Dear Wayland Voter,
A large crowd showed up for the second session of Town meeting Monday night and quickly dispatched the remaining budget items, then rejected Article 15, which would have reserved 7.23 acres near Dudley Pond as conservation land and a small portion for possible septic relief for existing homes.
The political action group SOSWayland and others had warned that the budget was in jeopardy without a high attendance. Malcolm Astley, a School Committee member, sent an email to a neighborhood associations distribution lists with the subject heading "Wayland Problem at Town Meeting" and urging voters to attend. Attendance early in the three-hour session was 619.
As it happened, there were no fireworks. Voters swiftly adopted an amendment to take $50,000 from Free Cash (reserve funds) to deal with drainage at the town beach that pollutes Lake Cochituate, then passed the entire capital budget on a voice vote.
The impetus for the drainage expenditure was to authorize work that was part of the $570,000 appropriation for bath house renovations that voters deleted when Town meeting began on May 13. First-session voters deleted two other capital items as well. The recreation department retains $550,000 for beach house improvements from a 2008 Town Meeting vote.
The adopted capital budget was $3.295 million, $1.22 million less than the original proposal. This will result in a small drop in property taxes devoted to debt.
RESOLUTION TO SEEK COST SAVINGS
Article 6, a resolution to spend about $40,000 on an independent study designed to find economies that would stave off school service cuts, passed easily. The lead petitioner, newly elected School Committee member Shawn Kinney, said it was unfortunate that seven teachers were laid off before there was a chance to look for alternatives.
DUDLEY WOODS ARTICLE FAILS
After an hour of passionate debate and a 25-minute counted vote of 374-218, Article 15 won a 63 percent majority but fell short of the two-thirds needed for passage.
Proponents argued that some of the 7.3 acres had been sold decades ago at below-market prices to the town specifying that it would be used for recreation; the entire parcel referred to as Dudley Woods is the last open space in a densely packed neighborhood (a square mile that contains an estimated 2,600 residents); any development will further degrade the already endangered pond, which is a recharging area for town wells; this part of town is already overbuilt with housing, some of it on other environmentally sensitive sites.
Opponents, including the FinCom, four of five selectmen and affordable-housing advocates, argued that the article is premature: studies are needed to find out the potential for housing, septic treatment and conservation. Waiting will do no harm, they said, and a plan incorporating housing and septic treatment could actually improve the pond. The Conservation Commission and the Waste Water Management District Commission, who under the article would be given control of the land, hadn't taken a position on the article.
Though the proponents didn't get the land protection they wanted, they raised public awareness of the area and attracted support from residents all over town. Housing may one day be built at the land just off Route 27, but not without a deliberative process scrutinized by the public.
After finishing the budget article, voters got through 12 more before adjournment, leaving Articles 18 through 29, including significant articles on changing Town Meeting procedures, until the third session beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19.
DEAL WITH SUDBURY SET BACK
The last item of business on Monday was a seemingly routine measure allowing the selectmen to spend up to $80,000 (from plant earnings, not taxpayers) to buy Sudbury's share of the jointly run septage treatment plant that was shut down late last year. Wayland owns the 7.63 acres housing the defunct plant on Route 20 and seeks revenue from it. Sudbury has authorized negotiating with Wayland.
The proposal prompted a flurry of voter questions. What about the legacy cost of pensions and health care for retired former workers? (The amount listed seemed inadequate to some.) What was the $80,000 figure based on? What's the plan -- demolition or renovation? What's the appraised value? (Answer: an appraisal is pending.) What about the liabilities? (Selectmen Chairman Joe Nolan replied more than once that Sudbury stills bears its 50 percent share in them.)
The vote was 135 in favor, 104 against, short of the two-thirds majority required.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor