WVN #288: Wayland and recession
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Wayland government has so far shown no effects of recession reported elsewhere: layoffs, salary freezes, severe budget-cutting, reopened labor contracts, top employees forgoing pay raises.
But there are signs that Wayland isn't immune from hard times.
Also in this newsletter:
-- The School Committee withdraws a request for modular classrooms.
-- Three major building projects are nearing environmental approval.
WAYLAND AND THE RECESSION
The sinking economy is impacting Wayland residents in both the rising number of unemployed and the amount of overdue property taxes.
With 4.4 percent of its labor force unemployed as of December 2008, Wayland tied with Sudbury for the second highest ratio of unemployed residents among nearby towns. Hopkinton led with 4.5 percent.
WVN examined the statistics of 10 towns, including Acton, Harvard, Lincoln, Southborough, Sherborn, Wellesley and Weston. The statewide rate is 6.9 percent.
Wayland's reported unemployment is up 83 percent in a year.
Only 2.4 percent were unemployed in December 2007 in Sudbury and Wayland.
The statistics are available at
Wayland has a high average income because of very high incomes at the top end. But a significant number of families earn less than $50,000 annually.
Parmenter Community Health center reports strong demands on its food bank. The Wayland Charitable Committee reports that several families are out of heating oil and at least one household literally had no food until the Committee provided a voucher.
Another family lost its house to foreclosure because of a job loss and now faces eviction from a rented house for overdue rent.
Outstanding property taxes are also growing. One interesting fact is the town has not yet completed collecting taxes owed for Fiscal 2008, which ended last July 1. As of Feb. 28, 2009, for 2008 there is $72,573 still outstanding compared with $38,975 outstanding at the same date last year.
For Fiscal 2009, the total outstanding is 15 percent above that overdue at the same time last year. This year, $1,142,035 is outstanding compared with $993,851 a year ago.
New valuations shifted more of the tax burden on owners of smaller lots as the recession was becoming more pronounced.
Some residents saw their assessments jump as much as 16 percent. Combined with the higher tax rate, that's an unexpectedly hefty increase in taxes.
There are 11 payment plans in effect this year. However, the number and amount of tax liens has declined this year to 42 for $485,418 compared with 49 for $618,054 last year.
There are 15 properties in a tax deferral program compared with 18 last year. The amount due has also decreased, to $353,017 compared with $444,463. This program allows the town to collect all owed taxes, plus 3 percent, when the property is sold.
One reason for the decrease is that some families have left Wayland.
Wayland had 2.4 foreclosures per thousand properties between January 2007 and June 2008, while Sudbury had 1.8, according to the Boston Globe.
For Fiscal 2009, Wayland ranked #7 statewide in the size of the average property tax bill, and Sudbury was #8. The leaders were: Weston, Sherborn, Lincoln, Dover, Carlisle, and Concord, according to the state Department of Revenue.
Wayland's Fiscal 2009 tax rate of $16.37 ranks #5 in eastern Mass.and #12 in the state. Of nearby towns, only Acton and Sherborn have higher rates than Wayland. Sudbury's rate is $15.29, at #24. Seventeen communities have not yet submitted their tax rates to the state.
Statewide, the average residential tax rate is $11.45.
-- Molly Upton
SCHOOL COMMITTEE WITHDRAWS MODULAR REQUEST
The School Committee voted on March 2 to delete its capital request for two modular classrooms for the high school.
Chairman Louis Jurist said, "We have heard from our absolutely strongest school supporters who say this is a tough sell."
He didn't elaborate, but spectators told WVN later that he might have meant SOSWayland, the activist group that campaigns for school funding.
Wayland will vote in April on funding to pursue a new or renovated high school.
Member Deb Cohen argued at least for leasing the classrooms for two years at a cost of $161,000 rather than buying them for $300,000 as originally proposed.
Or, Cohen suggested, kick WayCAM out of its studio at the high school and use that space. What's more important, she asked, having the space or having WayCAM?
Superintendent Gary Burton responded that moving Waycam is "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Jurist said moving WayCAM would be "a mess".
The community access cable channel trains students and raises money for scholarships.
Burton went on to say that "If you think the modulars would jeopardize planning for the new high school, the priority is planning for the new high school".
High School Principal Pat Tutwiler and Assistant Principal Allyson Mizoguchi attended the meeting to argue for the modulars. Mizoguchi, giving an example of what would be sacrificed if the modulars were deleted, explained that a new Fine Arts Computer Lab is being set up this year, but will be discontinued next year if modulars are not provided.
The only School Committee candidate to attend the meeting, aside from current member Jeff Dieffenbach, was Paul Grasso.
-- Tom Sciacca
The shore by the northeast corner of the Route 20 bridge over the Sudbury River at the west end of Wayland has been used as an informal boat launch area for many decades, perhaps even since the first bridge was built at that spot in the 1820's.
Until a few years ago it was part of a parcel, owned by Wayland resident Devens Hamlen, that abuts the property where Raytheon operated for decades.
Then Raytheon bought the land to facilitate its hazardous waste cleanup.
Mass Highway appropriated the historical boat launch area for a temporary bridge over the river while the Route 20 bridge was being rebuilt.
The Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council, which promotes recreation as one of the "outstandingly remarkable" values of the federally recognized wild and scenic river, took note of the situation and created a plan to turn the riverside spot into a permanent, high quality boat launch area.
The Council received a positive response from Raytheon to the idea of donating the land once its cleanup was complete, then arranged with Mass Highway to grade and gravel-pave the area as a boat launch/parking area when the temporary bridge is removed.
Now, with the Town Center housing and retail development scheduled to be built on the Raytheon site, former Conservation Commission colleagues Ellen Tohn and MaryLynn Gentry have a plan for a community boating facility.
The idea is to create a boat storage area, possibly using an abandoned building on the Town Center parcel to store canoes and kayaks, with a path to the riverbank launch area. Boat rentals are a future possibility as well.
They are conducting a survey to gauge interest and feasibility. See:
PROGRESS ON MAJOR PROJECTS
In two recent Conservation Commission meetings, three largeprojects which have been discussed for months or even years havecome closer to obtaining required Orders of Conditions.
TOWN CENTER PROJECT
On Feb. 24, one of several special meetings was held to discuss Twenty Wayland's Town Center project.
The $140 million plan includes 165,000 square feet of retail,restaurant and office space and 100 residential units.
The NOI (Notice of Intent) for this project was filed in June 2008and the hearing was opened on June 26. Due to the addition of a half-dozen special meetings devoted only to the Town Center, the
ConCom hearing on this massive project is likely to be closed in record time by March 12.
ConCom expects to issue its Findings and Order of Conditions for on- site construction to Twenty Wayland at the 7 p.m. March 12 special meeting. In fact, Conservation Administrator Brian Monahan hoped
that by 9 that evening, the discussion could move to the off-site (traffic mitigation) part of the project.
Most of the Feb. 24 meeting was devoted to discussing Twenty Wayland's payment for the independent consultants, Ben Gould and David Faist of CMG Environmental. So far, CMG has billed $55,000.
At the time of the meeting, only $12,000 had been paid, but Monahan said that he was expecting another $37,000 momentarily, leaving $6,000 unpaid for completed work.
To complete the consideration of proposed changes to major roads to accommodate traffic, another $27,000 was estimated. FrankDougherty of Twenty Wayland asked for a detailed breakdown of the cost.
There is already a draft of comments from CMG on the off-site part of the project. However, a floodplain study, which everyone agrees is necessary to evaluate the proposed wetlands replication area adjacent to the public safety building, has not yet been made.
All parties are aware of the long-standing problems with water in the basement of the public safety building. Dougherty said the developers had been particularly careful in the plans for thewetlands replication because they did not want to be held responsible for conditions in the public safety building basement which were not caused by their project.
Before the March 12 meeting, commissioners will be writing suggestions to Monahan for the Order of Conditions and draft OOC's will be circulated to the Concom members. It is not the policy of ConCom, which has already held hours of discussion with the applicant, to share any drafts of the order with the applicant it is presented.
Monahan will send Dougherty copies of OOCs from other projects so that Dougherty can get an idea of normal conditions, for example the requirement for a performance guarantee to be forfeited if conditions are not met.
Applicants can file appeals to the OOC under the Wayland Water Resources law in court or under the state Wetlands Protection Act with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
CVS ON ROUTE 20
Unlike the rapid ConCom handling of the massive Town Center Project, the smaller 15,913 square foot CVS drug store planned for the current site of Caraway's restaurant on Route 20 has been in the works since 2007. This is due to an appeal made by MassDEP of the OOC originally issued by ConCom in April 2008.
MassDEP was concerned with compensatory flood storage beneath the proposed pharmacy, placement of a detention basin over an existing septic system, proposed replication areas and other issues.
The project lies entirely within the 100-year flood plain and within the 100-foot wetlands buffer and within a Zone II wellhead protection area.
Revised plans were submitted last fall to MassDEP, which issued a superseding order of conditions on Feb. 11 that allows the project to be built. The superseding order states 68 conditions.
At the Feb. 26 ConCom meeting, Brian Murphy of VHB, an engineering firm hired by CVS, described the new design.
There will be inlets on the east side of the building to allow floodwater to flow into the foundation of the building and flow out on the south side (away from the street and into the wetlands).
The extended detention basin at the rear of the property will be above the raised septic system and will be separated from the septic system by an impermeable liner beneath the basin.
A lined 8-inch concrete wall will be placed around the basin. In addition, one of the MassDEP conditions requires groundwater quality monitoring be done biannually and in perpetuity.
There will be wetlands replication extending the wet area near an existing gazebo. Additional land to the south of the gazebo was bought to construct the wetlands.
There will be no structures within the 30-foot buffer. The area to the west of the parking lot is counted as buffer to wetlands, not aswetlands.
(Both this wet buffer area and the part of the existing wetlands which will be under the parking lot are counted as destroyed wetlands, needing compensation.)
Snow removal and planting of native plants was also discussed.
ConCom expects to issue an OOC by the March 19 meeting.
Commonwealth Residences, the 52-unit all-rental 40B affordable housing project slated for the former Kathryn Barton nursing home site on Route 30, is also nearing OOC status.
An Operation and Maintenance plan for stormwater was to be added with the developer, Matthew O'Connor, to be listed as responsible party.
The question of combining performance guarantees required from different boards was briefly raised, but it was decided that this was unworkable.
It is likely that the Commonwealth Residences OOC will also be issued at the March 19 meeting. As with Twenty Wayland and CVS, the applicant will not get a draft OOC to discuss before the meeting.
-- Betty Salzberg
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor