WVN #248: 40B concerns, overrides, school buildings
- 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
HEALTH, FIRE CONCERNS ON BARTON SITE
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
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
For a project of this size, Chief Loomer said, requesting total access around the building is
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
TREASURER WARNS ON COSTLY SCHOOL PLANS
State Treasurer Timothy Cahill has warned communities against planning extravagant new
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, ASHLAND OVERRIDES FAIL
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
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.
LINCOLN-SUDBURY COPES WITH FAILED 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.
NO OVERRIDE FOR WESTON
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.
STATE MATCHING FUNDS DOWN
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.
To be sure you continue to receive WVN newsletters
optimally and in your inbox (instead of bulk or junk folders) it may
help to add to your address book or safe sender list:
Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please
forward it to your friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want
to receive their own copy, they can send an email to
waylandvoters@... and they will be
signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up by
sending a blank email to:
Click reply and send after receiving an e-mail
confirming the subscription.
Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor