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WVN Newsletter #198: TC dead or not?

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  • waylandvoters1
    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.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 18, 2007
      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


      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.


      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.


      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
      oppose it.

      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
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