WVN Newsletter #218: New Town Center questions
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The proposed Town Center shopping/office/housing project
continues to present thorny issues, and lately some new issues.
For example, there is the possibility of a large sign in a
residential area and the destruction of parts of the historic
district. Some fear that the 300-year-old center of town will be
disfigured to accommodate a commercial development named
the Town Center. Molly Upton reports.
Also in this newsletter: A court rules that Newton cannot use
preservation funds for artificial turf, a decision that could have a
bearing on Wayland's similar plan.
MORE TOWN CENTER ISSUES EMERGING
As the Planning Board continues its public hearing on the
proposed Town Center, several issues continue to nag, and
new ones arise. Lately, the spotlight is shining on the impact on
the historic district, and a large sign on Old Sudbury Road.
Traffic remains a huge issue. See
234. There doesn't appear to be any willingness, especially by
the Board of Selectmen, to agree during the Master Special
Permit process to a holistic mitigation plan that would consider
the impacts on neighborhood roads as well as on the 27/20
intersection and the historic district. Nor is the developer willing
to subject any plan to a modeling exercise so the town could
understand how effective such a plan might be.
Some members of the Planning Board understand the
conundrum. Ira Montague observed that he wasn't sure that
residents voting for the zoning change understood they were
also voting for significantly changing the character of the existing
center of town.
Some of the schemes for accommodating the projected
increased traffic through the current center of town impinge upon
the nature of the historic district with its relatively narrow roads
and deep front yards that create the impression of a 19th century
town center. The Mellen common has been central to the town
for nearly 300 years. And the nearly 200-year-old Unitarian
church with the Paul Revere bell is critical to the ambiance of a
New England town. The church is set back from Route 20.
As the president of the Wayland Historical Society put it, any town
can have a mall; not every town can have a historic town center.
The Planning Board's charge is to ascertain that detriments of
the project don't outweigh the positives: "2305.2.2. The MUP
(mixed use plan) Master Special Permit shall be granted by the
Planning Board only upon the Board's written determination that
the adverse effects of the proposed Mixed-Use Project will not
outweigh its beneficial impacts to the Town or the neighborhood,
in view of the particular characteristics of the site."
As more unresolved, and perhaps unresolvable, detriments
appear, the developers seem eager to have the hearing close
before more skeletons emerge from the closet.
The Planning Board has deliberated on plans presented over
the course of the summer. Now it is faced with evaluating a
revised site plan that is expected to be presented this week,
while under pressure to bring the hearing to a close.
Despite assurances of a low-key "monument" type sign at the
Route 20 entrance to the site, now the developers are talking of
tall "pylon" signs carrying the names and logos of several, if not
all, tenants not only at the Route 20 entrance but also on Route
27. In defending the sign design, Twenty Wayland's engineer
Frank Dougherty showed similar signs at Donelan's Market and
at Whole Foods. But those plazas are in commercial districts.
Clearly the Route 27 entrance is a residential district near the
historic district. Quite a different kettle of fish.
In Sharon, where Twenty Wayland principal Dean Stratouly is
collaborating with Michael Intoccia, developer of Wayland
Commons housing development, on a shopping center called
Sharon Commons, the entrance sign in a residential district will
need a special permit, according to the local paper. After
approval of the project with a maximum building size of 80,000
square feet,. the development team now wants to install a
135,000-square-foot building, which requires an amendment to
the zoning bylaw. Such behavior raises the question: whether
Wayland will be asked to make additional changes.
A Sharon official told WVN that the development team has not
been forthcoming with requested traffic data for Sharon.
FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
The town's Master Special Permit is but one of the approvals this
project needs. The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act
(MEPA) process also can require restrictions and changes to the
Some of the Final Environmental Review submitted by Twenty
Wayland to to the MEPA process raises questions. There are the
usual introductory paragraphs assuring the reader the project is
sensitive and responsible. But it's the other paragraphs that
bear close reading. For example:
The document cites the town's obligation to provide a certain
quantity of wastewater flow when in reality the town's obligation
is capacity (not the same thing); and whether the plan conforms
with flood plain lines, etc., as well as avoiding impinging on rare
species. (Apparently there are different versions of flood plain
Section 5 on wastewater and water supply states the town has a
contractual commitment to "allocate to the Project a wastewater
disposal capacity of 45,000 gpd (gallons per day) maximum flow
to the" treatment plant and cites the town's letter.
But the town's letter cites its contractual obligation to provide
"45,000 GPD of wastewater capacity. "
The document also cites the full 56.9 acres of the site, when in
fact 10 acres are wetlands to be put into conservation. The larger
area helps comply with Title 5 nitrogen-loading limitations for the
proposed 9,900 gallons/day septic system.
The next paragraph declares the Board of Health's septic
design requirements, which are more stringent than Title 5,
don't apply to the septic system "since wastewater from the
Project's proposed residential and restaurant uses will be
directed to the MWWTP (treatment plant)."
For more information on wastewater see:
The National Heritage and Endangered Species Program has
identified the western portion of the site as harboring rare and
endangered species of birds. Last winter, the NHESP staff
"encouraged the Proponent to consider Project design
alternatives that would maximize the reuse of previously
developed areas, thereby limiting development-related
encroachment into western portions of the site" that "may serve
as a buffer to actual rare species habitat along the Sudbury
Section 7.3 sounds like no disturbance: " the Project has
been designed to largely overlay the previously disturbed area of
the site, thereby maintaining the undisturbed nature of the
northern and western portions of the site." Two paragraphs
later: "Moreover, although marginally located in the 100-foot
buffer to bordering vegetated wetlands, Municipal Building
construction will not encroach into the 30-foot "no disturbance
zone" established" pursuant to Wayland's Wetlands and Water
Resources Protection Bylaw.
Although the town certainly did not select this site, which many
fear will be wet, "the proponent confirmed that there were no
practicable or feasible alternatives to the proposed site plan for
the proposed municipal building."
The NHESP staff "agreed to consider additional habitat
enhancement measures including the development and
maintenance of a 2-acre Meadow Management Area on the
northern side of the site" to compensate for the proximity of the
municipal building site to the endangered species.
Thus the municipal site may pose the greatest challenge in
gaining approval for a building.
The words in Section 9 in the Review give assurance the project
"will promote environmental awareness and sustainable
business operations." The design "has been focused on striving
to minimize potential environmental impacts through sensitive
awareness of the land upon which the Project will be
developed." Dougherty said Twenty Wayland is investigating
drought-tolerant native plants. But he also told the Wayland
Water Commisssion there are no plans to capture and reuse
rainwater (from roofs, for example) as is planned at a new
housing development in Weston.
Look at the estimated water requirements in Section 5 of 25,100
gallons per day during "the grow-in period for the driest portion of
the year." (Note the length of season is undefined.) That's
25,100 gallons a day. A typical household might use 171,060
gallons (9500 cubic feet) in a year. So, in a week, the irrigation
for this project could consume what a home consumes in a year.
Several speakers at the Oct. 2 meeting urged the developer not
to install irrigation systems connected to town water supplies.
One traffic mitigation plan proposed calls for reducing the
Mellen common (see above) at the 20/27/126 intersection and
cutting down several very old trees. Coincidentally, the Wayland
Historical Society's schedule of 2007-08 programs begins with
an open house at the Mellen Law Office on Sunday Oct. 14. The
program, free and open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. at the
1745 Grout-Heard House adjacent to the Wayland Library. (Land
in front of the house is also threatened by Town Center traffic
mitigation.) The public will have the chance to see inside the two
paneled rooms of the Mellen building, including the lawyer's tall
desk and early American legal artifacts.
COURT RULES AGAINST NEWTON TURF FUNDING
When Town Meeting voters were asked to approve $300,000 in
Community Preservation Act funds to pay part of the cost of
replacing grass with artificial turf at the High School football field,
there was spirited debate about whether the funding was within
the law. The measure passed handily. Now a Massachusetts
court has ruled on the issue for the first time, and the decision
isn't good news for the Wayland Boosters group and town
officials who advocated tapping CPA funds.
A Middlesex County Superior Court judge ruled on Sept. 24
against a similar plan in Newton.
"While using CPA funds for the rehabilitation or restoration of
recreational land is permitted under the CPA, it is permitted only
for those recreational lands which were originally acquired or
created with CPA funds," Associate Justice Bruce Henry wrote in
granting a summary judgment.
Newton officials are considering an appeal.
As the first court ruling on the issue, Henry's decision is a
precedent but doesn't necessarily determine the outcome of the
separate action filed by Wayland taxpayers against CPA funding.
Though there are differences between the Newton and Wayland
suits, in outline the issue is the same: the use of funds
designated essentially for acquiring and preserving open
spaces and supporting affordable housing. In Newton as in
Wayland CPA funds were to be used to install artificial turf on
existing fields not acquired with preservation funds.
George Harris, a Wayland attorney involved in the local taxpayer
suit, commented after the court decision, "I would say that the
Newton decision is a very positive development for our position,
which is that the funding of an artificial turf field at Wayland High
School using CPA funds was illegal."
A summary judgment "shall be granted where there are no
genuine issues of material fact and where the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law," the Newton ruling
Wayland's Special Town Meeting vote last November came
after heated disagreement among town officials over the legality
of using CPA money.
If the Wayland suit ultimately prevails, the town will have to repay
the $300,000 to the town's Community Preservation account.
Private donations covered the remainder of the project. Taking
money from another town account or increasing taxes to repay
the preservation fund was not what Town Meeting voters
Meanwhile, the turf has been inaugurated with the opening of
the High School football season. There hasn't yet been enough
rain to test whether the environmental protection measures,
mandated by the state after an appeal filed by residents, are
adequate to protect the town water supply and nearby wetlands.
The Board of Health received a report from Tom Sciacca of the
residents' group asserting that the new turf may pose health
risks because artificial turf collects solar energy efficiently and
reaches very high temperatures. Though local turf proponents
discounted any risk on New England fields, Sciacca told the
health board that recent measurements at Wayland and
Sudbury produced readings of turf temperatures up to 75
degrees higher than the ambient air temperature.
Measured turf temperatures ranged from 156 degrees on a
91-degree day to 139 degrees on a 71-degree day. In spring,
the sun will be higher than it is now, so even a moderate day
could produce high surface heat.
Fieldturf, the material used at Wayland and many other places,
isn't perfect. But the ideal -- a lush, springy expanse of grass
maintained without toxic chemicals -- seems to be beyond the
means of most athletic organizations. Brown University recently
replaced some grass fields with artificial turf that drew mixed
reviews from athletes. Some told the Daily Herald that the
pulverized tire particles flew up and became stuck in
mouthpieces, and the surface was more painful in a fall than
grass. Still, one noted, that avoids the risk of potholes in a
battered grass surface.
-- Michael Short
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