WVN #503: Forging ahead on DPW, housing projects
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Town officials are eager to find a fresh path after Town Meeting turned down proposals for a public works garage on River Road and an apartment project on Route 20. There are hopes for something to introduce to voters in the fall, but progress has been slow.
Also in this newsletter: Wayland's annual Town Meeting is held earlier than in most peer towns. How well has the schedule worked?
ALTERNATIVE PROJECT SITES?
At annual Town Meeting, the articles for funding the DPW garage and transferring the decommissioned Route 20 septage facility to the Board of Selectmen failed by narrow margins. Although the DPW article did not mention a specific location, all the design work had been for the River Road property. The EDC has been proposing a 216 rental unit development for the Route 20 site, where school buses are currently parked. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_BComm/Econ/RiversEdge
On April 22 the Board of Selectmen asked the Board of Public Works, Permanent Municipal Building Committee and the Economic Development Committee to evaluate the feasibility of siting the projects on either River Road or Route 20. Boards are active, but so far only on the original siting.
At its May 13 meeting, the BoPW approved a motion that will transfer control of land involving the River Road site to the Conservation Commission "conditional on Conservation Commission approval of motions that give effect to Article 9 of the 2013 Annual Town Meeting, in particular that the roadway be deemed a permanent access road for DPW use."
The discussion on moving ahead with the DPW garage project focused on such communication strategies as a site visit with various boards to demonstrate the problems with the Route 20 site and the distance of the methane "hot" well from the proposed River Road building. There was no significant discussion of ways to move ahead with a Route 20 location.
The Permanent Municipal Building Committee has requested $170,000 from the Board of Selectmen to continue design work for access to the River Road site. At its May 14 meeting, the Finance Committee approved (4-0) the request for a reserve fund transfer, but insisted on a supermajority vote of the Board of Selectmen (4 out of 5) supporting the project as proposed. The FinCom wants to see a firm commitment that the selectmen approve the DPW project at the River Road site as long as no material impediment is found in the studies to be conducted. Otherwise they were reluctant to spend money for a fall town meeting.
The FinCom still has $250,000 in its Fiscal 2013 reserve fund. The selectmen would need to take that vote before June 30, after which unspent reserve funds would revert to free cash and become unavailable. This matter is expected to be before the selectmen at their next meeting on May 20.
Before the FinCom's vote, Facilities Director John Moynihan presented his May 1 chart comparing the costs of building the DPW project off River Road versus using the Route 20 site. There was no clear answer provided in response to FinCom Vice-Chairman Tom Greenaway's question about which boards had endorsed the math shown in his chart. Moynihan attributed the figures on "lost revenue" (if the Route 20 site is not sold to a developer for $5 million) to the Economic Development Committee. It was not an apples to apples comparison, however. He didn't explain why he showed numbers for a 6-unit conservation cluster at River Road instead of a larger, more dense project such as the EDC's River's Edge.
EDC's May 10 meeting
Although the EDC has offered its Route 20 site studies to the BoPW, there was no mention of the larger River Road site when the EDC met with three potential developers on May 10 to talk about building rental apartments. Nobody from the PMBC or the BoPW attended the EDC's three-hour long meeting.
When asked, the developers said they prefer locations on main roads, but added that much of their business now comes from the Internet. This would tend to make a highly visible location less important.
The developers indicated that determining amenities and the percentage of units reserved for seniors depends on the price of land. One company, Avalon, focuses on a younger clientele that represents the fastest growing demographic sector for its projects, but would consider up to 25% of the units for seniors, according to Scott Dale, senior vice president for development.
Avalon, which recently built over 400 affordable apartments near the Natick Mall, is Roy MacDowell's partner for building the Danforth apartments just over the Wayland line in Framingham.
Budge Upton is involved with a project on the site of the former Symmes Hospital in Arlington, and said transparency is a key ingredient when dealing with municipalities. Upton is a partner in Upton + Partners, LLC.
Avalon representative Dale indicated that, assuming 25% of units affordable, his company is not keen on a required large percentage of senior occupants for fear the units wouldn't fill. He noted that an age-unrestricted population requires more parking than the EDC envisions.
There was some mention that the proposed number of 216 units on the Route 20 parcel is "tight." The preferred minimum number of units is 150-160, they said. There was no discussion of the larger River Road parcel.
The third developer who spoke with the EDC was Jim Williamson, Barberry Homes. He's currently building the Michael Road subdivision in Wayland and affordable housing projects in Natick (former Paperboard plant) and in Walpole.
After the developers left, Committee members were unable to agree on a procedure to determine goals for the project. Chair Rebecca Stanizzi commented there are many factors to consider when sizing a project such as lesser septic and parking requirements for seniors. Others mentioned a strong desire to provide senior housing to serve the community's needs and to address the town's 40B affordable housing obligations. There was brief discussion of the importance of the land sale price vs. long-term revenue to the town from property tax.
They decided to postpone defining their guiding principles and evaluating the wireless issues until their next meeting, set for May 16 at 8:30 a.m.
The EDC is eyeing a fall town meeting in order to pursue market opportunities.
-- WVN Staff
COMMENT: SCHEDULING ANNUAL TOWN MEETING
With almost unanimous consensus, the Town Meeting Procedures Subcommittee recommended last November that the selectmen schedule the 2013 Annual Town Meeting to begin a week after the end of April school vacation. Instead, the selectmen followed the recommendation of the town administrator and scheduled the 2013 municipal election for April 2 with Town Meeting beginning two days later.
A review of Wayland's peer towns, as identified by the Finance Committee, shows that 10 of the 12 scheduled their 2013 annual town meeting after the April vacation. Lynnfield's town code sets annual town meeting on the last Monday in April.
In 2009, at the recommendation of selectmen and the Finance Committee, Wayland Town Meeting voters amended our Town Code to move the deadline for submitting warrant articles from December 15 to January 15 and to extend the latest possible Town Meeting start date to May 15. The later schedule was followed for the 2010 annual Town Meeting, after which there was a change to a much earlier and shorter schedule. Tinkering with Wayland's tradition of holding the municipal election and town meeting after school vacation has not saved time or money.
If the proponents of Town Meeting Articles 10, 16 and 17 (DPW and River's Edge) had had more time to coordinate efforts, include more information in the warrant, and communicate more effectively with the public, would the votes have been different? We'll never know.
-- WVN Staff
DANFORTH PROJECT UPDATE
The Framingham Board of Selectmen has reached an agreement with the MacDowell developers concerning 88 acres of open space in the Danforth Green housing project slated to be built at the former New England Sand & Gravel site just over the Wayland line, off Old Connecticut Path. The Board had been negotiating with the developers to amend a 2003 land access agreement, in part because of price and environmental concerns, as Town Meeting later this month will consider accepting the deed for the acreage between the aqueduct and the Sudbury River.
This amendment will limit housing to the land south of the aqueduct, while the 88 acres north of the aqueduct will be conveyed from the developer to the Town for conservation, recreation and open space. It also states that if the MacDowells default in the amendment provisions, they will not be allowed to build the housing project.
The land to remain undeveloped abuts the Sudbury River Oxbow, Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Wayland's Pod Meadow Conservation Area.
For more details on the dollars and environmental commitments involved in this protective land agreement: http://framingham.patch.com/articles/framingham-selectmen-danforth-green-reach-agreement
DATE CHANGE FOR SELECTMEN'S OFFICE HOUR
Selectmen Tony Boschetto and Joe Nolan will hold an office hour on Friday morning (not Saturday), May 17 at 8:45 a.m. at Panera Bread. It's an opportunity to stop in and meet informally with them. For those who cannot attend but wish to send a message:
selectmen@... Selectmen's office in Town Building or
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor