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WVN Newsletter #214: TC design "fluid" as hearings begin

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, After a controversial and unprecedented move to sideline the associate member who drew complaints from the developer, the Planning Board
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2007
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      After a controversial and unprecedented move to sideline the
      associate member who drew complaints from the developer,
      the Planning Board begins the time-consuming public process
      of considering the application to build the biggest project in
      Wayland history.

      Also worth noting, the Board of Selectmen will confront the Park
      and Recreation Commission, the only board publicly opposed
      so far to the selectmen's plan for consolidating several
      departments and greatly increasing the Select Board's power.

      MEETINGS THIS WEEK

      The Board of Selectmen will meet Monday June 25 at 6 p.m.
      with the Park and Recreation Commission to discuss the
      commission's opposition to a Department of Public Works. The
      regular BoS meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.

      Also on Monday, the Planning Board begins a public hearing that
      will extend over several weeks to review Twenty Wayland LLC's
      master special permit application for the town center
      development. Molly Upton has a preview below.

      The Finance Committee has invited all boards to its first meeting
      to discuss capital planning, specifically vehicles and repair of
      existing facilities, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

      TOWN CENTER PLAN "FLUID"

      As the Planning Board gears up to tackle the $100-140 million
      town center project on Route 20, the chairman has set an
      unprecedented policy that the associate member will not sit at
      the table or orally ask questions as a member of the board
      during the hearing process for any special permit. This WVN
      newsletter notes some changes in Twenty Wayland LLC's
      master special permit application, and examines the
      ramifications of the new policy.

      The Planning Board will hold several meetings during the
      summer to review the master special permit application for the
      shopping/housing/office development at the former Raytheon
      site. At the June 25 meeting in the large hearing room of the
      town building presentations will be made by the designer as
      well as by the Planning Board's consultant. The Planning Board
      has not set the schedule of topics to be covered.

      When developers Chuck Irving and Dean Stratouly met with the
      Board of Selectmen June 11, Irving characterized the revised
      plans as "fluid." And indeed they are.

      Selectmen appeared shocked when they were informed June 11
      that all 100 residential units would be rental. Despite the fact the
      town could count all 100 units toward its state-mandated
      affordable unit quota and thus earn a year's respite from 40B
      incursions, the Selectmen expressed concern that rental units
      would mean less tax revenue to the town. Since then, the plans
      have reverted to condos, Irving told WVN.

      The most visible changes in the plans presented with the MSP
      application are the location of a large store adjacent to Route 20
      and the relocation of the pad for a municipal building to the site
      of the wooden day care building at the western edge of the
      property. Both the former and current sites of the municipal pad
      appear to have the flood line running through the parking lot. A
      residential multistory building is sited near the prior location of
      the municipal pad.

      The plans call for 23 shops of less than 5,000 square feet, a
      45,000-square-foot grocery and two establishments between
      10,000 and 15,000 square feet. There are no proposed
      businesses of 5,000 to 10,000 square feet.

      Although the plethora of small stores may be appealing to
      residents, the fact remains that the size limits for the
      establishments set in the mixed use overlay district (MUOD)
      zoning bylaw remain in force, so the town could see some larger
      stores if these occur within the building structures that are
      approved as part of the master special permit. The MUOD bylaw
      allows a 45,000 square foot grocery store, two establishments
      between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet, three between 7,000
      and 10,000, and five between 5,000 and 7,000, plus unlimited
      businesses of 5,000 or less until the retail limit of 167,500
      square feet is reached.

      A less visible but potentially problematic aspect of the plans is a
      leaching field proposed to be located underneath a parking lot
      and adjacent to the current wastewater plant, not far from the
      Wayland Commons housing development now under
      construction. At Raytheon's June 20 Public Involvement Process
      meeting concerning its environmental cleanup at the site it
      occupied for many years, Chip Burkhardt of Raytheon indicated
      that Raytheon intends to examine data from 20 Wayland LLC to
      evaluate whether the proposed leaching field might alter the
      subsurface flow of water in the area. He said Raytheon would
      not approve anything that affects groundwater. Also, the Water
      Department is talking about increasing the volume of water
      pumped at the Baldwin wells site, so all these factors may have
      some interrelation that will have to be assessed.

      Despite the Planning Board's interest in dispersing the offices
      and residential among/atop the retail space, the application
      plans show a separate building for offices and a discrete
      residential area, which consists of large, multistory buildings.
      Most have 20 units. In addition, there is a clubhouse building as
      well as a swimming pool, which is adjacent to the northern edge
      of the property.

      Another item of interest is the area often referred to as the "town"
      green. It is privately owned, and may be further subdivided at will
      according to the application: "The 2 acre green will remain in
      private ownership. At present it remains with ownership of the
      entirety of the remainder of the Project site. When and if the
      Project site is divided into parcels for financing or other
      purposes, the 2 acre green will be held by one or more
      ownership entities owning one or more parcels within the
      Project site, or by a private association or other entity formed to
      own, operate and maintain the green under a recorded private
      declaration of covenants."

      The plans also show a road to Route 27 as well as one to Route
      20, with a curb cut in addition to that of the Wayland Commons
      project. If there is no access to Route 27, Twenty Wayland
      submitted an alternative plan that is quite different, despite the
      Planning Board's requirement that the "submittal should be able
      to accommodate any of three options: no access; limited
      access; and full access, without significant modification of the
      overall layout and organization of the plan." The single entrance
      plan calls for widening Route 20 by 24 feet and reducing the
      historic Mellen Common, purchased for common use about
      1725 and now the site of a preserved early law office.
      Significantly reducing the triangular Mellen site would
      undoubtedly be unpopular with residents interested in the history
      and ambience of the town.

      In the alternative plan the buildings are positioned differently,
      prominently featuring a very large central parking lot, and the
      residential buildings are fewer in number and substantially
      larger.

      The application and plans can be viewed at
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/planning/Towncenterproposal/MUOD
      _downloads.htm


      SPECIAL PERMIT REVIEW

      Under state law, review of special permits must be done in
      public hearings. The master special permit review (MSP) is the
      process by which the town boards and residents provide input
      into the proposed plans. "The MSP specifies the design,
      architectural character, site and traffic improvements, mitigation,
      location and use categories for buildings, and public amenities
      of a proposed Mixed-Use Project. The MSP sets the theme of the
      development and establishes the rules for its subsequent
      construction and any future changes," according to the
      description presented to Town Meeting. Approval of the final
      project plans requires consent by four of five members of the
      Planning Board. A member who misses one meeting is still
      eligible to vote if (s)he has complied with legal requirements to
      thoroughly review the meeting. If any member misses more than
      one meeting, (s)he is ineligible to vote.

      Because of the strict attendance requirements for voting on
      special permits, Wayland (and many other towns) adopted a
      bylaw enabling election of an associate member of the Planning
      Board.

      The Planning Board chairman anticipates scheduling at least
      10 sessions of the public hearing during the summer, but there
      is no timeframe limit for review of the application.

      After the close of the hearing process, the Planning Board has
      90 days to render a decision.

      CHAIR LIMITS ASSOCIATE ROLE

      Chairman William Steinberg, a new member of the Planning
      Board , has taken what he calls the "prerogative of the chair" to
      limit the scope of the role of the associate member. The
      developers had complained about the associate, Anette Lewis.
      According to a memo from Steinberg, the associate member will
      not sit at the table during discussions. During special permit
      discussions, the associate member may submit questions and
      comments in writing to the town planner.

      This means that the associate member will not be able to review
      plans displayed on the table, nor interactively ask questions and
      raise issues.

      "In the case of a special permit application, when another
      Member is unable to perform their duties, as set forth in the
      by-law, the Chair may request that the Associate Member sit with
      the other Members of the Board to discuss and vote on that
      application," Steinberg wrote.

      Several current and former members of the board have harshly
      criticized this unprecedented decision to limit the participation of
      the associate member in special permit discussions.
      Steinberg's predecessor as chair, Lynne Dunbrack, questioned
      the apparent purpose of the change to please one developer.
      She and others note that this decision would make it difficult for
      the associate member to participate, if needed, as a voting
      member. Often, special permit reviews last many months, and
      no one can foresee whether the requisite five full members will
      be eligible to vote because of the strict attendance requirements.

      Regarding the chair's decision to limit the role of the associate
      member, longtime former Planning Board member and former
      chair Gretchen Schuler in public comment stated her grave
      concern that the board is changing past practices for one case.
      She also stated that since the bylaw requiring election of an
      associate member was adopted unanimously at town meeting
      in 1993, the associate member has had the same role sitting at
      the table and engaging in discussions.

      In other public comment, Harvey Montague, a candidate who ran
      unsuccessfully for the Planning Board in the recent election,
      offered a compromise that the chair proceed on a "see as you
      go" basis rather than apply a blanket rule prohibiting comments.
      Dave Bernstein, who said he has built several projects, told the
      board that in a large, complex project, "the last thing you want to
      do is limit questions...You need all the help you can get."

      Dunbrack added that a change in the role of the associate
      member relating to the town center "will perpetuate the
      perception this board will rubber stamp the town center
      application."

      Dunbrack noted that Steinberg, when declaring he'd like to be
      chair, gave no indication of a change in the role of the associate
      member. She asked Steinberg repeatedly if he had spoken to
      members of the Board of Selectmen and/or the developers to
      formulate his view of the associate member's role. Steinberg , a
      real estate developer, didn't reply directly but noted the election
      indicated the voters "wanted a change" and alleged a "crisis of
      confidence" in the Planning Board's ability to act efficiently and
      fairly. These words sounded remarkably like those uttered by
      the usual vocal town center supporters who advocated for a
      diminished role of the associate member.

      Associate member Lewis observed she has served as
      associate member since her initial election in 2001, and was
      reelected to a five-year term in 2004. "I feel the associate
      member needs to participate," she said. "An applicant can
      change its mind at the very end of the process and decide that
      the applicant wants to have the associate member voting. And,
      the board needs to be able to render a decision to protect the
      town." She stated she has helped the board think about
      implications of decisions and language, with an eye toward
      avoiding lawsuits, and issues that need to be addressed to
      protect the town. Lewis is the only attorney on the board.

      In addition, Lewis said Sudbury, Natick, Wellesley, Cambridge
      and Franklin all allow associate members to participate fully in
      all board matters. She reported that Weston, Lincoln,
      Framingham and Concord don't have associate members.

      A former board member and previous vice chair, Rebecca
      Regan, said Steinberg's decision leaves the town and all
      developers who require special permits at risk. Regan
      presented her comments in writing to the board, and also read
      excerpts to the board.

      "No member of any board should ever be empowered to vote
      without the ability to ask clarifying questions, require research to
      be performed to provide information to the Board or without the
      ability to immediately engage in timely and critical dialogue with
      the other Board members," Regan commented. "To disallow this
      is irresponsible on the part of the member being asked to vote
      as well as the remainder of the Board, yet this is what you
      propose.

      "After sitting on your first Wayland Town Board for fewer than 30
      days and with a majority of your Board members being
      inexperienced as well, you are now proposing to change a
      successful, 14-year practice, which will result in a less efficient
      process for proposals, including but not limited to the town
      center proposal. The logic is glaringly absent. Rather, this
      seems to be an action prompted by you to create a second class
      citizenry on your board. Your recourse is the Town Election
      process, not redefining the role of a Board Member. . . .

      "To echo a recent Town Crier editorial by a ten-year member of
      and former Planning Board chair, it is the job of all members to
      begin with no predetermined decisions, to gather information
      and weight the application against the bylaw," Regan continued.
      "A member cannot do this in good faith if that person has been
      unable to ask clarifying questions, and review the plans directly
      with the team. If the associate member has been restricted in
      the process, and a Planning Board member has missed more
      than one meeting, the application may not pass without the
      supermajority required."

      TARDY NOTIFICATIONS

      Two instances of delay in issuing important communications to
      the members of the Planning Board have occurred since
      Steinberg assumed the chairmanship. In the first incident, the
      MSP application was filed on May 18 but board members were
      not notified and did not receive copies until June 1.

      In the second incident, Steinberg's memo communicating his
      decision to relegate the associate member to the audience and
      not participate in MSP hearings was not shared with members of
      the board until a week later. Voters may wonder about the
      procedures by which board communications occur. Certainly,
      when faced with the largest project in Wayland one would think
      swift communication among the members of the Planning Board
      would be absolutely essential.

      TOWN BOARD OPENINGS

      As the MSP process perks through the Planning Board this
      summer, the selectmen have a prime opportunity to place their
      own players on many boards. The discrete boards also need to
      provide their input into the Planning Board process. The Board
      of Health has one vacancy; the Conservation Commission two.

      When the chairman of the Community Preservation Committee
      resigned last year after a clash with selectmen, the Board
      replaced him with Betsy Connolly, a former selectman who
      shared the view of the Board majority on the use of preservation
      funds.


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