WVN #307: What's needed to move project forward?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
SOSWayland and other supporters of the Town Center project have been urging quicker action on required permits.
This is nothing new. Early in the process a citizen told the Planning Board that its job was "to make things happen." Recent candidates for the Board of Selectmen made a mantra of "get the Town Center up and running."
It's not that simple, as an analysis below shows.
Also in this newsletter: Where the planned $140-million commercial/residential project stands with two commissions.
WHAT'S NEEDED TO MOVE PROJECT FORWARD?
On Tuesday morning, June 16, the political action committee SOS (Save our Services) issued an email with an update about the Wayland Town Center project.
SOS encouraged readers to send messages of support to the developer and the Conservation Commission and Historic District Commission where permitting was still pending. SOS provided Town Administrator Fred Turkington's email address.
By day's end, Turkington had received 18 emails. None was included in the subsequent selectmen's correspondence packet so the public could know they existed.
The emails ranged from positive support to familiar political pressure. For example: A former School Committee member cited the town's "unanimous vote" for the project. What unanimous vote? (A strong majority of a large Town Meeting turnout is still a fraction of the population.)
A current School Committee member referred to board hurdles without identifying any.
A neighbor of the developer accused the boards of stonewalling and unprofessional behavior.
Several writers claimed boards are not following the "will of the town." Indeed, boards are following the MUOD (Mixed-Use Overlay District) bylaw voted at the 2006 town meeting as well as other local, state and federal laws. Permits cannot be issued without doing so.
Some writers call for boards to "make it happen," but permitting boards can only act on project applications they receive. The strongest message suggested changing board membership.
Conservation Commission: The SOS email failed to disclose that the ConCom already issued an approval with conditions in May for the on-site project application. The developer appealed it to the Department of Environmental Protection, the same agency that questioned the project's stormwater and wetlands details three years ago during the state's environmental review.
The developer, Twenty Wayland, filed two applications (on-site and off-site issues) with the ConCom in June 2008. The required floodplain study was not submitted until January 2009. The town's consultant provided expert technical support that even the developer said he was thankful for, but the developer has not finished paying that consultant's 2008 bill.
On July 9 the ConCom reminded the developer that the commissioners cannot proceed with the off-site hearing without technical consultants the developer is supposed to fund. The ConCom affirmed that it's the proponent's job to perform and design a project in compliance with applicable rules, regulations and laws. After years of hearings and meetings, it appears that the developer has not pulled it all together yet.
(See the accompanying story on the ConCom.)
Historic District Commission: The SOS email failed to disclose that the HDC has been encouraging alternative solutions, such as phasing roadwork so it would be done only if detrimental impacts to the historic district cannot be avoided (if/when the project gets built). The Selectmen have been investigating what it would take for all stakeholders to agree to a phased project.
(See the accompanying story on the WHDC.)
Wastewater Plant: At the 2008 town meeting, voters were told how urgent it was to approve $5.2 million for a new wastewater plant needed to proceed with the project without knowing where or how it would be built and without a federal discharge permit. At the April 2009 Town Meeting voters approvedanoterh $400,000 and a land swap to locate the new larger plant, but resolving the permit dispute could run into 2010, according to document #63 posted at:
Board of Health: The BoH has yet to receive an application for the extra septic system (9,990 gallons/day) needed to have enough capacity for the various uses voters were assured the project would contain.
Deed Restrictions: In response to a question asked at a June 10 public information meeting, Raytheon disclosed that the developer ceased active negotiations months ago for new deed restrictions to enable the Town Center project at the Route 20 site.
The Stop & Shop "coming soon" sign on Route 20 has been replaced by a real estate sign seeking tenants for the existing office building.
The SOS June 16 email referred to confusion about the status of the Town Center project. Why should there be any confusion? Twenty Wayland developer Chuck Irving lives in Wayland. project manager Frank Dougherty's stationery identifies an office at 260 Boston Post Road, Suite 9, Wayland. Their current attorney, Brian Levey, lives in Wayland.
They all want to complete the permitting process. So do the boards. It sounds like what they need to do is follow the rules like every other applicant.
-- Linda Segal
State Rep. Tom Conroy, D-Wayland, will answer phoned questions live from 7 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday July 15 on Comcast channel 9 and Verizon Channel 37.
During the show call 508-358-3472 or email questions in advance to rep.thomasconroy@....
Conroy was in statewide news recently, mentioned as one of several potential candidates for state treasurer after the incumbent, Tim Cahill, announced he was switching his registration from Democratic to unenrolled in anticipation of running as an independent for governor next year.
TOWN CENTER ROADWORK SHOULD BE PHASED: WHDC
The Wayland Historic District Commission has issued a "certificate of hardship" that would allow the developer to widen roads to accommodate Town Center traffic, but only in phases and if the size of the project warrants harming the Historic District.
Though the Commission and the developer have discussed building the commercial/residential project in stages, Twenty Wayland seeks permits for all work necessary to accommodate the original 372,000-square-foot plan. Because of economic conditions, the developer plans to build in phases in any case.
The Commission has argued that it would be irresponsible to do significant harm to Wayland's historic heritage if the completed project turns out to be smaller than envisioned.
Only public safety concerns legally allow the Commission to issue a hardship certificate allowing the degradation of the district.
Reflecting economic factors, the developer is exploring the alternative of leasing the existing office building. But having all permits in hand could be useful to Twenty Wayland even if it doesn't fully build the project as planned.
The certificate issued on July 10 allows work on the Route 20/27/126 Historic District intersections only after at least 94,000 square feet of commercial building space (Phase 1) is occupied and building permits are issued for the next phase.
The certificate will expire in five years, after which renewal or a new certificate would require an application and review by the Commission.
Further, the Commission requires the developer to seek modifications to other agreements, permits and approvals that conflict with phasing traffic mitigation. These include: the certificate of compliance with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), the Memorandum of Agreement between the town and Twenty Wayland, the settlement of a lawsuit by Glezen Lane neighbors and the permit issued by the Wayland Board of Road Commissioners. In many of these cases, the developer will need to provide anticipated traffic count calculations generated by Phase 1 development.
The developer arranged a June 18 meeting with MassHighway and town officials to discuss project phasing. MassHighway indicated it cannot issue permits for phased roadway improvements that could be inconsistent with the March 28, 2008 MEPA certificate.
Twenty Wayland indicated it was unwilling to reopen the state certificate process, claiming that it could take 18 months. But the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) analyst assigned to the Town Center project since 2006 had not heard anything about phasing the project.
So it appears the developer took that position without discussing phasing with MEPA and without seeking the agency's advisory opinion as to whether phasing would trigger reopening the certificate. Not all project changes, particularly ones that are smaller rather than larger in nature, require reopening the certificate. It's the proponent's responsibility to contact MEPA for guidance.
Within four months, the developer is required to provide documentation to the Historic District Commission of its efforts to amend the above agreements.
Not all road-related permits have been obtained. The Conservation Commission will resume hearings on offsite road matters once it has appropriate plans and consultation.
Throughout the process, the Commission has repeatedly been omitted from relevant information distribution lists and was not consulted when the Board of Selectmen settled the neighbors' lawsuit. The intersection of Routes 126/27, location of many of the proposed changes, lies in the heart of the Historic District.
-- Molly Upton
CONCOM QUESTIONS ROAD PROPOSALS
When attorney Brian Levey, newly hired to represent the Town Center project developers, sat facing the Conservation Commission on July 9, he probably did not expect to hear so much pointed criticism of his client's proposal.
The occasion was a continuance of the hearing on proposed road widening on Routes 20 and 27. This had been postponed for most of this year so that ConCom could devote its
energies to the on-site part of the project, which had required a number of extra meetings.
Conservation Commissioner Robert Goldsmith began by explaining that there were three parts to the road improvements: the widening of the road and adding extra lanes at the Route 20 entrance, a similar widening at the Route 27 entrance and a more complex proposal for widening roads at the intersection of 20 and 27.
Goldsmith had tried to examine only the Route 20 entrance part of the proposal. He had noted that the developers agreed that this was "new development" because of the additional lanes added to the roadway. State regulations for new development must meet strict requirements, and the ComCom must enforce regulations.
Goldsmith's opinion was that the plans submitted did not meet these requirements and new plans must be submitted.
Goldsmith also remarked that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had commented two years earlier in its response to Twenty Wayland's Final Environmental Impact Report that this design was unacceptable. Twenty Wayland ignored the DEP recommendations.
When Levey asked what needed to be done, some concrete suggestions about oil grid separation or sand filters were given, but it was emphasized that it was not the job of the commissioners to provide answers to the problems. The applicant is expected to conform to the standards in state and local regulations.
Goldsmith and other commissioners remarked that not only was this off-site road widening submission below standard, but that this had been an ongoing problem with Twenty Wayland in the on-site (commercial/residential) submission as well.
When looking at redevelopment (not "new development") on the on-site submission, where alternatives can be considered, Twenty Wayland had not provided complete alternatives analysis as required by the state. It had proposed alternatives which were unproven and which the Commission believed would not perform as required. It had provided
incomplete evidence that the chosen alternatives were the only ones they could use, and that no standard alternatives were possible.
The town had been using CMG as consultants on both submissions and CMG had presented preliminary comments on the road widening part of the project. Twenty Wayland still hasn't paid the all of CMG's work as required. Until Twenty Wayland pays another $18,000, no further work can be done.
Conservation Commissioner Joy Viola remarked that Goldsmith had been doing work the applicant should have done. She continued that consultants are needed for this complexity and the Commission does not have them. She and Commissioner John Sullivan expressed anger that the ConCom has been blamed for delay when the delay has been caused by the applicant's substandard work which often needs to be redone.
An especially delicate part of the road project is near the Wayland public safety building, where the banks of Mill Brook would be altered to mitigate the impact of widening Route 20 where it intersects Route 27/126. ConCom does not have the expertise to evaluate these plans and needs expert consultants. The public safety building basement has suffered expensive water damage and the intersection has completely flooded in the past.
Commissioner Andy Irwin remarked that a professional engineer needs to certify that the work complies with stormwater standards.
Because standards weren't met, months of redesign were required on the earlier on-site proposal, Irwin said. He added that the ConCom does not want to see this again.
Goldsmith said the engineering plans were of a much lower standard than other projects, such as the Route 20 CVS, with which Levey is familiar. Goldsmith said that the basic report is badly flawed.
The hearing was continued until the next ConCom meeting on July 30, but ConCom members expressed doubt that the extensive changes needed in the proposal could be ready in time for the commission to read them before the meeting.
In the public comment after the hearing, Selectman Joe Nolan suggested having a working group (not subject to Open Meeting Law) of perhaps Goldsmith and some representatives of Twenty Wayland meet before the next ConCom meeting.
Irwin expressed the sense of the ConCom as not wanting any meetings without the full commission. He reiterated that as it stands the proposal for off-site development cannot be approved. The design must be redone to conform with state and town regulations. He suggested that at the July 30 meeting 15 or 30 minutes could be allotted for a brief discussion, but there is already a full agenda for that meeting.
Former Selectman Linda Segal, also in the audience, remarked that she was disturbed that CMG had not been paid. She said CMG consultant Ben Gould had been providing excellent work for the town on evaluating the Raytheon environmental cleanup at the site and should be present at Commission discussions.
-- Betty Salzberg
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor