WVN #404: Selectmen promote Town Center hearing attendance
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The selectmen really, really want you to attend a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection public hearing on a technical and arcane subject.
They have published two guest columns in the Wayland Town Crier calling the subject of the hearing -- 5-7 p.m. at the Town Building on Thursday May 19 -- the "Last hurdle for the Town Center." The developer of the mixed-use project at the former Raytheon site on Route 20 says it wants to break ground this spring after six years of planning and contentious gathering of permits.
The hearing concerns only one thing, Twenty Wayland's application to connect to a town wastewater treatment plant now under construction. The developer was told more than three years ago that it needed the state permit, but fought the requirement until late last year.
Why do the selectmen want you to attend?
When the selectmen were discussing the draft of a Crier column at their May 9 meeting, Selectman Joe Nolan jokingly suggested this language: "If you supported the project all along and want to see it completed, please..." His colleagues chuckled. The published article concludes with a summary of the benefits promised by the developer and the request to citizens, "Please make time to attend."
If you do attend, you'll hear a lot about things like GPD (gallons per day of discharge), Title V, leaching fields and a Master Special Permit. DEP is not interested in opinions on the desirability of the Town Center, potential new tax revenue, the possibility of businesses, apartments, a municipal building and a green. DEP's stated mission is to protect clean air and water, preserve wetlands and look after recycling and cleanups of hazardous wastes and spills.
That might not stop people from trying to register unrelated opinions at the hearing, which was requested by several Wayland residents. But there is little parallel to the crowds of Town Center supporters who years ago thronged hearings held by Wayland permitting boards, hoping to influence officials by offering their opinions and sometimes glaring or muttering at those they disagreed with.
The selectmen said that one reason for publishing the two columns was to "respond to misperceptions and misinformation circulating about the process for providing this important infrastructure," an apparent reference to those who raised environmental questions and asked for the hearing.
You can read the selectmen's columns at:
A COMPLICATED BACKGROUND
Because the Town Center project requires various state level permits, it was evaluated during the state's environmental review in 2006-2008. The DEP is one of several state agencies that participate in such reviews. Wayland town boards, environmental organizations and private citizens submitted written public comment during required steps in that review regarding traffic, wastewater, water, wetlands, historic resources, hazardous waste, sustainable design, etc. Those public documents, once available on the Wayland Planning Board website, are not posted anywhere on the town website.
A Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Certificate was issued for the Town Center project in March 2008:
The DEP's 2011 draft sewer connection permit refers to and relies on wastewater information on pages 6-7 in that 2008 MEPA Certificate.
Until the publication of the March 29 WVN newsletter #395, the public was not aware that legal and engineering consultants had been working behind the scenes for about a year to consider the leachfield of the closed septage facility for possible groundwater discharge for the town's new wastewater plant now under construction. At issue is accommodating the wastewater needs of the Town Center project, the plant's largest customer. Meetings held at the Wilmington DEP office to discuss this technical issue, however, did not include any wastewater commissioners.
The public record shows that as early as November 2007, the DEP informed Twenty Wayland that a state sewer connection permit is required. Twenty Wayland disagreed with that and did not submit the application until three years later, November 18, 2010.
Since 2006, the developer has complained about and challenged many permitting requirements and demanded concessions. WVN has reported in the past how the developer's applications often were incomplete and/or technically deficient. At the local permitting level, some boards and individual town officials have been unfairly blamed for causing project delays. The Planning Board, former Road Commissioners, Conservation Commission, Historic District Commission, Wastewater Commissioners, and private citizens have found themselves singled out. Time and money were spent on various legal appeals filed by the developer, and some volunteers found themselves not reappointed to public office despite outstanding credentials.
DEP and EPA have required higher standards of effluent treatment, and the Wastewater Management District Commission (WWMDC) is building a new plant.
At the March and April 2011 WWMDC meetings, the developer sought to bind the commission to commitments and costs for hooking Twenty Wayland up to the wastewater system for the existing office building and for new construction. A separate draft "Construction and Reimbursement Agreement" was negotiated by lawyers representing both sides but without the WWMDC's participation. Getting the commissioners to sign that draft side legal agreement is still pending. Regarding other increasing costs, Twenty Wayland is appealing its property assessment to the state appellate tax board, despite assurances made and written into the selectmen's 2006 Development Agreement. Twenty Wayland is also contesting its wastewater user fees.
Twenty Wayland does not have all the approvals and agreements it needs to begin construction nor to deliver the project voters thought they approved at the May 2006 town meeting.
Neverthless, an April 13 announcement (updated several times since then) posted by Town Administrator Fred Turkington on the town website has ended with a not-so-subtle mention that the developer has delayed project groundbreaking because of DEP's May 19 public hearing for the draft sewer connection permit, a hearing requested by six residents during the agency's public comment period.
At the May 2 selectmen's meeting, Turkington described his plan to have two consecutive weeks of guest columns published in the Wayland Town Crier. This is a state permitting matter beyond the selectmen's purview. The WWMDC, which does have jurisdiction, has not discussed, co-sponsored or signed onto those op-ed pieces.
The DEP's public hearing is an opportunity to be heard for town officials who were never contacted or copied on the Nov. 18, 2010, permit application as well as plant customers (some are not Wayland residents) who were also unaware of the draft sewer connection permit and how it would affect the public interest and ultimately their rates for sewer use. The cost of the treatment plant, originally promised to be no more than $3 million, is currently estimated at $5.6 million and could rise further if some of the proposals in the permitting discussions are implemented. While the selectmen have been beating the drums to encourage residents to attend the DEP hearing, no interdepartmental memo alerting staff and town boards and officials to this important hearing was circulated.
WASTEWATER TIMELINE DOCUMENTS
The wastewater commissioners will hold their monthly meeting also on May 19, at 7:30 p.m. just after the DEP public hearing.
The following multi-year "wastewater timeline," including reference to public documents, provides additional background information in preparation for the May 19 public meetings. Some are posted at http://www.waylandtransparency.com/townside/wastewater.php:
-- April 10, 2009 letter from DEP to Twenty Wayland: DEP repeated November 2007 instruction to developer that DEP sewer connection permit is required.
-- May 7 & May 11, 2010 emails between DEP and town's engineering consultant: possible re-use of former septage treatment facility for Twenty Wayland's groundwater discharge.
-- May 17, 2010: Selectmen's warrant article to acquire Sudbury's interest in septage facility failed at town meeting; no mention in warrant of re-use of leachfield for groundwater discharge
-- September 22, 2010: Wastewater Commission signed off on Twenty Wayland's sewer connection "Compliance Certification Form" sent to DEP.
-- October 21, 2010: DEP letter to Twenty Wayland citing Technical Deficiencies (incorrect paperwork submitted in September).
-- October 28, 2010: Fred Turkington, Twenty Wayland & others met with DEP in Wilmington.
-- November 9, 2010: DEP letter to Fred Turkington memorializing Oct. 28 meeting, including possible re-use of the septage facility's leachfield for wastewater discharge.
-- November 16, 2010: Selectmen's second warrant article to acquire Sudbury's interest in septage facility failed (passed over) at town meeting; no mention of re-use of leachfield for groundwater discharge.
-- November 18, 2010: Date of Twenty Wayland's first "Application for Permit" for a sewer connection to DEP, with cover letter and attachments.
-- December 28, 2010: DEP letter to Twenty Wayland citing Technical Deficiencies.
-- January 13, 2011: Twenty Wayland sent more information, new design plans and specs to DEP.
-- February 3, 2011: Legal notice in Wayland Town Crier for DEP public comment period for Twenty Wayland's sewer connection permit application and draft permit.
-- February 24, 2011: Legal notice in Wayland Town Crier for subsequent DEP public comment period (ending March 28) for Twenty Wayland's draft sewer connection permit.
-- April 11, 2011: Selectmen's third Town Meeting warrant article to acquire Sudbury's interest in septage facility failed (passed over) at town meeting; no mention in warrant of re-use of leachfield for groundwater discharge. Warrant article to transfer duties of Wastewater Management District Commission to Board of Public Works also failed.
-- April 13, 2011: Fred Turkington posted announcement on town website about May 19, 2011 DEP public hearing; link to part of Twenty Wayland's November 18, 2010 submittal to DEP; link to comment letters of 5 individuals (one comment letter incomplete, one letter missing).
-- April 14, 2011: Legal notice in Wayland Town Crier announcing May 19, 2011 DEP public hearing in Wayland Town Hall, 5-7 p.m., for Twenty Wayland's draft sewer connection permit.
-- May 19, 2011: DEP public hearing, 5-7 p.m., Town Hall, Twenty Wayland's draft sewer connection permit.
-- May 19, 2011: Next Wastewater Commission meeting, 7:30 p.m., Wayland Town Hall. Agenda includes sewer rates, developer's side legal agreement, water conservation regulations: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_MeetingsCal/S01717F48-01717F4C.0/WMDCAgenda05192011.pdf
-- May 20, 2011: DEP's announced deadline for submitting public comment regarding the draft permit
WVN newsletter# 395:
-- WVN Staff
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor