WVN #377: Developer threatens another Town Center delay
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The developer is threatening another delay in its quest for permits to build the Town Center mixed-use project.
Also in this newsletter:
-- Some parents question the practice of allowing Claypit Hill school teachers to tutor students after hours, charging $35 per day per student.
-- Where does Wayland rank among communities in municipal debt per person?
-- The School Committee plans for the Nov. 16 Special Town Meeting.
ANOTHER DEVELOPER DELAY THREATENED
On May 29, 2009, Twenty Wayland, the developers of the Town Center project, appealed the conditions of the permit (called an "Order of Conditions" or OOC) for on-site development granted by the Wayland Conservation Commission. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a Superseding Order of Conditions on Jan. 14, 2010, essentially supporting the conditions required by the ConCom and refuting the objections made by Twenty Wayland. The appeal initiated by Twenty Wayland thus caused a 7-1/2-month delay in the permitting process without changing the conditions.
Now Twenty Wayland has threatened to do it again on the off-site (road widening) part of the permitting process. Twenty Wayland representative Frank Dougherty told the Conservation Commission at the Nov. 9 meeting that if Twenty Wayland does not like the Order of Conditions it might file an appeal. Dougherty asked to view and comment on the conditions prior to the scheduled unveiling of the conditions on Nov. 30. ConCom Chair Andy Irwin said town counsel needs to rule on the legality of allowing the applicant to comment and preview the order of conditions. No other applicant has been allowed to do so in the four decades of the Wetlands Protection Act administration in Wayland.
At the end of the meeting, the hearing was closed, which means no new input from either the applicant or the public is allowed.
Most of the session of the ConCom hearing on the off-site part of the Town Center project held Nov. 9 concerned process. Irwin explained the next steps.
Conservation Administrator Brian Monahan will prepare a draft OOC and the commissioners are allowed to communicate with Monahan but cannot communicate with each other concerning the draft document outside of a posted public meeting. Monahan will also communicate with the town consultants, CMG Environmental, who have already suggested several conditions. In addition, an OOC has a number of standard paragraphs, common to all projects.
Under the Wetlands Protection Act, once a public hearing is closed, ConCom has 21 days within which to issue a decision. Thus ConCom would have to deliberate and vote on its decision at its next meeting on Nov. 30.
When this process was explained, Dougherty asked for a dialog with ConCom on the draft of the OOC before the Nov. 30 meeting. In particular, he asked to see a copy of the draft OOC two days before the meeting and to be allowed to make "comments." He mentioned that some of the conditions might be difficult to understand. He said that if there were conditions that he felt Twenty Wayland could not agree to, ConCom risked another appeal from Twenty Wayland to the DEP and that this might cause a "nine-month delay."
Irwin said that if Dougherty wished to continue discussions, the hearing could be kept open. However, Dougherty stated that he wanted the hearing to be closed at the Nov. 9 meeting. Irwin noted that this hearing had already gone on four and a half months.
Irwin and Dougherty agreed that the process used during previous negotiations leading to settlement of the on-site work was flawed. Irwin called the process of exchanging multiple versions of red-lined documents a nightmare.
Dougherty said that he would only submit a list of comments, not a rewriting of the document, and that he understood that ConCom need not accept any of his suggestions for change. Commissioner John Sullivan asked that town counsel be consulted about the legality of the suggestion.
During public comment, a citizen specifically requested that if Twenty Wayland is allowed to look at the draft before the Nov. 30 meeting the public also be allowed to look at it.
Irwin suggested that there be no sharing of the document before Nov. 30 unless town counsel provides a differing legal opinion. The hearing was then closed under the state Wetlands Protection Act. A separate public hearing under the Town's Wetlands Bylaw still remains open and will be continued to Nov. 30 at 8:45 pm.
In the only matter discussed other than process, it was noted that letters had been submitted concerning the proposed wetlands replication and compensatory flood storage area (a new basin) near the Public Safety Building lot. The concern is that this new area not be allowed to be constructed if it renders the Public Safety Building lot in violation of the Aquifer Protection District Zoning Bylaw. That zoning bylaw requires that the ratio of impervious surface to uplands on the lot must not exceed 30 percent. Digging a basin on the lot reduces the amount of upland.
Zoning Board of Appeals Decision 02-25, which gave final approval for construction of the Public Safety Building in 2002, found that after construction the upland area of the Public Safety Building lot would be exactly 30 percent, leaving no leeway for future reduction of the upland area. In addition, if a developer changes the ratio of impervious surface to uplands to greater than 20 percent in an aquifer district, a special permit is required from the Zoning Board.
Dougherty asserted that the wetlands mapping of the Public Safety Building lot has since been more fully reviewed and more upland was now available than was originally thought in 2002. He has sent some documentation to that effect to Dan Bennett, Wayland building commissioner.
Irwin suggested that a condition could be included in the OOC to say that work could not proceed until the building commissioner certifies that if the proposed work on the Public Safety Building lot is completed, it will not create a violation of the Aquifer Protection District Zoning Bylaw. If this is not so certified, Twenty Wayland must reconfigure its design.
-- Betty Salzberg
IN-SCHOOL PAID TUTORING QUESTIONED
Should a teacher be able to run a private tutoring business for Wayland students within the school? Should separately paid tutoring be a normal and necessary part of the Wayland educational experience?
These are questions some Wayland parents are asking. But it is unclear why they have recently gained currency, as some Wayland school officials say in-school tutoring has been going on for decades.
At Claypit Hill, Darcie Foley and Elizabeth Wales run an "After School Homework Club", for which they charge each student $35 per day. Beyond providing a quiet place to do homework, they offer to "assist in understanding subject matter and support long term projects or assignments." And one Claypit school parent says an art teacher charges $130 per student for 20 students to do "art and graphics" on the school's computers from 3 to 4 p.m. on Fridays. But a former Claypit teacher was only vaguely aware that some teachers tutored, never did it herself, and believes most teachers who tutor do it out of their homes.
An administrator recalls tutoring in the schools going back at least 30 years. And in fact, six or seven years ago the School Committee instituted a formal policy to regulate school-based tutoring. Since School Committee policies are issued neither quickly nor casually, it can be assumed the practice was well established. Fees are collected by WSCP (Wayland School Community Programs), the same office that runs BASE (Before/After School Extension, a fee-based extended day program) and The Children's Way (a fee-based pre-school program), and teachers are paid with taxes and building usage fees withheld. The policy allows for non-staff people to use the school buildings as well.
A former Happy Hollow staff member recalls tutoring migrating to students' homes or the library when the schools started charging.
No one has documented to WVN any cases of teachers charging to tutor their own students. But tutoring after school hours obviously takes time that might otherwise be available to offer extra help to their own students. Teachers are obligated to spend 15 or 30 minutes after school hours on school work as part of their contract, and no one has alleged any failures to do so. But teachers like to be regarded as professionals, and some question the professionalism of spending only contracted time on the job. Indeed, some are questioning the professionalism of working for extra pay after normal school hours in the primary work setting.
One Happy Hollow mother who requested anonymity is more concerned about the equity issue: she believes tutoring is no longer restricted to helping struggling students with specific issues but is now routine and gives wealthier kids a leg up over others. She cites it as a reason why Claypit, with a wealthier demographic, has produced higher MCAS scores in recent years. But another Happy Hollow mother and PTO official was completely unaware of tutoring as a practice or an issue.
So it is unclear whether this is a serious issue or a mountain being made from a molehill. Those concerned could raise it at a School Committee public comment period and, perhaps, clear the air. Or turn wisps of smoke into a raging fire.
-- Tom Sciacca
DEBT PER RESIDENT
Prompted by a piece in the Boston Globe detailing the annual per person municipal payments of Massachusetts communities, Wayland's Finance Committee decided to include in a future presentation both what could and could not be financed with the traditional level of 7 percent of total town budget and at 10 percent of budget, which is where the town will be with the peak payment years for the high school debt.
The town will incur more than $40 million in new debt for the school. Over the years other debt will come off the books, but the effect of school borrowing will be felt for many years.
The FinCom presentation will also outline the process of putting an item into the capital budget.
Wayland ranks #60 among the towns reporting per person debt with $304 in 2009, according to the Globe Snapshot at http://www.boston.com/yourtown/specials/snapshot/snapshot_muni_debt_per_resident_09/
That puts Wayland's per person debt in the top 20 percent of the 323 communities reporting debt. The Globe calculations are for 2009, prior to any debt for the new high school, and include principal and interest on long- and short-term debt.
Among Wayland's peer towns, five have more debt per resident: Cohasset, Medfield, Sharon, Concord, and Lynnfield. Four towns have less: Sudbury, Carlisle, Lincoln, Scituate. There was no figure for Weston and 18 other communities.
The amount of debt per resident among the peer towns ranges from $560 in Cohasset to $131 in Scituate. Sudbury has slightly less debt/person, $253, than Wayland. These figures are for 2009, before the debt for the new high school started to appear. They include all debt, including that of the water treatment plant, which is not included in taxes.
Wayland's 2010 population is listed in town records as 12,273.
-- Molly Upton
SCHOOL COMMITTEE PLANNING FOR TOWN MEETING
At its Nov. 8 meeting the School Committee addressed an issue in the upcoming Special Town Meeting by voting to move to pass over Article 4, the upgrade to the Field House weight room. The $185,000 upgrade is still planned, but can be funded from savings in construction costs for the rest of the high school project. Such savings were hoped for but not certain when the warrant closed, so the article was included. It is still not certain that the state funding agency will pay the 40 percent share of this piece that it is kicking in for the overall project, but there is adequate money in the original appropriation to cover the expense in any case.
Article 5, which proposes to transfer control of the space to the selectmen for the purpose of leasing it, presumably to WayCAM, the local public access cable channel, will still need to be voted at Town Meeting.
In other School Committee news, a budget forum will be held on Nov. 22 to kick off the formal budgeting process for Fiscal 2012. Since no operational override is planned and most budget items will be flat from last year, it is expected to draw little attention and will be held in the Large Hearing Room rather than the Middle School auditorium. The Operational Review study under way to examine administrative costs is not expected to result in a report until January, too late to have an impact on next year's budget.
After the forum on the 22nd the committee will discuss the leadership profile being developed as part of the superintendent search, and finalize the search committee. It is currently slated to include Teachers' Union head Conrad Gees, Middle School technology teacher Beth Monahan, METCO Director Mabel Reid-Wallace, and Director of Student Services Marlene Dodyk. Six members will be chosen from 24 applicants received from members of the Wayland public.
The Committee also voted to endorse the Fuel Efficient Vehicle Policy and the Energy Use Reduction Plan, as requested by the Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee, required to qualify the town for Green Communities status. If the town passes Article 13 at the upcoming Town Meeting, adopting the Stretch Energy Code, it will meet the last requirement and qualify for state grants for energy upgrades. The vehicle policy requires the committee to replace the two relevant school department vehicles, the superintendent's car and a building maintenance pickup, with more efficient models when they are next replaced. The Energy Reduction Plan requires a 20 percent reduction in energy use from 2009 levels. However, much of the goal will be met by the new more-efficient high school buildings and already planned elementary school upgrades. (Disclosure: this reporter is a member of the Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee.)
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor