WVN #317: New plan for Route 20 farm land
- Dear Wayland Voter,
A group of residents has a new plan for nine acres of farm land on Route 20.
Also in this newsletter:
-- Wayland now provides quicker and more comprehensive ambulance service, a change that can be vital for the critically ill or injured.
-- Framingham's plan to save itself some money, in the process possibly allowing the Sudbury River to run dry, faces a potentially fatal obstacle.
-- The Conservation Commission is looking at the environmental impact of building the proposed new high school. (NOTE: Watch your mailbox for the warrant booklet for the Nov. 18 special Town Meeting where the project will be decided. Voters' first step is a ballot question on Nov. 17.)
-- Lydia Maria Child was one of the most consequential residents in Wayland history and was profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. But scholars of the abolition movement were dumfounded recently when they learned that she isn't well remembered here.
NEW VISION FOR LEE'S FARM STAND SITE
The long-vacant Lee's Farm Stand building on Route 20 about a half mile from Wayland's eastern border sits on nine acres that have been farmed for generations.
A developer's 2008 plan for a large commercial project there met fierce resistance from residents, many saying the land should remain open.
Now an informal residents' group has a plan to create a community farm and perhaps build affordable housing.
The still-coalescing plan "speaks to the character of the town...something the town can really be proud of," says Joan Blair, a spokesman for the group. With its extensive frontage, the site represents a chance to display Wayland's boasted semi-rural character in contrast to the "anonymous, densely built commuter corridor" in some other Route 20 towns, Blair says.
The group, Let's Enable Environmental Sustainability, has met with the town planner, the Community Preservation Committee, the Board of Selectmen and the Conservation Commission and plans to take its vision to other boards with a voice in the future of the site.
LEES' idea is to take advantage of a nationwide trend toward locally grown food. The group envisions the site as town-owned land administered by a self-supporting organization that hires a farmer and sells shares in the produce. This is the model for many community farms, some of which have an educational mission as well.
Nearby community farms exist in Framingham, Newton, Lincoln and Weston. When farm shares are offered, they almost invariably sell out quickly, Blair says.
Community farms needn't be large to be successful. Framingham's farm is three acres; Newton's is one acre.
The Wayland site, containing a brook and wetlands, presents problems for development. LEES estimates that five or six of the nine acres might remain in their natural state.
LEES says that the initial response from many groups and individuals has been positive. Among those who have shown interest are the Islamic Center of Boston (an abutter), a nearby YMCA camp, Temple Shir Tikva and the Pinebrook Association.
The Community Preservation Committee asked LEES for a commercial appraisal of the property's value. Administering funds raised by a property tax surcharge and matching state contributions, the Committee is mandated to buy open land and support affordable housing and historic preservation.
Values depend partly on permitted uses and environmental conditions. Work is under way to deal with fuel oil that leaked from underground storage tanks across the street at 135 Boston Post Road. Conoco has taken responsibility for investigating and cleaning up the plume that apparently migrated undetected into soil and groundwater onto the western side of the farm stand property.
The Bongiorno family has owned the land, the farm stand and a house at the back of the property for many years. LEES says it is talking with the Bongiornos, who are also said to be talking with assisted living developers.
LEES believes that current zoning would allow its plans.
The developers of the widely praised Oxbow Meadows affordable housing in North Wayland have talked with LEES.
When Ross Hamlin proposed a retail development of several buildings occupying 54,000 square feet and requiring about 270 parking spaces, he estimated that the town could receive $200,000-300,000 annually in additional tax revenue. Hamlin abandoned his plan in the face of opposition.
The property now pays taxes of about $27,000. LEES says that an affordable housing development would easily more than double the revenue.
When LEES met with the Board of Selectmen, the officials applauded the group and acknowledged the crowd of supporters in the audience. Though they praised the concept, they made it clear that they would balance open space and locally grown food against the prospect of increased tax revenue. Commercial development beyond a farm stand would require zoning changes or variances.
The Conservation Commission told LEES that the property remains in its open space plan, warned against the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and suggested that if the plan goes forward part of the land be deeded to the Commission for maximum environmental protection.
-- Michael Short
ADVANCED LIFE SUPPORT SERVICE BEGINS
After a long effort by Fire Chief Robert Loomer and a residents' committee, Wayland began offering a high level of emergency response on Oct. 26, and it immediately performed as promised.
Two workmen fell more than 25 feet from a roof within an hour after Advanced Life Support service began at 7 a.m. Paramedics responded in less than four minutes and rushed the workmen to a Boston hospital.
Though all fire fighters are trained at the basic emergency technician level, ALS provides paramedics who can perform invasive medicine immediately that can make a huge difference in the outcome for those suffering from such things as heart attack and stroke. These include the ability to intubate an airway, administer drugs, start intravenous lines and provide lung decompression and cardiac defibrillation.
Town Meeting approved funding last April to get ALS service started, serving Wayland, Weston, Lincoln and Sudbury. Fire officials estimate that this will meet 54 percent of the need for advanced services during its operating hours, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The impetus for ALS came when Emerson Hospital decided to phase out its emergency service. Wayland formed a partnership with MetroWest Medical Center, which provided a grant and aided in screening the 70 applicants for the 12 positions.
Chief Loomer predicts that the service could expand and turn a profit.
-- WVN Staff
INTERIOR DEPARTMENT ACTS TO PROTECT RIVER
The United States Department of Interior, representing the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, in effect told Framingham selectmen last week the same thing it told Wayland selectmen earlier this year: don't mess with a federally protected Wild and Scenic River.
At issue is the proposed reactivation of the Birch Road wells on the Wayland/Framingham border, which many critics say could leave the nearby Sudbury River dry at times.See WVN #310 for background:
As a result of the DOI letter to the Environmental Protection Agency recommending against federal stimulus money for the project because of the risk of "direct and adverse impact" on the river, and also influenced by the nearly two dozen other letters from federal, state, and local entities criticizing the project, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles rejected the Final Environmental Impact Report submitted by Framingham. He is requiring a Supplemental EIR to answer the many issues raised since the beginning of the state's review. Bowles' twelve-page Certificate published on Oct. 30 can be read on the MEPA website:
Since this pushes the project past the timeline required for stimulus funding, it may leave the project in limbo. Framingham's Department of Public Works told potential bidders on Nov. 2 that the project had been placed on indefinite hold.
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity have told WVN that the project has been planned for a number of years but serious effort was applied to fast-track it as a result of the promise of federal money.
Framingham's plan was widely criticized, by the Boston Globe and the Metropolitan Water Resources Authority, among others, as saving money for only one town at the expense of many others.
The earlier Draft EIR was criticized for not including a mechanism for protecting the river during low flow periods, which usually occur August through October. These dry periods have become more frequent in recent years, now occurring about once every other year and attributed to global warming and increased watershed development.
The FEIR proposed a scheme for reducing pumping rates triggered by calendar and flow measurements which Framingham claimed would address the problem. But an engineering analysis of the scheme proved that it did not work. (Full Disclosure: the author of that analysis was this reporter.) At least three other comment letters referenced that analysis, and the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council recommended to the National Park Service that a "direct and adverse impact" finding be made. Such a finding is supposed to block federal money, though officially the Park Service is only advisory to EPA which actually controls the money.
However, last year the Interior Department sued EPA over the federal permit issued for the Wayland Wastewater Treatment Plant, which called for looser standards than recommended by the Park Service and those in other discharge permits in the watershed. After months of negotiations (Wayland Selectmen spent over $135,000 in legal fees to sit at that table despite not being a party to the litigation), NPS generally wound up getting what it asked for, and made the point that when it comes to the Wild and Scenic River, it's their judgment that counts. The same DOI legal office that sued EPA over Wayland's permit wrote to EPA regarding the Framingham project recommending it not be funded.
-- Tom Sciacca
Tom Sciacca is Wayland's representative to the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council and a member of the Wayland Wellhead Protection Committee, which also commented on the project.
CONCOM TAKES UP HIGH SCHOOL PROPOSAL
The Conservation Commission has begun considering the environmental impact of building the proposed new $71 million high school. Voters will decide the issue at the polls on Nov. 17 and a special Town Meeting the next night.
The High School Building Committee informally presented its plan at an Oct. 29 ConCom meeting. Two new buildings would be constructed south of the present buildings, where some of the parking lots are.
The parking lot near the football field will be removed and left in a natural state. The current high school will be in use while the new one is being constructed. After the new high school is constructed, the old one will be torn down and new parking lots will go in the place of the old high school.
HSBC plans to have rain gardens (natural basins with native plantings) in the parking lot and to directly infiltrate roof runoff. There will be a slight decrease in the overall impervious surface area (buildings and parking lots). There will be a new wastewater plant for the high school.
The leaching field for the new wastewater plant will be on the hill to the northeast of the new buildings and new parking lots. This is the site of one of the two existing septic leaching fields. The second one, next to the Lacrosse field near the Happy Hollow wells, will be abandoned.
Conservation commissioners reminded the HSBC that they were in a zone 2 wellhead area and need to look at the Department of Environmental Protection stormwater handbook to check the special requirements. For example, rain gardens need pretreatment in a zone 2 area. Zone 1, the area within 400 feet of the wells, has been used in violation of DEP regulations for many years for a parking lot and tennis courts. Increased use of that parking lot was one of the objections raised to construction of the turf field, and the town has recently spent over $100,000 to add new drainage structures to the lot to satisfy DEP mandates resulting from the artificial turf field construction. That lot will be removed entirely with the new project. The area beyond Zone 1 which contributes groundwater to the wells is zone 2, which includes the entire high school site and in fact extends to Route 27.
The commissioners questioned HSBC about science laboratory waste. This is to be stored in a tank and then removed from the site.
Also mentioned were prohibitions on sprinkler systems for irrigation although cistern systems could be used---Use rainwater from roofs to irrigate lawns. Also, permeable pavement for the parking lots was suggested.
HSBC was reminded that stormwater runoff must be managed during construction. Also required is evidence that the stream running (partly underground) to the south and west, Dudley Brook, is intermittent if this is the case. The regulations are less stringent for areas surrounding intermittent streams.
Commissioners suggested that the project be as green as possible, partly because an educational institution should set a good example. There were no plans for solar panels, for example, although the roofs were flat and could be suitable for solar.
Tom Sciacca, who was in the audience and who is a member of the Wellhead Protection Committee, commented that the new plan is a major improvement in protecting the wells, with the removal of the parking lot in Zone 1, construction of a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant and removal of the leaching field closest to the wells, and use of modern stormwater treatment in place of 50-year-old treatment methods, which he said were almost entirely ineffective.
Commissioners reminded HSBC that they should budget for a peer reviewer for the conservation permitting process as it is a large project, which normally would be reviewed. ConCom also noted the need for delineating bordering wetlands, and possibly other areas.
The ConCom's preliminary session took place before the architectural diagrams for the buildings were set in stone, so that if a building needs to be rotated or moved slightly to get out of an environmental buffer area, it will be easier to find out at this stage. A number of points (pretreatment of rain gardens, determination of intermittent stream, managing stormwater runoff during construction) were points of contention in the Town Center permitting process, but they came up much later in the process.
-- Betty Salzberg
LYDIA MARIA CHILD CELEBRATED
Scholars and academics from across the country gathered at Colgate University on Oct. 22-23 to discuss the life of one-time Wayland resident Lydia Maria Child, referred to as the "First Woman In The Republic" during her lifetime by admirers nationally.
The conference was sponsored by the National Abolition Hall of Fame, which previously named Child one of the nine most significant abolitionists of the pre-Civil War period. This is the same figure whom a former Wayland League of Women Voters president described as no more worthy to be the namesake of an award than a purely local figure, and whose name was consistently mispronounced this year by current Wayland Selectmen. Accounts of the present-day local ignorance of such an important historical figure astonished conference attendees.
Attendees viewed the 2008 documentary "Over the River...Life of Lydia Maria Child, Abolitionist for Freedom," the same movie awarded to six "Watchdogs in the Public Interest" by the Public Ceremonies Committee at Town Meeting last April. A trailer and extensive other material can be found at http://overtherivermovie.com/ .
The movie includes scenes shot in Wayland, an interview with former Wayland children's librarian Ann Flowers, and a brief appearance by Unitarian minister Ken Sawyer.
Constance L. Jackson, the writer, director, and producer of the film, then sat on a discussion panel along with Jane Sciacca, president of the Wayland Historical Society, and several other scholars and historians. Jackson, an African-American from California, recognizes Child's pivotal role in bringing about the abolition of slavery, and says in her companion book "Today, her acts are seen as being noble, but during her time they were considered radical."
On hearing about the negative reaction of Wayland town officials to the notion of recognizing current residents following in the footsteps of Child's "radical" path, one midwestern college professor commented that officials, in Child's time and now, don't like people who "rock the boat". The reaction of Dot Willsey, head of the National Abolition Hall of Fame, was, "Unbelievable! Just unbelievable. Right around the corner from the origin of our country's liberties!"
When Wayland's Public Ceremonies Committee created an award named for Child and presented it to recipients described as watchdogs (two former selectmen and four writers for WVN). Those who had learned about the award in advance were prepared with scripted motions and arguments seeking to withdraw the awards. Town Meeting voted to have the Selectmen study the matter and report back at a future town meeting. The selectmen have written a new policy restricting awards at Town Meeting to recognizing length of service.
If WVN, admittedly an interested party, can be allowed an editorial comment, we suspect that Lydia Maria Child would not be surprised when officials decline to give awards to those who report on those officials.
-- WVN Staff
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor