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WVN #223: TC conundrum for Planning Board

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, As deliberations begin on the developers proposal to build the Town Center commercial/residential project on Route 20, the Planning Board
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 20, 2007
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      As deliberations begin on the developers' proposal to build the
      Town Center commercial/residential project on Route 20, the
      Planning Board faces the prospect of issuing the permit
      necessary to start construction without having essential
      information in hand. It's not clear exactly what would be built, and
      exactly where. Nor is there a detailed plan to control traffic. The
      housing could be a decade away, or perhaps never built.

      The developer has withdrawn its final environmental impact
      report to the state, and the earliest a new report could be
      approved is mid-January.

      Though the Board of Selectmen sold Twenty Wayland's
      $100-140 million project to voters as a vital part of the town's
      financial future, the Finance Committee is backing away from its
      earlier confidence in new revenue in the near future.

      The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. in the Town Building on
      Tuesday Nov. 20. Molly Upton reports below on where things
      stand.

      OTHER VOTER CONCERNS

      Voters have until Dec. 13 to submit petitioners' articles for the
      annual Town Meeting on April 10. Ten certified signatures are
      required to put an article on the warrant.

      The Board of Selectmen reverted to the old format in scheduling
      Town Meeting on the Thursday after the annual election. Though
      informal surveys by WVN and others showed enthusiasm for the
      2006 experiment of beginning TM on a Sunday afternoon, the
      board wasn't persuaded. More than 600 people attended in
      2006, an unusual number staying to the end to finish the work in
      one session. The selectmen didn't point to any evidence that the
      experiment had failed.

      On Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Building, Raytheon will
      update residents and answer questions about its environmental
      cleanup of the Town Center site. The former tenant's cleanup of
      contaminants could have a significant impact on future
      construction.

      PLANNING BOARD CONUNDRUM

      For at least two reasons, some consider the Planning Board's
      decision-making process problematic. One is the current
      inability to consider the plans that must be filed with
      Massachusetts environmental officials. Twenty Wayland filed a
      Final Environmental Impact Report dated Oct. 1, but then
      withdrew it. It isn't known when the report will be resubmitted.

      The other reason is the belief, supported by town counsel, that
      the Planning Board cannot consider the impact of off-site traffic
      in its ruling on the Master Special Permit required to begin
      construction.

      This latter item appears to run counter to common sense as well
      as the bylaw 2305.2.2 "The 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."

      In addition, the Planning Board has not revisited the original
      financial estimates in light of observations that the consultant
      lacked knowledge of the site's tax abatement due to its location
      and contamination (which could impact tax revenues in the
      future) and a recent public safety report that says, "The Wayland
      Town Center project by itself will have an impact on public safety
      services."
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/planning/Towncenterproposal/Docum
      ents/MSP/MA%20Wayl
      and%20TC%20RTC%2010-30-07%20Final.pdf

      Residents who approved the mixed-use overlay district zoning
      bylaw were assured that the Planning Board in the special
      permit and site plan processes would fully evaluate every aspect
      of the proposed development.

      The Planning Board could reopen the hearing without
      necessarily stalling the decision process. Prior to the decision
      by a split vote to close the hearing, one suggestion was to follow
      the process adopted by the Zoning Board when it kept open its
      10-month hearing on the Wayland Commons housing project,
      allowing for substantive discussion in the final month regarding
      key items in the draft decision, and then in one night closed the
      hearing, briefly officially deliberated, and rendered a decision.
      Keeping the hearing open gave the board the opportunity to
      accept incoming information so that it had all the information it
      felt it needed.

      NO TIMELINE

      At the Oct. 30 Planning Board hearing, after Finance Committee
      Chair Cherry Karlson emphasized the importance of the project
      for spreading the tax burden and left the meeting, Twenty
      Wayland's attorney Adam Weisenberg presented a lengthy list of
      conditions that include allowing 10 years to "deliver" on the
      housing, and no time restriction on commercial construction.

      Voters clearly had reason to believe the Planning Board would
      be in charge as specified in the bylaw. Section 2306.1.1 states
      the Planning Board may "impose additional reasonable
      conditions, safeguards, and limitations on time and use, which
      conditions may include but are not limited to the following:

      "2306.1.1. A phasing schedule for construction of each
      component part of the project which ensures integration of
      residential, non-residential, and municipal uses.

      "2306.1.6. If circumstances so warrant, a requirement to
      continue monitoring off-site impacts to traffic and the
      environment in appropriate locations with regard to the locus of
      the MUOD development; and

      "2306.1.8. Restrictions on use of the streets within the
      Mixed-Use Project and all streets that allow access between the
      Mixed-Use Project and any public way."

      In the past, the Fincom has shown a proclivity to count on
      expected revenues, such as Wayland Commons, mentioned by
      Moody's bond rating service as a positive future contributor to tax
      revenues. Karlson said the Fincom had initially included
      estimated revenues from the town center project in Fiscal 2009,
      but now is wondering if it should include them in its 2010
      calculations.

      On another late-breaking topic, Twenty Wayland says it wants to
      use "building envelopes" rather than exact locations of buildings
      as specifed in the bylaw.
      "http://www.wayland.ma.us/planning/Towncenterproposal/Docu
      ments/MSP/A4-setba
      cks-17X11.pdf"
      http://www.wayland.ma.us/planning/Towncenterproposal/Docum
      ents/MSP/A4-setba
      cks-17X11.pdf

      This means the Planning Board could be approving envelopes
      or areas instead of exact building locations. In particular, the
      envelope plan would enable a northwest residence to cozy up to
      the edge of the Sudbury River rather than where it is now
      depicted. Buildings could also be very different shapes from
      those on the plan.

      In addition to different timelines, Weisenberg's list of conditions
      included the special permit applications to waive the town's
      35-foot height limit and setback restrictions. He also wanted a
      waiver for submittal requirements and a change in the
      mixed-use bylaw Article 6 to allow certain trucks on streets. He
      also quickly mentioned other possibilities such as a
      drive-through bank.

      Weisenberg also said the affordable housing component in the
      bylaw was to build "25 percent affordable as we go."

      On traffic, he stated that any inclusion in the special permit
      decision about traffic should be a recommendation rather than a
      condition. (This refers to the separation of authority on traffic
      between the Planning Board, selectmen, and Board of Road
      Commissioners. "We don't want invalid conditions," he said.

      CONSULTANT COMMENTS

      The meeting also included a brief summary from several of the
      town's consultants on the project.

      There were several items on which the developer and the town's
      traffic consultant, TEC, disagreed. Despite previous verbiage
      that the Town Center would be pedestrian-friendly, there are no
      plans for a sidewalk along the northern street that connects with
      Route 27 and Wayland Commons. Frank Dougherty, speaking
      for Twenty Wayland, said there was no need for such a sidewalk
      that is an "undue cost on us."

      Snow storage is not identified on the plans, TEC's Kevin
      Dandrade observed. Dougherty said the developer would do as
      instructed by state environmental authorities. On the issue of
      post-occupancy traffic monitoring, Dougherty said Twenty
      Wayland would not agree to any monitoring other than the
      original $75,000 allocated in the developer agreement for
      mitigation on neighborhood roads.

      Dougherty also disagreed with the following TEC
      recommendations:

      1) The need for analysis before occupancy on a traffic signal at
      the Route 27 exit.

      2) Ability of the Planning Board to convert the Route 27 exit to
      right-turn-only if it deems cut-through traffic excessive. Dougherty
      questioned whether the Planning Board could legally impose
      such a condition. He called the right-turn-only "not appropriate"
      and said it would "encourage more congestion on Route 20 that
      we're trying to solve."

      TRAFFIC

      Given the dearth of through roads north to south and east to
      west, all the traffic consultants have bemoaned that a change in
      one place impacts other places.

      The August plans do not include many prior mitigation
      measures suggested for neighborhood roads other than a few
      turn prohibitions. The latest estimates for traffic on Glezen Lane
      show the Town Center will add five times more traffic than
      originally estimated at peak hours, according to the town's
      traffic consultant, Kevin Dandrade of TEC, who noted this
      translates to 500-600 new vehicle trips to Glezen Lane on the
      typical weekday if left unmitigated. This is more than double what
      was projected in the May plan.

      The Aug. 6 study from VAI, another consultant, expects 25
      percent of the site access traffic originally assigned to Route 20
      to and from the east to actually use Glezen. In addition, it
      reassigns to Glezen at least half of the site access traffic on
      Route 126 to and from the north. But resident Dave Bernstein
      expects 100 percent of cars traveling on Route 126 to/from
      the north to use Glezen because it is shorter, which would mean
      about 1,000 additional cars on Glezen on weekdays. On
      Saturdays, Dandrade's figures show traffic on Glezen would
      more than double, Bernstein said.

      Members of the Historic District Commission last week asked
      the Board of Road Commissioners not to install a traffic light at
      the intersection of Routes 27 and 126, but instead place it at the
      entrance to the project on Route 27. Placing a light at the
      intersection necessitates another lane in the vicinity of the library
      and is not clear that it would ameliorate the traffic, they said.

      Woody Baston, a resident who reported frequently for the Town
      Crier on the reconfiguration of Route 20, said he had discussed
      the issue with an expert who said a light at the intersection of 27
      and 126 would not help because traffic turning north comes from
      three directions, rendering traffic-light synchronizing ineffective.

      Residents also expressed concern that widening Route 20 in
      the wetlands could result in "mounding" of groundwater that
      could affect all the buildings in the area, not just the Public Safety
      Building, which already has water problems.
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      Michael Short, Editor
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