commission Chairman Santangelo told WVN.
"Dean says he doesn't think he can get through the Planning
Board or the Road Commission. But they haven't filed anything,
so how would they know? Our job is to review what comes in
front of us and evaluate on safety, effect on neighborhood or the
Stratouly told the selectmen he'd have a new plan for the 57-acre
site within 45 days and expected to be adding to Wayland's tax
revenue eventually. He could apply for a housing project under
the state's 40B affordable housing law and reopen the existing
office building. Though the mixed-use town center could produce
more revenue than other options, independent consultant Judith
Barrett predicted that 40B housing would be a viable alternative.
HOW TO RESTART IT
So is the project dead again, as has been reported? The
selectmen revived it after voters rejected a larger plan. They
invited the developers back to the table and, after Town Meeting
approved a smaller concept of about 400,000 square feet,
Twenty Wayland signed an agreement agreeing to the Master
Special Permit process it has now rejected.
If the selectmen come up with a new initiative, Selectman Bill
Whitney asked, would Stratouly pick up the phone?
Stratouly and Irving had made it clear that they want nothing
further to do with a process that includes the current Planning
Board and Road Commission. But that in itself wouldn't
necessarily kill the project.
In fact, hours after the meeting, SOS, the group that carried on a
well-funded campaign for the zoning approval, issued an email
asking supporters to help restart the project.
What could be done? One way would be to elect a dedicated
town center supporter to the Planning Board seat that is up for
election in April. That might not provide absolute certainty of the
required supermajority of four out of five members. But since the
current board voted unanimously for the concept that the
developers have now abandoned, and no board member has
suggested voting against a Master Special Permit, the odds
would seem to be excellent.
Second, the town could decide next fall to create a Department of
Public Works, which would consolidate several functions.
Though the change isn't expected to save a lot of money in the
near future, it could eliminate the Board of Road
Commissioners. Voters who favor power sharing are likely to
Third, a petition could place a special Town Meeting article
before voters in April to give power over the project to the
selectmen or the Zoning Board (which required 10 months -- not
considered an unusual time -- to approve a relatively small
recent 40B project near the town center site). If Twenty Wayland
is looking for a quick and sure outcome,the Board of Selectmen
seems a good possibility. Selectmen Whitney and Tichnor are
real estate developers who have pushed the town center from
the beginning, and Chairman Nolan consistently sides with
It's possible that the developers would prefer a delayed start to
the project. The economy might be more favorable, and
environmental issues, including Raytheon's hazardous waste
cleanup, would be closer to completion.
One thing is a virtual certainty: Proponents of the town center will
continue to demonize those who are considered opponents.
FinCom Chair Cherry Karlson appeared at the beginning of
Tuesday's meeting to say that if the project isn't built as planned
Wayland is "building a path to multiple overrides." She added,
"The taxpayers should be outraged by the actions of a few." Even
though there is no evidence that the Planning Board and the
road commissioners have hindered the project, they are cast as
the bad guys and developers are seen as the white hats.
-- Michael Short
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor