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WVN Newsletter #218: New Town Center questions

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, The proposed Town Center shopping/office/housing project continues to present thorny issues, and lately some new issues. For example, there
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 9, 2007
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      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.


      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.


      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:

      Rare Species

      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.

      Sustainable Design

      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.


      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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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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