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WVN Newsletter #211: Expect developers back

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  • waylandvoters1
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , May 16, 2007
      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.
      What's next?

      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.


      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
      Board chairs.

      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
      an application."

      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.


      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.


      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."


      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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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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