WVN Newsletter #211: Expect developers back
- Dear Wayland Voter,
After the town center developers walked out in January, they said
they wouldn't be back unless voters elected new leadership to
the Planning Board and the Board of Road Commissioners.
They also disparaged the Planning Board's associate member.
The April election gave Twenty Wayland LLC majorities on both
boards considered acceptable to the developer. Now the newly
elected Planning Board chairman says he wants to limit the role
of the associate member, an apparently unprecedented action.
Twenty Wayland has its application for the required master
special permit ready to submit, and it could be in the board's
hands in less than a week. The latest developments tend to
support the prediction of an unseated road commissioner that
the developers will build the $100 million retail/housing/office
project just the way they want it. Molly Upton reports.
BOARD CLEARS WAY FOR DEVELOPERS
One of William Steinberg's first acts as new chairman of the
Planning Board was to invoke the "discretion of the chair" at a
May 14 meeting to exclude the associate member "for the time
being" from participating in discussions "unless we need the
vote." However, he said the full board would consider this
matter when it meets in June.
Discussion of the role of the associate member occurred at the
second meeting of the Planning Board since the election.
Steinberg's announcement brought objections from two
returning board members, who cited how necessary it has been
to have "all hands on deck" as well as the specialized skills of
the current associate member, Anette Lewis, who is an attorney.
They also observed that the associate member is a position
elected by the citizens of Wayland.
The discussion ranged from preventing Lewis from asking
questions on a special permit matter to excluding her from voting
on the permit. Past boards have relied on the associate to sit in
and ask questions on special permit issues, and vote if
necessary, as well as participate in discussions on other
issues. A special permit application requires approval by a
supermajority, four out of five members.
Previous chair Lynne Dunbrack made the argument that through
no fault of the board some public hearings on special permits
last a year or longer, and that one never knows when the
associate member will be needed to sit in and vote. And if the
associate member cannot ask questions along the way, how
can this person render an informed vote? Member Ira Montague
said it "would be strange to have someone vote but not" be
involved in the discussion.
The move to limit the role of the associate member runs counter
to past practices of the Planning Board, according to George
Ives, who was on the Planning Board for 15 years and chair for
12. During his tenure, the Planning Board relied on the
associate member to be at the table, ask questions, and vote if
necessary on special permits, he said. In cases involving a
supermajority, there's "no difference between members and the
associate member," he observed.
Lewis was elected associate member in 2001 and reelected
in 2004 to a five-year term. She has served under five Planning
Steinberg cited Town Code Chapter 198-204 which states: "The
Chairman of the Planning Board may require such associate
member to be in attendance at special permit proceedings and
hearings and may designate such associate member to sit on
the Planning Board for the purpose of acting on a special permit
application in the case of absence, inability to act or conflict of
interest on the part of any member of the Planning Board or in
the event of a vacancy on the Planning Board during special
permit application proceedings and hearings. In no case,
however, shall more than five members in total, including the
associate member, acting as the Planning Board, take any
action on any special permit."
Over the past year the associate member was called upon to
participate in and vote on at least two special permit
The wording of the State law, Chapter 40a Section 9, is slightly
different. It says the chair of a planning board may designate the
associate member "to sit on the board for purpose of acting on
At the Planning Board's May 1 meeting, both Montague and
Steinberg indicated interest in being chair. When asked how he
would view his role as chair, Steinberg said "The role of the chair
is almost to step back a little bit and let everybody else state their
opinions and make sure they get heard and to facilitate the
meetings and move them along." Steinberg, a real estate
developer, was elected.
TWENTY WAYLAND ROLE
WVN does not recall seeing the current chair at the smaller
Planning Board meetings when the developer's attorney often
put the Planning Board on the defensive.
But although Steinberg may not have seen first-hand the value of
an associate member, the decision to contemplate a role
change apparently was not made in a vacuum. Dan Mesnick,
who was elected to the Planning Board last year on a platform of
support for the town center and further commercial
development, said that the developers had stated that a
prerequisite to filing the master special permit application was
that the role of the associate member vote "be minimized."
Mesnick said he thought the associate member "should not
actively participate in the dialogue or the decision-making
process involving special permits."
Dunbrack said she found it "troubling to be changing the role
based on one developer's request."
When asked the origin of this developer statement, Mesnick
claimed it was made in a meeting with the Board of Selectmen.
However, the minutes of the March 26 selectman's meeting did
not mention any prerequisite involving the role of the associate
member, but did include the developer's demand there should
be new chairs of both the Planning Board and Board of Road
Commissioners. The March meeting was the only meeting in
which Twenty Wayland LLC was on the selectmen's agenda
since January, when the developer put the application on hold.
Past chairs of the Planning Board have welcomed full
participation of the associate member, as is the case in towns
such as Wellesley. Wayland's Zoning Board of Appeals has
three associate members who participate during all hearings,
whether or not they are assigned to serve on a panel. ZBA
associates are often asked to vote on and write board decisions.
The role of the associate member was instituted so that special
permits could be granted if any of the full members had to miss
one or more hearings. The fall 2006 special Town Meeting
passed the Mullen Law, which enables a board member to miss
one session of an adjudicatory hearing and vote if the member
certifies (s)he has examined all evidence heard at the missed
session. Thus, if any full member misses two hearings, the
associate member becomes a voting member on that issue.
Wayland has had an associate member of the Planning Board
since 1993, when the Town Meeting unanimously approved this
position after the state law added the position.
KNAPP ELECTED ROAD COMMISSION CHAIR
The Board of Road Commissioners has elected Eric Knapp as
the new chairman, replacing Mark Santangelo. Shawn Fennelly
is vice chair. Knapp and Alan Shubin, who were supported by
pro-center activists, won the two available board seats over
incumbent Stewart Millerd. "They had a contingent out," Millerd
told the Boston Globe later, "and if the good Lord from heaven
above had been running in my spot, he wouldn't have won."
Millerd predicted that the developers will now "do what they
want, how they want, and when they want."
OFFICIAL TM ATTENDANCE: 644
During Wayland's first Sunday afternoon Town meeting on April
29, attendance of 572 was announced. The final figure was 644.
Incidentally, the majority of WVN readers who expressed an
opinion about the experiment said they like it.
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Michael Short, Editor