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WVN Newsletter #216: Turrf no simple project

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  • waylandvoters1
    TURF FIELD HAS CONTINUING IMPLICATIONS Analysis Dear Wayland Voter, Artificial turf at the high school football field is expected to be ready for the first
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 27, 2007

      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Artificial turf at the high school football field is expected to be
      ready for the first home game on Sept. 14, but getting to this
      point has involved hostility, divisiveness and lawyers. That
      shouldn't surprise those who follow recent Wayland politics.

      But the turf story is more than just another example of the way
      things seem to be done in Wayland lately. Squabbling over the
      $1 million project disclosed continuing implications for safe
      drinking water, wetlands, public health and the use of
      conservation funds.

      When residents settled their second environmental appeal to
      the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in
      July, allowing the installation to proceed, Town Administrator
      Fred Turkington said, "They're erring on the side of caution, and
      we're happy to oblige that." But there have been few if any
      expressions of happiness, and some expressions of nastiness,
      since the proposal ran into controversy last year. Proponents
      brushed off objections all the way.


      "The town is being handed a gift," said Wayland Boosters
      President Craig Foreman, "70 percent of which is being paid for
      privately." The Boosters seemed surprised that anybody would
      look a gift horse in the mouth. Foreman clashed in 2006 with the
      Community Preservation Committee over a proposal to use
      $300,000 from the town's Community Preservation Act fund
      designated for "affordable housing, open space protection, and
      historic Preservation" (in the words of the state senator who
      wrote the Community Preservation Act seven years ago). The
      Wayland committee was aware that other communities had
      used preservation funds for artificial turf despite lacking clear
      authority in the law. When asked for an opinion, state
      Department of Revenue lawyers advised the committee that the
      use appeared to be improper.

      Whereupon Wayland selectmen entered the fray. Selectman
      Michael Tichnor called it "an affront" to his board when the
      Community Preservation Committee exercised its right to
      outside legal advice. The selectmen then hired a legal firm to
      bolster town counsel's opinion that the use of town funds was
      permitted. After a hotly debated Town Meeting vote approved the
      $300,000 appropriation by a large majority, a group of residents
      filed suit. Selectmen called the suit, which remains unresolved,
      "an attempt to thwart the will of the citizens of Wayland."

      If the plaintiffs prevail, the town would have to come up with the
      $300,000 from some other source, and that could have an
      impact on taxpayers.

      The preservation fund question has also been raised in other


      Foreman and other supporters next clashed with residents who
      appeared at the Conservation Commission hearing on the
      project. These residents presented evidence that toxic
      chemicals draining from the field could potentially endanger
      wetlands in addition to the Happy Hollow wells which supply
      nearly half of the town's drinking water. Foreman made fun of a
      speaker who drew a diagram of the "cone of influence" to explain
      that the wells draw most of the water from a small radius. Turf
      supporters accused the residents of "absurdly
      self-aggrandizing" behavior but offered little pertinent scientific
      response. The consulting firm hired by the Boosters failed to
      notice that the pipe draining the field led directly to the wells.

      The Conservation Commission set a number of environmental
      conditions for the project, including a request for review by the
      Department of Environmental Protection. Ten residents who felt
      that this could be inadequate filed an appeal with the DEP. After
      inspecting the site, the DEP drinking water division then cited the
      Town for existing violations of regulations at the high school
      property and ordered the Town to propose an action plan to
      remedy them. The wetlands division agreed with much of the
      appellants' argument and ordered a new drain installed to
      protect the wells and wetlands, including a federally protected
      wildlife refuge abutting the Sudbury River. The residents said
      the revised plan for the turf field drainage still wasn't adequate
      and filed a second appeal.

      A Wayland lawyer volunteered to represent the Boosters pro
      bono, at first saying he represented the Conservation
      Commission until the ConCom objected strenuously. He and
      two other lawyers from Ropes & Gray, one of Boston's largest
      firms, ended up representing the town as well as the Boosters
      against the 10-person appeal. Pro bono work is usually thought
      of as providing volunteer legal representation to those who can't
      afford it. In this case, it seemed more like defending Goliath
      against David.

      The lawyers implied that $1 million in town funds was at stake,
      which was incorrect, and that money might be withdrawn if the
      turf wasn't installed in time for fall sports, though the Boosters
      had said that all of the needed money was in hand.

      The settlement allows the Boosters a completion date that was
      was obviously important to them. Under the compromise
      agreement there will be testing and monitoring, independent
      review of the drainage design, and avoidance of toxic chemicals
      in field maintenance. In return the residents lose the right to
      further appeals as long as the conditions are met.

      That may be less than the residents hoped for. But consider
      what might have happened had the project breezed through
      without questioning and research.

      As in other contentious matters in the past few years,
      proponents' frequent response to any skepticism or opposition
      was ad hominem: Don't pay attention to these malcontents and
      naysayers. For example, a OneWayland email newsletter in
      December called residents' actions "Turf field attacks." In
      addition to the frequent use of "attacks" the newsletter called
      the actions "abuse" and "repugnant."

      If you think about it, why would citizens express concern about
      polluting the town's water supply and ask for properly designed
      drainage ? Because they don't like football?

      "Let us reason together" is not the motto for getting things done
      in Wayland these days. Rather, citizen comments sometimes
      describe the current governmental management style as "My
      way or the highway."

      What of the future? As you'll see below, Wayland isn't the only
      place where issues are being raised.

      THE TURF

      The 40,000 pulverized used truck tires that will become the
      athletic field are the product of FieldTurf, a company that claims
      at least half of the large North American artificial turf market after
      less than a decade in business. FieldTurf is touted as being
      easier on athletes than Astroturf, which for decades has
      produced complaints of rug burns and other injuries. (Still,
      FieldTurf doesn't please everybody. When David Beckham, now
      the best-known soccer player in America, sat out a recent game
      at Gillette Stadium, the reason given was that he didn't want to
      endanger an injured ankle by playing on artificial turf.)

      FieldTurf users boast of lower maintenance costs, less water
      usage and more frequent availability than with grass. For all
      these reasons FieldTurf, though expensive, is in wide use in
      many countries and in places as close as Sudbury. The
      Wayland Boosters have talked about raising money to replace
      the top layer of the field when it wears out in 10 or 12 years, at a
      cost of up to 40 percent as much as the initial installation.

      Synthetic turf is more vulnerable than grass to vandalism. When
      vandals torched a field in Arlington this month, a bonfire-size
      section was described as a "pile of goo." Repair costs were
      estimated at $20,000-$50,000.

      FieldTurf is now being studied for possible effects on health and
      has been banned in some European countries because runoff
      can contain contaminants including arsenic, lead, thallium,
      copper, zinc and nickel. A recent study of the tire crumbs at the
      Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found traces of four
      volatile organic compounds released into the air under
      conditions like those of a hot summer day. The compounds
      include a skin and eye irritant that can be harmful if swallowed or
      inhaled, a carcinogen and a substance that can destroy mucous
      membranes. Though the study was small, activists have called
      for a moratorium on new installations in Connecticut.

      The Wayland Boosters dismissed concerns about FieldTurf
      reaching high temperatures as a result of solar heating of the
      black tire rubber. Though the field will be used mostly during the
      school year, there can be hot days in the fall and especially in the
      spring, when the sun is high. One of the Wayland residents
      who filed the appeal, Tom Sciacca, measured temperatures at
      Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School on Aug. 3. Some results:

      Air temperature in the shade: 91 degrees.
      Clover patch, two inches high: 93.
      Grass athletic field (brown and dry): 109
      Asphalt (black): 135
      Old synthetic turf field: 143
      New synthetic field: 156

      Studies at Columbia University found that synthetic turf can reach
      a temperature 60 degrees above that of grass fields.


      With town budgets under stress everywhere, it's no surprise that
      some of the 127 communities that adopted the Community
      Preservation Act want to spend the money in ways that weren't
      imagined before. And it's no surprise that in Wayland and
      elsewhere there are objections and even suits by residents who
      want the Act used only for the things it was clearly designated for.

      State legislators have discussed changing the Act to allow the
      money to be spent on such things as artificial turf.

      Voters in the towns that adopted the Act apparently found it a
      good deal: Property tax bills go up one to three percent,
      depending on the town's choice, and the state matches taxpayer
      contributions. But because most of the communities that took on
      the added tax are comparatively well off, there have been
      negative reactions. Two thirds of the cities and towns, including
      Boston, haven't adopted the tax, and they are in effect subsidizing
      the matching funds for the other third.

      Even with limited participation, much of it by small communities,
      the Act is so popular that state officials now warn that the
      matching funds may be cut back soon.


      While the Wayland appeals were under way, Gov. Deval Patrick
      was coincidentally proposing a plan that would limit the right of
      residents' groups to appeal under the Wetlands Protection Act.
      Any 10 residents, not just those with property rights interests,
      can become a group under current law. The administration says
      that such appeals can hinder developers. Environmentalists
      point with concern to the loss of a third of the state's wetlands in
      the past 200 years. The Boston Globe editorialized in favor of
      moving slowly on regulatory change and finding ways of
      speeding the process for developers without endangering
      wetlands, which "cleanse drinking water supplies, protect
      against flooding, and provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife."
      Other things should be tried "before the state banishes its
      wetlands Minutemen," the Globe opined.

      The Wayland appeals have been cited as evidence that the
      present system is valuable.

      -- Michael Short

      (Note: The residents filing the DEP appeals included Tom
      Sciacca, a former ConCom member who writes for WVN.)


      Police plan increased traffic enforcement on Sept. 6-7 as
      Wayland public schools open.

      Police Chief Robert Irving asked drivers to watch their speed on
      what he called "Wayland Slow Down Days."

      Irving recommended that parents send students on school
      buses whenever possible to reduce traffic. If students are being
      dropped off at school, he advised leaving them where they won't
      have to walk across a trafffic lane or through a parking lt.

      Crosswalks in school zones are newly painted, he said.

      On the evening before last Thanksgiving a driver from Acton
      struck and killed a 13-year-old Wayland boy who was crossing
      Old Connecticut Path near the high school.
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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