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WVN #248: 40B concerns, overrides, school buildings

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, Wayland boards are wrestling with health and safety issues at the proposed affordable housing project on Route 30. Also in this newsletter:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2008
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Wayland boards are wrestling with health and safety issues at the proposed affordable
      housing project on Route 30.

      Also in this newsletter: A roundup including news about taxes, overrides and new school


      Wayland's wet topography frequently presents challenges to developers as they try to
      construct larger buildings on existing sites. The proposed 40B affordable housing project
      on 371-373 Commonwealth Road at the site of the former Kathryn Barton nursing home
      is a case in point, as seen below. Another is the proposed CVS at the site of the current
      Caraway's restaurant. See

      The proposal for a 65,224-square-foot building with 56 rental units (90 bedrooms) at the
      Route 30 Barton site is receiving scrutiny on the aspects of public health and safety from
      the Wayland Zoning Board of Appeals and various town boards. The garage beneath the
      building adds another 21,700 square feet.

      New guidelines for the 40B process have reiterated the rights of local communities to
      ensure that projects do not adversely affect public health and safety and acknowledge
      local regulations. See

      In the 40B comprehensive permit process, the individual committees such as conservation
      and board of health, as well as public safety, provide comments to the ZBA.

      The fire chief has expressed concerns about the project, and recently Wayland's Board of
      Health unanimously recommended that the ZBA deny three waivers requested by the
      applicant pertaining to the proposed 9,900-gallon-per-day septic system.

      The applicant, Oak Tree Management, has requested 110 gallons per day per bedroom
      rather than Wayland's standard of 165, a smaller leaching area, and trenches spaced 6 feet
      apart rather than Wayland's regulations of 10 feet apart.

      Health director Steve Calichman told the Board of Health that in his view the town's
      standards add longevity. He cited experience with multifamily housing in Acton where the
      systems, designed to Title V's 110 gallons per day, lasted only 3.5 to 4 years.

      The proposed leaching area is 13,392 square feet whereas the town's code calls for "at
      least" 18,000.

      The Board of Health also requires trenches between leaching areas to be 10 feet wide.
      Complying with this requirement would mean a significantly larger leaching surface.

      Wayland's requirement of 10 feet between trenches allows for installation of reserve
      trenches when the old system needs replacing. Calichman noted it is very difficult to
      properly install new trenches when the original ones are spaced 6 feet apart.

      Compounding matters, the plans call for part of the system to be beneath pavement. This
      means additional expense to replace a system, and consequently more effort by the Board
      of Health to persuade owners to install a replacement system.

      The Conservation Commission will soon need to review the plans. The applicant has not
      filed a notice of intent, awaiting more testing on mounding and stormwater management.
      The mounding analysis is expected to indicate placement of the system above the
      groundwater, taking into consideration calculations on the effect on groundwater from a
      leaching area with a large volume of wastewater. Some leaching areas can cause the
      groundwater to rise significantly. The project is close to wetlands.

      One consultant has told the ZBA that "breakouts" were possible. Breakout is the code
      word for the septic contents reaching the surface.

      The building and proposed septic system are near Snake Brook and basements in the area
      are already prone to having water in them. The size of the system, which just misses
      requiring a small treatment plant and needing to be certified by the state, potentially
      could compound the water table issues in this area.

      One resident who pumps his basement told the ZBA he was OK pumping as long as he
      knows the water is only water, but he is concerned that if the proposed structure is built,
      he might be pumping water tainted by the septic system.


      Fire Chief Robert Loomer told the ZBA in graphic terms the current building plan presents
      real issues for the Fire Department both in terms of a single access point to the rear of the
      building as well as firefighters safely reaching the roof and reaching various parts of the
      roof. He also was concerned about the challenges presented by the size and layout of the
      underground garage.

      For a project of this size, Chief Loomer said, requesting total access around the building is
      common practice.

      He described how the existing ladder truck would, if it could be parked in the correct
      location, reach only a limited area of the roof. The existing ladder would barely reach the
      ridge of the roof if the fire truck were perfectly parked. But a firefighter on a roof needs to
      be able to hang on to a ladder extending above the roof, he noted. The parking of the
      truck in just the right spot may be problematic because of parked cars and snow.

      Another issue is the inability to access much of the roof, Loomer observed. The building
      extends so close to the property line that the road leading to the rear of the building is
      too close to permit a ladder to be raised in an effective manner. If the building collapsed,
      it could "bury a fire truck." He also noted that the narrow road would preclude an
      ambulance exiting from the rear of the property if other public safety vehicles were at the
      side. Emergency response often involves multiple vehicles.

      The ZBA will resume its hearing on the proposed 40B project Tuesday, June 3 at 8:10 p.m.

      -- Molly Upton


      State Treasurer Timothy Cahill has warned communities against planning extravagant new
      school buildings.

      Even the wealthiest cities and towns have residents who can't afford the most ambitious
      plans, he told the Boston Globe. "School communities" shouldn't be making decisions for a
      municipality, he added.

      Cahill oversees the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which plans to provide 40 to
      80 percent reimbursement of school building and repair projects it approves. Wayland is
      among many cities and towns pursuing approval to proceed, anticipating reimbursement
      of 40 percent or more. Less affluent communities tend to receive larger reimbursements.

      A projected $197 million high school in Newton and another in Wellesley estimated at
      $159 million have received considerable public attention. A Globe editorial on April 9,
      headed "Education doesn't require a palace," predicted, "Districts unable to to contain the
      impulse to spend lavishly will not find a willing partner in the School Building Authority."
      Four of five projects approved at that time were renovations, the newspaper said.

      Cahill told the MetroWest Daily News that the Wellesley project seemed excessive
      compared with the $80 million plan for Norwood provisionally approved by the Authority
      last week. According to Boston Globe figures, the two most expensive proposals measured
      by cost per student are Newton ($112,857) and Wellesley ($99,103). Norwood is estimated
      at $72,727 per student. By comparison, Lincoln-Sudbury came in at $46,188 in 2004.
      The last figure is an indication of rapid inflation in construction costs. The Boston area is
      generally ranked among the three most expensive places to build in the U.S.

      The Authority plans to use consultants to review projects and work with cities and towns
      on plans acceptable to the state.

      "School construction costs are out of hand," a May 23 editorial in the MetroWest Daily
      news asserted, "and for many reasons, including the ambitions of architects, the cost of
      materials and the bidding practices of contractors. The appetites of school
      superintendents and school committees come into play as well... (T)he bigger-is-better
      mentality that drives some to seek the most oversized mansion on the street must be
      controlled when it's the public's money paying for it. With Newton's new school pushing
      the $200 million mark and Wellesley eyeing a new high school priced at $160 million, we
      can't help but worry what Natick and Wayland, two nearby towns with high schools in the
      planning stages and similarly high standards, will come up with."

      Since Wayland voters rejected a $57-million replacement plan in 2005 (while state
      reimbursements were suspended) the High School Building Committee has continued to
      work on the project. To follow developments see


      Newton voters have rejected a $12 million tax override by a margin of 55 to 45 percent,
      roughly the same percentage by which Wayland voters approved a a $1.9 million override
      in April.

      Newton's voter turnout was about 47 percent, slightly lower than in Wayland but much
      higher than in Sudbury, where an override failed.

      "I think there was a general disbelief that the city would handle more money well,"
      Newton Taxpayers Association President Jeff Seideman told the Boston Globe. It was
      Newton's first override proposal since 2002. Wayland has approved five overrides in the
      past seven years.

      Newton's override question, the largest proposed in Massachusetts this year, was reduced
      from the mayor's initial proposal of $24 million. Newton's population is more than six
      times that of Wayland. Wayland's $1.9 million override is roughly proportional to Newton's
      in relation to population.

      In Ashland, which is slightly larger than Wayland, voters rejected a $496,000 override.


      After Sudbury rejected a property tax override of either $1.8 million or $2.8 million,
      supporters of Wayland's $1.9 million override question pointed to Sudbury's low turnout
      and negative result to drum up support for the successful Wayland question.

      In response to the failed override Sudbury administrators have laid off 13 K-8 teachers
      and 18 other staff members, but avoided teacher layoffs at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High

      As the Boston Globe reported, salaries, hours and services were cut and fees raised. Every
      sport will continue for at least one more year.

      The high school will cut classes rather than teachers, according to John Ritchie, regional
      superintendent. He said 5.5 non-teaching positions will be eliminated and predicted that
      teachers whose hours are reduced might seek jobs elsewhere.

      Ritchie said that more than 1,000 parents signed a letter saying they were willing to pay
      higher fees to save clubs and sports. All sports and almost all other extracurricular
      activities were saved, he said, calling higher fees a short-term solution.

      "Both the School Committee and administration are extremely uncomfortable with the
      increasing privatization of athletics and activities, as they should be offered free of charge
      to all students as part of the normal program at Lincoln-Sudbury," Ritchie said.


      While Sudbury rejected an override and Wayland approved one, Weston avoided one. The
      town budget will be balanced without exceeding the Proposition 2-1/2 limit.

      Weston's median home value of $995,000 will result in a tax of about $8,795.

      Wayland's median value is $544,400, resulting in a tax of approximately $8,725
      including the override and debt exclusion passed in April.

      Weston officials told the Weston Town Crier that they're concerned about the effect of
      rapidly rising pension and health insurance costs in years to come.


      Matching funds from the state were part of the attraction when Wayland voted in 2001 to
      adopt a small tax increase for a Community Preservation Act fund that would help
      preserve open land and support affordable housing and historic preservation.

      But the Massachusetts Division of Local Service recently announced that in the coming
      fiscal year the state can no longer afford a 100 percent match. Officials predict further
      decreases in Fiscal 2010.

      Officials estimate a matching grant of 65 percent of local contributions. Exact percentages
      will depend on state revenues and the percentage of the tax that each community
      adopted. Under the seven-year-old law, municipalities can vote for a surcharge of 1 to 3
      percent of the homeowner's tax bill. Wayland's surcharge is a little over 1 percent.

      In the past year the 127 communities that enacted the CPA surcharge shared $68 million
      in matching state funds. Wayland's CPA balance was listed at $2.43 million in the
      Community Preservation Committee's April report. Revenues including state matching
      funds are $5.96 million since 2001.
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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