WVN #376: Next hurdle for Town Center developer
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Having cleared a hurdle by settling a lawsuit against the Wayland Historic District Commission, the Town Center developer now faces environmental requirements that could mean further delay in getting permits for the mixed-use project. And once again, Twenty Wayland's actions have contributed to the problem.
Before work can start on 94,000 square feet of commercial development, Twenty Wayland must widen roads in the Historic District at the main crossroads of Wayland. The developer's plan for road-widening conflicts with environmental concerns affecting the flood-plagued Public Safety Building.
Also in this newsletter: Wayland has a new Town Meeting official, assistant moderator, and he's looking for volunteers to help out on Nov. 16.
LATE SURPRISE FROM DEVELOPER
Sometimes last minute surprises are the consequence of an applicant not revealing full details of a plan until the last possible date. Twenty Wayland, which has established a pattern of submitting incomplete plans to town boards, discovered at the Conservation Commission hearing Oct. 19 that its Oct. 12 submission revealing the planned location is problematic. The law requires measures to replace existing wetlands and store flood water in this extremely sensitive area, where heavy rains can stop traffic on Route 20.
ConCom has been requesting all relevant documents be provided at the outset of a hearing. This hearing began last July with three newly appointed commissioners.
On Oct. 19, after asking several times that the hearing be ended, which would prohibit the Commission from considering any new information, Twenty Wayland project manager Frank Dougherty agreed to keep the hearing open. The next scheduled session of the continued hearing is Nov. 9.
What was the snag this time? Under the law, the developer must excavate an area near Mill Brook, which runs along Route 20 in front of the Public Safety Building (PSB), to compensate for the area he proposes to fill to widen the road. This newly excavated area will hold flood water displaced by the filling. It would be required in any case, but is clearly critical next to the already flood-damaged PSB.
The proposed area for wetlands replication and flood storage is located on the same lot as the Public Safety Building and may run afoul of the Aquifer Protection District bylaw stating that "(u)nder no circumstances shall the impervious surface of a residential lot exceed 30 percent of the upland area of the lot No additional development of an already developed parcel shall cause these density restrictions to be exceeded or further exceeded."
The Aquifer Protection District Zoning Bylaw is in Chapter 198 of the Town Code, Article 16.
The lot was expanded from 2.75 acres to 8.66 acres by consolidating several adjacent town parcels in 2002 so that the new Public Safety Building would comply with the Aquifer Protection District bylaw. A letter submitted to ConCom by a citizen based on a review of zoning files in the Building Department states that the replication and flood storage as Twenty Wayland is proposing would render the Wayland Public Safety Building in "noncompliance with zoning requirements because the building and other impervious surfaces would then comprise MORE than 30 percent of the upland area of the lot."
Town counsel Mark Lanza kept trying to remove the ball from ConCom's court, saying that the matter belonged to other boards, and that there would need to be a comparison of the as-built Public Safety Building because as-built might not occupy as much space as the plans. The plans from 2002 show the project would have exactly 30 percent impervious coverage of the upland area.
Former chair and longtime commissioner Roger Backman noted that the ConCom plays a large role in Aquifer Protection District matters.
There is no evidence that Twenty Wayland had permission from the Board of Public Works to file a Notice of Intent on behalf of that board, which controls the land in question.
The ConCom noted that Twenty Wayland's application still lacks plan #43, so the hearing record is incomplete. ConCom member Barbara Howell asked if it was also missing from the Department of Environmental Protection submission. Dougherty agreed to supply a complete package.
The town's environmental consultant CMG says the proposed plans would not exacerbate flooding conditions in the center of town, but would not improve them, either, and did not investigate the hydrologic impact on the Public Safety Building basement, which has become known as a sink hole consuming taxpayers' money.
The 1998 Town Meeting appropriated $5.75 million to demolish the old and build the new Public Safety Building. Seven more Town Meeting votes from 2001 to 2009 appropriated millions more, at first to complete the facility and then to repair it after the basement was first breached by floodwater in 2005. One citizen has tallied the total taxpayer dollars spent so far for the PSB at $8,698,750. That does not include the cost of years of litigation or attorneys' and consultants' fees for the lawsuit the Town just lost on September 30. The town recouped $550,000 from a settlement with project architect Finegold Alexander in February 2010.
Wayland is still saddled with a flood-damaged facility. Newly proposed engineering solutions could cost taxpayers several million dollars more, with no guarantees they will work. That could bring the total cost to more than double the original 1998 appropriation.
After repeatedly asking for the hearing to be closed, saying permits could be modified later, Dougherty finally agreed to keep the hearing open after ConCom said it could close the hearing under the Wetland Protection Act, but keep the matter open under the separate town Wetlands and Water Resources bylaw. Also, Chairman Andy Irwin stated that before any construction begins, the replication and flood storage must be done. So, given the selectmen's and developer's refusal to consider phasing the road work, as evidenced by the recent forced settlement with the Historic District Commission, failure to resolve this latest issue could halt the entire Town Center project in its tracks.
Wrapping up one loose end, Twenty Wayland withdrew an earlier submitted application (NOI DEP #322-704) and that hearing, begun in 2008, was closed without prejudice.
-- Molly Upton
TOWN MEETING TELLERS NEEDED
In a move designed to make Town Meeting more efficient, the tellers who count standing votes will be assigned and trained before the Special Town Meeting on Nov. 16. Dennis Berry, the newly appointed assistant moderator, asks volunteers to come to a one-hour meeting at the Town Building at 7 p.m. on Monday Nov. 1. For details call Berry at 508-655-1497.
The position of assistant moderator is new, a suggestion by a temporary study committee. Berry was appointed by Wayland's longtime moderator, Peter Gossels, to assist with such things as supervising tellers and managing congestion around speakers' microphones. Berry has lived in Wayland for many years and is an attorney.
-- WVN Staff
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor