WVN #50: Angry Residents Confront High School Building Committee
- Wayland Voters Network
December 1, 2004
Dear Wayland Voter,
The following report on the Nov. 18 meeting of the High School
Building Committee was prepared by Michael Short. It was a lively
discussion. As one participant said later, this was democracy in
action, "and democracy can be a little messy at times."
The meeting will air on the Wayland cable channel tonight, Wednesday,
Dec. 1, 7 p.m.
HSBC NOV. 18: ANGRY RESIDENTS CONFRONT HSBC
Nearly two dozen residents voiced passionate criticism at the 30th
and most contentious meeting of the High School Building Committee.
Residents of the Charena Farms neighborhood near Wayland High School
said they are disturbed about three aspects of the proposed three-
year, $57.3 million project, which would replace seven existing
buildings with two larger buildings and renovate the field house.
Among the comments:
"You don't want a lawsuit, so why are you doing this?"
"This is a bad, bad proposal. I will actively oppose it."
"What you're hearing is dismay turning into anger."
"Why a waste water facility next to an established neighborhood?"
"I've never voted against a school project before."
Referring frequently to their long and passionate devotion to their
neighborhood as well as their hope to have a school project they can
support, speakers named expected impacts of the project: 1) a waste
water treatment plant near their homes, 2) an emergency access road
cutting through their neighborhood, and 3) a grassy area they fear
would negatively affect them if eventually used for athletics.
One speaker noted that the Preliminary Design Report of more than 50
pages never mentions the impacts on the neighborhood.
Most of the committee sat in silence and seemed surprised by the
public comments; two members later rebuked the neighbors. Chair Lea
Anderson repeatedly thanked the citizens for expressing their views
and diplomatically moderated a vigorous discussion between the
neighbors and representatives of HMFH Architects and Turner
Construction Co. HSBC member Eric Sheffels told the neighbors, "You
are 100 percent right...We'll fix it."
And fix it Turner and HMFH agreed to do. They erased the sewage
treatment plant and the access road from preliminary drawings. Dick
Amster of Turner suggested locating the plant near the field house.
Doug Sacra of HMFH dealt with the third item by explaining that the
grassy area was not intended as an athletic field, but simply a place
for students to relax in good weather.
Still, the neighbors spoke of a "slippery slope." What if the grassy
area is later developed into a playing field, resulting in crowds,
noise and lights? What if the emergency access road becomes a short
cut for people attending athletic events?
Any major construction will require a waste water treatment plant;
environmental concerns, including nearby wetlands and town wells,
limit flexibility. It is unlikely that the Wayland police and fire
chiefs would endorse a project lacking a lockable emergency access
road somewhere. Given these constraints, can designers satisfy the
HSBC member Dianne Bladon told the neighbors she found the tone of
their comments "very offensive." And member Josh Bekenstein reminded
them that earlier complaints from Charena Farms residents already
resulted in design changes that added nearly $2 million to the total
As the HSBC prepared to issue a final design report, members
discussed the next phase of their work: promoting it to voters. They
considered handing information to an advocacy group, which Bladon
said was willing to pay for printing and mailing to every household.
But the committee decided instead to use public funds. Bladon said
this would be legal as long as the mailing doesn't mention the Jan.
25 special election on the project.
(If the Jan. 25 ballot question is approved by voters, a special Town
Meeting on Jan. 27 will consider an appropriation of about $4.2
million for design and preliminary work. Also on the warrant is a
petitioners article calling for a moratorium on project spending
until the Finance Committee provides more information on the cost to
the town and its taxpayers, and the prospect of getting state aid
The HSBC discussed a campaign including guest columns and letters in
the Wayland Town Crier, displays in schools and other public places
and presentations to civic groups.
A citizen asked the Finance Committee's appointee on the HSBC, Eric
Sheffels, to explain the FinCom's view about the project because
higher taxes may force some residents to leave Wayland. Sheffels
gave a straightforward response that expressed the HSBC's mission.
The HSBC, he said, was told to study needs and present a single
plan. It was not asked to consider the larger picture, including the
financial effect on taxpayers or the ability to fund other items on
the long list of projects in the new Master Plan.
Because this was the last meeting of the HSBC before it begins
selling the project, the members were congratulated for their months
of painstaking effort. In judging that work, voters may consider the
HSBC's mission and how the committee made its choices. The HSBC
based its plan largely on what it was told by Wayland school
officials. It chose a project manager and an architect without a
design competition. Those three sources resulted in the plan which
the committee will present at community forums on Dec. 16 and Jan. 8
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Wayland Voters Network
Margo Melnicove, Chair
Michael Short, Treasurer