WVN #361: Selectmen replace members of key commissions
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The selectmen have replaced three members of the Conservation Commission and two members of the Historic District Commission. Developers of the proposed Town Center project on Route 20 have tangled with both commissions, filing appeals and a lawsuit.
Most candidates for the commissions were asked where they stood on the Town Center, which the Board of Selectmen has made a prime issue since 2005. Expressed enthusiasm varied, but no candidate spoke negatively of the project.
After the selectmen were criticized for earlier harsh questioning of candidates for reappointment to the HDC, Selectmen Chairman Steve Correia said that the interviews were aimed at identifying such skills as conflict management and consensus building. See "Historic District Commissioners Face Hostile Questions" at:
For the ConCom, four positions were available, with one incumbent reapplying and a second willing to stay on until pending cases were concluded. The selectmen reappointed one and never responded to the other. For the HDC, six people applied, four of whom were seeking reappointment; two were reappointed.
As they prepared to vote their choices the selectmen didn't announce the names of all candidates or deliberate their comparable merits. The pattern was that a selectman would move for one appointment and one or two others would briefly state agreement with the first selectman.
The selectmen voted their appointments rapidly and unanimously. Two successful candidates for the ConCom had applied late in the process and were appointed scarcely an hour after being interviewed.
One is Markey Burke, who said she had lived in Wayland for about 35 years, noted her strong support for the Town Center and said the project needs to be "done correctly." She said her experience in human resources would be useful in negotiating compromises while sticking to the law. Selectman Sue Pope remarked that she had known Burke for a long time.
The second, Larry Kiernan, lives near conservation land and discussed his conservation activities, some of it hands-on, on trail projects. He said he knows he has a lot to learn about local and state wetlands law and is eager to protect open land for the people. The Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissioners Handbook advises that it takes two years for a new commissioner to learn the Wetlands Protection Act.
Roger Backman, a 13-year Commissioner, recent chairman and a veteran of other town service, was reappointed for one year. Selectmen did not disclose their rationale for the new members being given 2- and 3-year terms. Terms must be staggered for the sake of continuity. The terms of John Sullivan and Andy Irwin expire in 2011 and Barbara Howell's in 2012.
Ted Harding, who was praised by selectmen as a possible source of fresh ideas and someone capable of balancing competing interests, was appointed. A former chairman of Ayer's personnel board, he moved to Wayland in 2006 and works in human resources.
The only unsuccessful candidate was Betty Salzberg, who had been questioned about her reporting on the ConCom for WVN. She is the chair of the Wayland Housing Partnership. Detailed chronologies she published in WVN and the Town Crier contradicted selectmens' assertions that the ConCom was responsible for unreasonable delays in Town Center permitting.
The selectmen reappointed two members of the Historic District Commission, Margery Baston and Chris Hagger. Because they live in the Historic District at locations where proposed road changes would affect their properties, Baston and Hagger had recused themselves from voting on the Certificate of Hardship for Twenty Wayland, which approved changes in the District under conditions based on the Town Center project being constructed in phases. Twenty Wayland's resultant suit hasn't been resolved; a recent Superior Court decision rejected Twenty Wayland's motion to decide in the developer's favor. See:
Two commissioners who had faced probing questions from the selectmen, Diana Warren and Alice Boelter, weren't reappointed. Warren, with 15 years of experience on the Commission, had participated in the vote being litigated by Twenty Wayland. Boelter had originally been recruited by the HDC as an alternate member for her professional historical expertise. She was appointed to the HDC by the Selectmen just a year ago, too late to have taken a voted position on the Town Center certificate.
Their places will be taken by Kevin Crowley and Kathie Steinberg.
Crowley is an architect with award-winning experience in historic districts elsewhere. Commission policy favors appropriate professional background along with other factors such as residence in the District.
Steinberg has been active in school affairs and Wayland to Waveland. She offered no special expertise or experience in historic preservation, saying in her emailed letter of interest, "I would like to become more involved in our town government and feel I can make a contribution as a member of the Historic District Commission." Steinberg was appointed as an alternate and will vote when a regular member of the Commission is unable to.
Her husband, Bill Steinberg, was recently appointed to the Finance Committee by the selectmen. A real estate developer, he joined the Planning Board in 2007 after the developer walked away from the Town Center project for months, saying that the Board needed more sympathetic members. The selectmen chose him for the FinCom over Stephen Barnard, who was seeking appointment for the second time. Barnard is CFO/Budget Director of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and formerly served as Gov. Jane Swift's budget director.
The recusals of Hagger and Baston leave the HDC with five members to deal with the Certificate of Hardship and the Twenty Wayland lawsuit. On July 8 Selectman Tom Fay said he had tried to reach HDC Chair Gretchen Schuler in hopes of setting up a meeting between his board and the Commission.
The appointments bring three new faces to the seven-member Conservation Commission. One immediate question is what will happen as a result of the selectmen's decision to delay appointments until after a July 1 ConCom meeting including a continued hearing on Twenty Wayland's application to do off-site work.
The hearing didn't take place because only three members of the Commission remained. The assumption was that Roger Backman and Robert Goldsmith couldn't serve beyond the June 30 expiration of their appointments. Goldsmith didn't seek reappointment but had offered to continue on the Commission until the pending applications were resolved. He never received an answer from town officials.
Backman assumed he couldn't serve, and on July 1 sat in the audience as a member of the general public. Twenty Wayland did not show up, apparently under the impression the commission would not have enough members to meet.
Because the hearing wasn't held, Twenty Wayland applied on July 8 for a new hearing. How this will play out remains to be seen. The ConCom next meets on July 22.
WVN reported in http://groups.yahoo.com/group/waylandvotersnetwork/message/448 that no written legal opinion had surfaced on whether commissioners can remain temporarily after an expiration date.
Responding to a query,Town Administrator Fred Turkington sent an email to WVN saying, "Town Counsel Mark Lanza has opined that the terms of members of boards and committees expire until the appointing authority votes to fill the vacancy." When asked for a copy of the legal opinion before the selectmen met on July 8, Turkington deferred responding and was reported to be on vacation this week. In a follow-up email, Turkington said he would look for that legal opinion when he returns to the office.
Despite Turkington's statement, the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions Handbook, written by a lawyer, says that a commissioner remains in office until:
"-- She/he resigns or dies
-- She/he moves out of the community without indicating interest in remaining active, or
-- A successor is sworn in."
The selectmen also reappointed Fred Knight to the Waste Water Management District Commission. Shawn Fennelly was appointed earlier as a wastewater commissioner, filling a seat that had been vacant for two years. Zoning Board of Appeals associate member Thomas White was appointed to fill the full member vacancy caused by Steve Fugarazzo's departure.
Joined by two members of the Planning Board, the selectmen voted after a brief, friendly discussion to appoint former Selectman Bill Whitney to the Planning Board. As a selectman Whitney, whose background is in real estate development, was the major negotiator with Twenty Wayland for the Town Center development agreement, conceived at the time for a 372,000-square-foot, $140-million combination of housing, commercial and office space. The two Planning Board members voted despite not having a quorum present to convene and conduct business.
The selectmen have allowed the Town Center developer to scale back its commitments to the town, and current plans call for a first phase of about 93,000 square feet, nearly half of that a supermarket.
Appearing before the Planning Board last spring to obtain a one-year extension on the master special permit for the Town Center, Frank Dougherty of Twenty Wayland said that the project had no firm tenants except the supermarket. He said that there had been inquiries "kicking the tires" but no commitments. He said that he was surprised that there had been more inquiries about professional office space than interest from retailers.
-- Michael Short
HDC before July 1 HDC now
George Ives George Ives (2011)
Chris Hagger Chris Hagger (2013)
Diana Warren Kevin Crowley (2013)
Margery Baston Margery Baston (2013)
Desmond McAuley Desmond McAuley (2012)
Gretchen Schuler Gretchen Schuler (2011)
Meaghan Winokur Meaghan Winokur (2012)
Alice Boelter (alternate) Kathie Steinberg (alternate, 2013)
ConCom before July 1 ConCom now
Roger Backman Roger Backman (2011)
Ellen Tohn (left in 2009) Markey Burke (2012)
Barbara Howell Barbara Howell (2012)
Andy Irwin Andy Irwin (2011)
John Sullivan John Sullivan (2011)
Joy Viola (left March 2010) Ted Harding (2013)
Bob Goldsmith Larry Kiernan (2013)
STATE ASKED TO REVIEW MEETING LAW COMPLAINT
On July 1 the Massachusetts attorney general assumed enforcement of the Open Meeting Law. Shortly before its authority expired, the Middlesex district attorney's office rejected complaints that the Wayland selectmen violated the OML when U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas visited the town and met with selected Wayland officials and Town Center developers in the town building.
George Harris, a Wayland attorney and former selectman who filed a complaint, has asked the attorney general to review that decision.
At issue is whether the selectmen violated the law by deliberating public matters when Tsongas visited on Nov. 24. The selectmen say they merely briefed the congresswoman on the Town Center mixed-use project and Wayland requests for stimulus funding.
"The legal basis (the DA) is relying on doesn't exist," Harris told the Wayland Town Crier.
His complaint says, "At no time did the the district attorney communicate with the selectmen or with the representative to get the facts...All `facts' were supplied by (Town Administrator) Fred Turkington." The attorney general's Division of Open Government is looking into the matter.
-- WVN Staff
UPDATED TOWN WEBSITE
A revamped town website is up and running. Check it out at www.wayland.ma.us.
A special committee on electronic communication worked for months on making the site more useful and user-friendly.
You can sign up to receive email information from town government. The ability to contact town officials by email and use the meeting calendar feature is still a work in progress, as more links and content are added.
On the home page there's an updated link to a list of unfilled positions in Wayland government.
Wayland's previous site was recognized for making government information available, but didn't achieve recognition for the highest level of service.
-- WVN Staff
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor