WVN #312: Developer demands Town Center concessions
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The Town Center developers are asking the town for immediate concessions in order to continue planning the 370,000-square-foot commercial/residential project, and the selectmen are united on keeping the project alive.
Conceding to one demand could put at risk the $3 million "gift" promised by Twenty Wayland.
Accommodating another demand could leave the town significantly behind in its efforts towards meeting state-mandated affordable housing requirements.
Twenty Wayland accuses town boards of moving too slowly on issuing building permits. The second story in today's newsletter provides detail on the process.
DEVELOPER WANTS CONCESSIONS
Shortly before their meeting on Tuesday Sept. 8 the selectmen received a letter from Twenty Wayland seeking to drop affordable housing from the plan and delay paying a promised $3 million "gift" to the town.
Selectman Tom Fay described the $140-million project as "not dead but on life support."
He and his colleagues unanimously agreed that some selectmen would meet with Twenty Wayland and report back. The next scheduled selectmen's meeting is Sept. 21, but a special meeting could be called earlier.
The Board of Selectmen has supported every developer demand since the project was envisioned more than four years ago. The rocky path toward redeveloping the former Raytheon property has been marked by lawsuits and dissension between the selectmen and other boards.
The letter couldn't have come as a surprise because it followed Twenty Wayland meetings with members of the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen during the summer, as disclosed by Selectmen Chairman Joe Nolan.
Twenty Wayland's letter asserted excess development costs of more than $8 million and blamed town boards for delays in issuing permits.
The developer is responsible for some of the delay. See WVN Newsletter # 307:
The ConCom web page shows that a Sept. 10 hearing involving the Town Center will be postponed because Twenty Wayland asked for a continuation. The developer requested Oct. 22, a date when the ConCom isn't scheduled to meet.
Excess costs and current economic conditions make the Town Center "economically unviable" as it was planned, Twenty Wayland's letter said. It added that Bank of America and Stop & Shop continue to support it and have made concessions.
Twenty Wayland proposes contributing to an affordable housing fund and fulfilling the gift obligation over time with a percentage of each residential unit sold.
Twenty Wayland has paid $200,000 of the promised gift, and the rest was to have been paid when building permits were issued. Twenty Wayland proposes eliminating affordably-priced units and giving the town a percentage of the price of residences as they are sold.
The original plan called for 100 condos and the town's agreement with the developer specified that 25 percent of them would be affordable. Now the proposal is 88 units at market prices.
Twenty Wayland says it would allocate approximately $1.2 million to a Wayland affordable housing trust fund. This would probably not be enough to buy or build more than a small number of affordable units.
Eliminating affordable housing would require Town Meeting voter approval to amend the mixed-use zoning bylaw and also Planning Board approval to amend the Master Special Permit . A town election on Nov. 17 will decide whether Wayland will borrow millions of dollars to build a new high school. A special Town Meeting is scheduled the next night. Warrant articles for the meeting can be submitted to the selectmen's office Sept. 10-22.
Twenty Wayland has talked recently about building the Town Center in phases, beginning with the retail component. A Stop & Shop market appears to be the only potential tenant so far. There is no timetable or any guarantee that the housing will ever be built.
If the town accedes to the developer requests, Twenty Wayland would be in a position to acquire building permits with no immediate gift cost, putting it in a potentially stronger position whether the project proceeds or not.
Delayed gift payments could affect the town's plans to construct a library and senior center at taxpayer expense on the Town Center site.
The selectmen stressed the need for cooperation from other boards and planned to hear from affordable housing advocates.
The Town Center will mean millions of dollars in tax revenue over decades, Fay said. Without the project, said Town Administrator Fred Turkington, current tax revenue from Twenty Wayland will decrease: in its present condition it is assessed at $22 million but was recently appraised at $18 million. Previous estimates of net revenues from the project ranged between one and two percent of the town budget.
Twenty Wayland has been advertising the existing 410,000-square foot office building for lease as well as trying to keep the Town Center idea alive. Tax revenue from a repopulated office building would be substantially more than for the currently unused property.
The Wayland Conservation Commission is still at work on permits for the environmentally sensitive Route 20 site by the federally-protected Sudbury River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a settlement of two appeals of the permit for the town's wastewater treatment plant -- one from the U.S. Interior Department -- but there could be further delay before final approval.
Twenty Wayland has appealed the ConCom's conditions on the permit granted for the on-site part of the project, causing a lengthy extra review by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. (See story below.)
Twenty Wayland sued the Wayland Historic District Commission over its approval of a Certificate of Hardship including conditions to delay road widening until there is evidence that the project is being built on a scale large enough to need traffic mitigation. The selectmen have been at odds with the Commission, claiming authority to decide the timetable as a matter of public safety.
Selectmen concluded their Aug. 17, Aug. 31 and Sept. 8 meetings by going into executive (closed) session to discuss the Commission's decision. The Commission wasn't invited to the sessions.
The Commission next meets on Sept. 10.
-- Michael Short
TWENTY WAYLAND APPEALS CONCOM APPROVAL
Twenty Wayland has appealed the Conservation Commission's order of conditions for onsite work at the Town Center project by asking the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for a superseding order of conditions (OOC).
The ConCom's order of conditions was drafted to ensure that local and state regulations were followed. The appeal from Twenty Wayland's attorney Brian Levey suggests changes in many conditions.
Two key issues appear to be construction in the buffer/natural resource areas and the maintenance and criteria for stormwater basins.
Twenty Wayland claims the wording in the order of conditions precludes the planned placement of the grocery store and some of the residences. However, this wording was necessary because Twenty Wayland did not follow requirements to apply to the Board of Health before getting ConCom approval.
The OOC reads: "No work requiring Board of Health approval shall be done in the buffer zone or a resource area."
Instead, Twenty Wayland suggests the wording be changed to "Prior to construction, the Applicant shall obtain all necessary permits and approvals from the Board of Health for work in resource areas and buffer zones protected under the Wetlands Protection Act."
Twenty Wayland acknowledges that a portion of the grocery store and the wastewater collection system serving the store and portions of the residential buildings are within the 100-foot buffer zone of bordering vegetated wetland. It also acknowledges that Board of Health approval is required for Building Permit and Certificate of Occupancy for the grocery store and these residences and for the wastewater collection system that conveys wastewater from the grocery store to the on-site wastewater treatment and disposal system.
"Therefore, this condition appears to block construction" of the grocery store and residential buildings," the developer says. But this condition was a result of the actions of the developer.
Standard wording in ConCom permits requires Board of Health approval, if required, prior to ConCom approval. Apparently Twenty Wayland objected to the standard verbiage so many times, given that it has not applied yet to the Board for permitting, that the result was the current wording.
Normally applications of this scope seek approval from individual boards with discrete authority, such as Board of Health, before going to those boards with broader authority, such as ConCom and Planning, so a more comprehensive picture is available to these boards.
However, Twenty Wayland first applied to the Planning Board which granted approval without any knowledge of stormwater handling or Board of Health issues such as the 9,900 gallon septic system because these boards had not reviewed the proposal. By asking for the ConCom permit before applying to the Board of Health, Twenty Wayland is leaving the entire burden of construction approval in these sensitive areas on the Board of Health. The BOH has not received the application to consider the 9,900-gallon septic system that is intended to support the residences.
Although the Board of Selectmen often attributes the project's so-called delay to various boards, more than once Twenty Wayland has not provided adequate plans to boards for review. For example, in November 2006, the Planning Board issued its Concept Plan approval without Twenty Wayland providing a required traffic study.
The off-site permitting process has been delayed since Twenty Wayland has not yet paid for the Commission consultant's work already completed, so the Commission cannot obtain the further professional review needed for the off-site part of the project.
But Wayland boards aren't the only authorities that had to request complete, updated plans. After its recent site visit, the MassDEP in a letter dated July 29, 2009 requested more complete plans from Twenty Wayland before it could consider the request for a superseding order of conditions.
Another substantive issue involves the use of stormwater basins, which did not meet DEP's 2008 stormwater specifications. In turn, ConCom required permanent monitoring of these basins.
Twenty Wayland wants to replace the 50-year FEMA flood plain level for Basin 2 with the lesser 10-year FEMA figure, and to rely on the specific elevation rather than the possibility the FEMA elevation might change. The legal brief admits that at the 50-year flood level the basins won't drain within the required two hours and Twenty Wayland would then be required to re-engineer the basins. Twenty Wayland asserts that the 10-year elevation is sufficient.
Twenty Wayland seeks to eliminate the OOC requirement for three test pits near Basin 2 and the accompanying requirement. The test pits are to ensure adequate distance between seasonal high water and the bottom of the basin. If seasonal high water is in fact above the bottom of Basin 2 and if the Project Engineer determines this will deleteriously impact the intended operation of the basin, the Project Engineer shall rectify the problem, according to ConCom's order of conditions.
Central to the efficacy of these basins is the type of sand used. ConCom wants to review the type of sand whereas Twenty Wayland argues this is unnecessary because the specifications for the basins are sufficient.
Another item Twenty Wayland proposes to delete is a monitoring program for the wetlands to the north and southeast corners of the property. The ConCom wants a detailed plan of the plant types and density.
Twenty Wayland also proposes to delete a requirement to eliminate 80 percent of total suspended solids from runoff at the intersection of the road going to Route 27.
The ConCom order of conditions precludes using existing and new catch basins as temporary sedimentation and erosion control structures during construction. Twenty Wayland proposes many of these can be used for that purpose. However, MassDEP does not agree with Twenty Wayland on this point.
DEP Asks for Changes, Complete Plans
The stormwater plan has drawn a request for changes from MassDEP, which said in its July 29 letter, "Basin 2 is too close to a significant wetland area to rely on for primary sedimentation control." In addition, the Juletter said: "MassDEP has some reservations regarding the use of a sand filter where the bottom of the filter is at the level of seasonal high ground water (Basin 2) but will wait until the requested information is in before rendering a final decision. MassDEP does request that the applicant and WCC explore the use of a constructed stormwater wetland instead of a sand filter."
MassDEP also said "It is not recommended to use stormwater drainage systems as erosion controls."
MassDEP has requested a copy of the peer review done for the ConCom, for which Twenty Wayland still has not paid.
In a letter to MassDEP dated Aug. 31, Twenty Wayland's civil engineers requested a "minor change" to Basin 2 in order to accommodate the expected impervious area in the municipal parcel.
Twenty Wayland has 70 days to respond to the DEP request for additional information.
-- Molly Upton and Betty Salzberg
DORAN PROPERTY COMMITTEE
The town is looking for citizens to serve on a temporary Doran Road Property Advisory Committee that will explore ideas for town-owned land off Route 27 near Dudley Pond.
In creating the committee on Sept. 8 the Board of Selectmen drew parallels to the advisory committee whose work led to the widely praised affordable housing development at the former Nike missile site on Oxbow Road.
Of seven members to be selected, at least two must live in the neighborhood. The selectmen are looking for expertise in multi-family residential development, architecture, landscape architecture or other relevant design discipline, civil engineering, financial management, grantsmanship in the areas of affordable housing or community preservation, land use planning, project management and conservation.
The Board will appoint the chair of the Committee. Members will serve through June 2010.
For details contact Town Administrator Fred Turkington, 508-358-7755, fturkington@....
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor