WVN #223: TC conundrum for Planning Board
- View SourceDear 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The developer has withdrawn its final environmental impact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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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."
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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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor