WVN #463: Two projects to keep an eye on
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Residents should be aware of two plans for development that may have a significant effect on the town.
The first is housing in Framingham that could increase traffic and environmental concerns so much that Wayland has already won an agreement for more than $1 million for mitigation. A third developer is now on the scene with a smaller plan -- and a familiar complaint against NStar clear-cutting near power lines.
The second: Finnerty's Restaurant, a popular fixture on Main Street for many years, closed suddenly in 2005. The low-scale building sits idle, its pleasing and well-integrated landscaping neglected. Now a developer wants to build another Wayland CVS there, and the new Design Review Board is pressing for changes.
DANFORTH HOUSING PROJECT MAY SHRINK
Wayland developer Roy MacDowell, Jr. and the Framingham Planning Board took a measured step forward at the July 26 "Definitive Plan Review" public hearing for the proposed Danforth Green housing project off Old Connecticut Path in Framingham, just over the Wayland line.
Almost a decade has passed since the board issued a special permit for redeveloping the former New England Sand and Gravel property. MacDowell is the third developer, following National Development & Pulte Homes. His team is focused on turning the corner on the down economy and delivering on Framingham's Planned Unit Development voted more than 20 years ago.
MacDowell is proposing a smaller project (about 360 housing units, down from 525 in 2005) and leaving the land undeveloped between the aqueduct and the Sudbury River. He seeks to greatly reduce earlier mitigation agreements, as reported by WVN in February:
The January 2005 settlement amounted to $1.45 million in mitigation for Wayland, primarily to address traffic, conservation, groundwater and water supply impacts.
MacDowell has not filed an application yet for the smaller project. So last week's hearing session was billed as an informal discussion about traffic impacts. A VHB (Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.) consultant informed the board that preliminary traffic analyses performed in May indicate the smaller project could generate about half the traffic of the earlier proposal. VHB described some of the changes in traffic patterns and volumes. Some nearby intersections remain dangerous and in need of additional controls.
Board members asked when in May the traffic counts were taken because a major sewer construction project on nearby Concord Street caused an unknown number of drivers to seek alternative routes.
The last time MacDowell met with the board, he had hoped to persuade NStar not to clear cut the mature trees in the OCP/River Path entrance to his project. Those who have seen the site since then are keenly aware that the developer fell victim to the same outcome as other property owners in the utility's transmission line rights of way. He bemoaned the devastation and expressed the need to create curb appeal as soon as possible. He is negotiating mitigation with NStar, seeking a written agreement to screen some of the devastation with a row of 8-foot Emerald Green arborvitae on a raised berm.
The Planning Board had pointed out in previous meetings that the composition of the board has changed over the years, and only three of the original five members remain from when the Definitive Plan hearing began for the larger project. Those three are the only board members allowed to vote, and three votes are needed for approval.
Given the risk posed by that reality, both parties have been considering possible options. Both agreed Thursday evening on a plan to enable all five current board members to vote on a new application. Lawyers for both sides had submitted Memos to the Board, but it was not clear that all legal questions prompted by this approach had been resolved.
Acknowledging everyone's good faith efforts, the board voted 3-0 that there was good cause to allow the developer to submit a new filing for the smaller project. The hearing for the original application will be kept open, at least for now, so the developer protects his rights. They will re-advertise to begin a new Definitive Plan hearing; both hearings will run concurrently.
The hearing was continued to Thursday, Sept. 6 at 7:50 p.m.
Framingham's July 26 Planning Board meeting is available via streaming video at:
In the left column, click on "Last Planning Board Meeting." Fast forward to elapsed time 02:00:20.
A detailed history of the property is included in the 2002 MEPA (state environmental review) application:
FINNERTY'S PLAN DRAWS CONCERN
Wayland's new Design Review Board (DRB) has urged several substantive changes and given the designers of the proposed redevelopment of the Finnerty's site in Cochituate much to think about.
The site has substantial exposure to Main Street as well as West Plain, where for decades the restaurant provided an iconic village presence, enhanced by extensive landscaping.
Among the new land uses sought is another CVS, complete with a drive-through, with curb cuts on both streets.
The developer's application may be found on the town website at http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_BComm/DesignReviewAdvisory/Finnertys.pdf
The drawings are at the end of the document.
The Design Review Board's memo containing its comments is also available at:
The DRB, which can only advise and not regulate, said:
"The developers stated a goal...consistent with the Wayland Guidelines that the development take on the 'appearance of a village that grew over time.'...However, the proposed design falls far short...Two separate buildings is not enough breakdown of massing and scale to achieve the goal.."
In particular, "The proposed CVS building is a simple rectangular footprint without any significant breaks in the facade. It is merely a large decorated box, of colonial style details that are overblown in scale to look strangely disproportionate." The DRB said the current Finnerty's facade in fact does serve as an example of evolving over time, and suggested perhaps CVS could replicate that: "In the final design, the CVS building should be a custom design uniquely tied to this site and not a stock repeat model off the shelf," the DRB stated.
"The mixed use building looks more like a 19th century commercial block building than something that grew over time. The large (110 ft. long) uninterrupted roof plane will be out of scale with all of the other buildings at that intersection and certainly out of scale with the abutting residential buildings. The ponderously repetitive window pattern that goes on for 110 ft. is the opposite of a small village look. The single gable at the end of the proposed commercial block is strangely out of scale with the rest of the building massing. A residential form like the office building across the street is more compatible with the abutting residential neighborhood."
The Site Plan review comments follow.
"1. The DRB is opposed to a drive-through station at this site. CVS already has a drive-through station in town on Route 20 a five-minute drive away, so another one is not justified. More importantly drive-through stations are contrary to the `green community' status that Wayland residents have declared. Cars waiting in line at a drive through service window use up excess gasoline and add pollution to the environment unnecessarily. In addition, there is a major safety issue with the high number of children on foot and on bikes in the area.
"2. The DRB is opposed to a new commercial curb cut on Main Street. That proposed added traffic will be a nuisance to the pedestrians from the neighborhood and most importantly a safety hazard for the fire station that is directly across the street from the proposed new curb cut.
"3. The DRB prefers that the existing corner landscaping and building footprint along Main Street and around the corner be preserved. That corner is considered the most attractive commercial corner in Wayland. To destroy it is not prudent for the developers and not desirable to the town.
"4. The DRB prefers that only one curb cut be used for access to the development and that should be on West Plain Street as far from the Main Street corner as possible to maximize safety for pedestrians and thereby encourage pedestrian to use the sidewalks. This is particularly important as the ballpark across the street brings very high foot traffic and bicycle traffic of children to this intersection.
"5. Because the CVS building has only one main entrance that opens to the parking lot, it is not a street friendly building by design. To improve a pedestrian friendly neighborhood, it is preferred to place the commercial and office mixed use building at the Main Street corner and place CVS on West Plain Street.
"6. In any case, dumpsters and other service equipment such as electric panels and meters should be placed away from the street facades and screened from view by the public and abutting residents.
"7. The DRB encourages ornamental lighting on Main Street and West Plain Street in keeping with other new developments in town. However, over-lighting the site is discouraged as Wayland's night skies are threatened by excessive commercial lighting. The new CVS building on Route 20 is an example of an overly lit building that presents an attractive nuisance in town."
If the developer follows the DRB's suggestions, the DRB said it would support relief from Wayland's parking regulations, thereby enabling an increase in square footage.
The DRB is an advisory board, formed to "assist property owners and developers with the design process and issue an advisory opinion to the town boards based on the Wayland Design Guidelines to enhance, protect and promote development consistent with Wayland's Master Plan."
--- Molly Upton
In Newsletter #462 WVN misstated the School Committee's interpretation of one part of the Open Meeting Law. In fact, according to SC Chair Barbara Fletcher, a document created by a Committee member cannot be distributed in advance of a meeting but documents created by the school administration may legally be distributed.
The School Committee's July 24 "retreat" is now available on WayCAM's Video on Demand:
AND A FOOTNOTE
The School Committee's precautions on the Open Meeting Law are well founded. Minuteman's school committee was recently found in violation after its chairman sent an email to a quorum of members. See:
http://www.oml.ago.state.ma.us/ and then click on the July 26 case OML 2012-67
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor