WVN #272: Town Center developer abandons opposition
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The Town Center developers have abandoned their opposition to a Wayland wetlands regulation and agreed to reconfigure their plan.
The change came only three days after a meeting that cast doubt on the developers' hopes of obtaining building permits by mid-January.
Twenty Wayland had said (as reported in WVN Newsletter #271) that speedy permitting is vital to opening the $140-million commercial/residential development in the spring of 2010.
Also in this newsletter: A School Committee public forum airs questions about reconfiguration savings and goals for the schools.
CORDIALITY, AGREEMENT ON WETLANDS RULE
Despite repeated objections questioning the legality of the Conservation Commission's regulation requiring a 30-foot no-disturb buffer around all wetlands, at the Dec. 4 ConCom hearing Twenty Wayland agreed to a new design which places all
development outside the buffer.
The hearing was unusually cordial with Twenty Wayland representative Frank Dougherty and engineering consultant Andrew Magee waxing botanical, observing that young aspens and oak were nicely covering land near the Sudbury River and pointing
out the deceptively beautiful red and yellow seeds of bittersweet, an invasive vine which will be replaced with native species after construction.
Perhaps due to anticipated lack of drama, Twenty Wayland didn't have the meeting videotaped as is usual practice.
NO INCURSION INTO BUFFER
Twenty Wayland discovered that the road at the southeast corner of the project near the grocery store was a one-way road. Therefore, it could be narrower than originally designed. The narrower road was entirely outside the 30-foot buffer around
the intermittent stream in the vicinity. Thus the controversy over the buffer was moot.
On the diagonally opposite northwest corner of the project plan lies a stormwater retention basin (Basin #2) which is the other most important remaining controversy. This basin lies within 200 feet of the Sudbury River and thus is covered under state
riverfront area rules and regulations.
Town consultants Ben Gould and David Faist had produced an updated draft peer review letter on Dec. 1, which included decisions made by the ConCom on Nov. 19.
In their Dec. 1 letter, the town consultants opined that because this basin is the only construction proposed inside the riverfront area, this constitutes new development of a previously undegraded protected wetlands resource area.
Therefore the state requires an alternatives analysis to demonstrate there are no practicable and substantially equivalent economic alternatives.
Dougherty suggested that Twenty Wayland would consider moving a proposed swimming pool and clubhouse in the residential portion of the project to enable moving the retention basin out of the riverfront area. This plan is contingent on being
able to get water to flow to the new location.
Twenty Wayland asked for an extension of five days to produce its new plans. These plans would then be due on Dec. 15. Discussion during the meeting indicated that most points brought up in the Dec. 1 draft peer review would be resolved as
suggested by the reviewers. A number of these have to do with correcting engineering calculations.
To expedite the process, ConCom agreed to hold a special meeting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 for Twenty Wayland to outline how the plans had changed. ConCom then wanted to give theconsultants a few days to decide how long it would take
them to produce a final peer review based on the new plans.
The next regular meeting is Dec. 18, at which time ConCom might be able discuss the timing of remaining steps. It is hoped that the final peer review might be available soon enough for ConCom to study it and then discuss it at its Jan. 8, 2009
-- Betty Salzberg
Monday Dec. 8, 7 p.m. in the large hearing room, the town's consultant on assessments will provide his findings.
Tuesday Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. The Board of Health will present information on Pay As You Throw waste disposal at the landfill.
Monday Dec. 15, 7 p.m. Finance Committee budget information forum for boards, committees, interested citizens.
Tuesday Dec. 16, 7:15 a.m. Fiscal 2010 ad hoc budget advisory committee.
RECONFIGURATION SAVINGS EXAMINED
The elementary school reconfiguration to 2-1/2 schools resulted in an estimated $673,121 savings reported by School Committee member Jeff Dieffenbach at the 7:15 a.m. Nov. 18 meeting of the Fiscal 2010 ad hoc budget advisory committee.
But that figure came under scrutiny at the School Committee's public forum held at 7:30 p.m.
The ad hoc committee didn't question the figure, but the parents attending the SC forum did, repeatedly, and discussion revealed the figure doesn't include transportation costs. The figure also included $39,000 savings in a nurse and crossing guard
from the town side of the budget. Dieffenbach noted that one additional bus run has been added.
The town had been led to expect the consolidation would save about $400,000. The difference between that figure and the schools' portion of reduced cost, $566,121, is $166,121.
At the School Committee forum, parents probed for the amount and the disposition of the difference. Dieffenbach responded that it would be "allocated to other purposes or returned to the town." Chair Louis Jurist explained that sometimes the school
system prepays items for the coming year.
Some parents requested access to a detailed School Department budget, and parent Kim Cook cited Weston's online155 pages of line by line detail as an example of good budgeting and planning.
See http://www.westonschools.org/westonschools/File/VOTED_DOCUMENT.pdf. Dieffenbach mentioned that the new accounting software might add more detail.
The need for consistent reporting in personnel classification and other categories can be seen in the Fiscal 2009 Personnel Budget that lists paraprofessional special needs personnel costing $84,093 in FY 08 and $1.14 million in FY 09. The increase
was caused by a reclassification of personnel, Dieffenbach said.
Although the school administration representatives have said they periodically examine possible combinations with Weston, it appears there have been no wide-ranging discussions for decades.
The state reimburses regional systems for their transportation expenses. (Lincoln-Sudbury received $351,697 or 89 percent in FY 08.)
Earlier, at the ad hoc meeting, Selectman Michael Tichnor raised the possibility of collaboration with Weston. Superintendent Burton effectively dismissed the topic by responding that carting students to another location consumes two additional class
At that same meeting, Burton also seemed to dismiss the idea of sharing teachers between the districts by commenting that it was not advantageous beyond a certain point to have part-time employees who wouldn't have benefits.
However, neither meeting discussed the idea of combining forces to share hiring say, an advanced placement instructor in a particular area, or a language instructor (Weston has Mandarin in the high school). In many parts of the country, it is not
uncommon to have teachers with classes in two different schools, usually on a rotating day basis.
In Jurist's opening presentation, the reconfiguration savings were detailed as follows:
7.65 full time employees $502,130
3.0 teaching assistants $57,259
Crossing guard/nurse (town) $39,000
Health insurance (town) $68,000
Additional expense of summer work days to prepare buildings $4,600
The presentation is at http://www.waylandschoolcommittee.org/details/2008-11-18_wsc_fall-public-forum.pdf
In addition to administration and maintenance, the cuts included 2 elementary teachers, 0.65 kindergarten teacher, 1 librarian, 0.5 music teacher, 0.5 guidance counselor.
Enrollment in the district is expected to decline for the fifth consecutive year, and for the eighth consecutive year in the elementary population. The school administration expects 13 fewer students in kindergarten, 36 fewer students in grades 1-5, 23
fewer students in middle school, but 14 more in the high school.
However, there were lengthy discussions between parents about the size of classes. Happy Hollow has the two classes that are above the district's size guideline. One mother said she was "not confident you're planning every class is at capacity." She
expressed disappointment at service cuts despite her voting for the override. Jurist explained the cuts would have been more severe had the override failed.
Citing her child's class size jumping from 18 to 26, the parent asked: "What services were maintained? Now my taxes are higher." Leveling class sizes was one of the elements implicit in the savings from school consolidation.
The issue of building code compliance at Happy Hollow, specifically the cafeteria, was also questioned. Burton evidently has been working with building commissioner Dan Bennett to raise the capacity based on the width of doors. Burton declared the
school is "not out of compliance with the code."
The discussion revealed there are students who are attending Happy Hollow despite their assigned location in the Claypit district, thanks to special permission from the administration. This number was not revealed. Burton was not inclined to reassign
these students next year, but said he can entertain voluntary redistricting.
OTHER FORUM TOPICS
Jurist was noncommittal on charging for busing for those not entitled to free busing by state mandate. The impression left was that this would be an item for consideration by the School Committee. The FY 09 budget for student transportation is
Expenses for athletics were also questioned, specifically the expense for personal items such as socks, and sports with a high per-student expense ratio. Last year 12 students chose golf at a cost to the town after fees of $7,265 or $605 per student.
Skiing had 35 students at a cost after fees of $19,911, or $569 per student. The student fee for each sport is $200.
Athletics, after fees, consumes 2 percent of the school department's budget. Nearly half of all high school students participate in a sport.
SC member Heather Pineault noted that although local aid was not cut by the state (yet), two areas of cuts have affected Wayland programs. She said the reimbursement for special education has been cut from 75 percent to 72 percent, and Metco
funding has also been reduced. A state grant provides $150,000 toward the offset, in addition to fund-raising efforts.
One of the elements presented by Jurist as goals and priorities, closing the achievement gap, was questioned, given that fewer than 5 percent of students would be involved, and the best time to address the issue is believed to be pre-school.
Other School Committee priorities: Prioritize technology task force recommendations, evaluate a possible Chinese language program, implement health and wellness initiative, and consider full-day kindergarten.
-- Molly Upton.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor