Dear Wayland Voter,
Voters at the Nov. 20 Special Town Meeting will consider proposals costing about $15 million but designed to avoid raising taxes. In this first of two newsletters previewing the meeting, we outline articles that would reduce current property taxes and prevent development forever on 22 bucolic acres known as Lincoln Road Fields.
Also in this newsletter: Wayland will have only four members on the Board of Selectmen until next year's election.
SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
7:30 p.m., Nov. 20, Wayland High School field house. Doors open at 6.
Seniors can reserve free transportation in advance by contacting Council on Aging, 508-358-2990.
USE FREE CASH TO REDUCE TAXES
The first warrant article proposes using free cash and overlay surplus to reduce the amount of the current year’s budget to be paid from property tax. The Finance Committee suggests taking an additional $900,000 from free cash and $350,000 from overlay surplus.
Overlay surplus funds are what remains after the Board of Assessors has dealt with abatements, exemptions and the Circuit Breaker program.
The FinCom calculates that the average saving per household under Article 1 would be about $275, assuming a Fiscal 2014 property tax bill of $11,430 based on a $600,000 assessment.
The article would lower the town's certified free cash to 5% of the operating budget. This is the lower limit of the FinCom's target range of 5% to 10% and the upper limit of the state’s recommendation of 3% to 5%. Free cash helps the town obtain favorable interest rates on borrowing and meet unforeseen expenses.
The town’s free cash has been temporarily reduced by $1.5 million because the high school building project spent money which for some reason had not been borrowed. This $1.5 million could not be counted as part of the town's state-certified free cash ($4,091,958) on July 1, 2013. The already authorized high school building borrowing will take place next February or March, and the money borrowed then cannot be considered free cash until it is certified on July 1, 2014.
The FY14 Omnibus Operating Budget approved by last spring’s town meeting will remain unchanged by this article: $72,252,247.
-- Betty Salzberg
CONSERVATION RESTRICTION ON LINCOLN ROAD LAND
Article 4 is a proposal to purchase a conservation restriction (CR) on 22.6 acres of open fields and meadows on the corner of Lincoln Road and Hazelbrook Road in North Wayland. This land is privately owned and has been used for haying for over 100 years. The conservation restriction would be purchased at the appraisal price of $2.4 million using Community Preservation Funds. This land is on the town's 1995 Open Space and Recreation plan.
The conservation restriction would restrict the owner or heirs from selling the land to a developer or otherwise diminishing its value to the town. The CR purchase price is the difference between what the land could be sold for without the CR restrictions and what it could be sold for with the restrictions.
The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) had an appraisal made for this land with and without a CR. A copy can be found in the library and at:
The proposal would use Community Preservation Act funds collected over the last decade. These funds can be used for open space conservation, affordable housing, recreation and historic preservation. The money is from a 1.5% surcharge on property taxes which town meeting adopted in 2001.
Money will remain in the fund to buy other conservation restrictions. By law, 10% of the fund must be used for conservation, 10% for housing and 10% for historic preservation. The remaining 70% could be used for any of the allowable uses. In addition, one year the town voted to move some of the 70% general purpose pool to the portion designated for conservation.
There is about $2 million in the conservation pool, and $5 million in the general pool, with smaller amounts in the pools designated for historical or housing funds. CPA money has been spent in the past for some small projects like renovating the historic railroad freight house near the library, preserving gravestones and town records, planning Loker playing fields, and paying for part of the artificial turf field at the high school. A larger sum, over $1 million, was spent on land purchase and clean-up for the Nike site affordable housing project on Oxbow Road.
The CPC proposes to use all the money in the conservation pool (about $2 million) and about $400,000 from the general pool for the CR purchase. Although this leaves nothing in the conservation pool, general pool money can still be used for conservation. According to the warrant, the combined town and state contributions are about $900,000 annually, so these funds stand to be replenished. (The state contributed 26% in matching funds in Fiscal 2014, and a 53% match has been announced for FY15.) Also, if there is not enough money already collected for a purchase, state law allows the CPC to borrow certain amounts.
Recently the town tried to get a conservation restriction on Mainstone Farms, but the CR was appraised at $10 million and the owner wanted $20 million. The CPC cannot buy CRs or property at more than its appraisal value. The Mainstone project could still be pursued in the future if the owner is willing to sell a CR at appraisal value.
Establishing public access paths is in the Lincoln Road conservation restriction wording. People have been using some paths there now but their existence in the future is not guaranteed without a conservation restriction.
In fact, due to a clause added last week to the conservation restriction, if users abuse this privilege by, for instance, significantly damaging the property, public access could be cut off by the owner unless the issue is resolved to the owner’s satisfaction. Another last-minute owner demand incorporated in the CR eases a requirement that the owner maintain the land; now only a “good faith” effort is needed. However, if the owner does not maintain these open fields, the town is allowed to maintain them.
Access is further restricted by allowing the owner to exclude the public up to 14 days a year for “social events,” which could be worthy fund-raising gatherings but also private functions such as weddings.
The Purchase & Sale Agreement, including the Conservation Restriction as Exhibit B of that document, is posted at: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_Selectmen/Lincoln%20Rd%20PS%20and%20CR.pdf
Access paths lead to some adjacent Sudbury Valley Trustees land which in turn lead to a large network of paths in Weston. Visitors can park cars along Lincoln Road or Hazelbrook Road. Town residents often walk along these unpaved town roads because the fields provide a quiet scenic backdrop.
A Frequently Asked Questions sheet is available in the library and at:
At the Oct. 24 meeting, the Conservation Commission voted 6-0 to co-sponsor the Lincoln Road Conservation Restriction warrant article.
At the Nov. 7 meeting of the Conservation Commission, Town Counsel appeared with two copies of the Purchase & Sale Agreement and revised wording of the Conservation Restriction, asking the commissioners to sign on the dotted line. The Commission voted 5-1-1 to approve taking that action.
Article 3 simply allows the Community Preservation Committee to spend about $25,000 for administrative expenses.
SELECTMAN ELECTION ON APRIL 1
Selectmen have decided to put off replacing their colleague Doug Leard until the annual Wayland election scheduled for April 1. Leard, chairman at the time, resigned unexpectedly on Oct. 29, citing significant health problems.
There will be a special election to fill the remaining year of Leard’s term. On the regular ballot the same day will be two other selectman positions. The three-year terms of veterans Joe Nolan and Steve Correia are expiring.
Political divisions on the Board were starkly outlined on Aug. 26 when Vice Chairman Tony Boschetto and Ed Collins voted to terminate the contract of Town Administrator Fred Turkington and were bitterly opposed by Correia and Nolan. Leard was the swing vote to terminate.
At a Nov. 6 meeting the four selectmen reached a consensus that waiting until spring is cost-effective and should not prevent decisions that have to be made before the 2014 annual Town Meeting.
Nothing likely to come to the Board before then would polarize the Board as Turkington did. To Nolan and Correia, Turkington was an indispensable force for progress; to Collins and Boschetto, he was a largely negative influence who bore much of the blame for controversial financial management practices and Town Center problems including a $1.2 legal judgement.
-- Michael Short
WAYCAM COMMUNITY OPEN HOUSE
Tuesday, Nov. 19, 5:30-7:30 p.m. WayCAM is located next to the High School field house.
Studio tours, refreshments, screenings of winners of the Wayland High School film festival.
Information: (508) 358-5006.
MEETINGS CALENDAR: All meetings of town governmental bodies take place in Town Building unless otherwise indicated. Click on the date in the calendar posted on the town website to access posted meeting agendas:
Monday, Nov. 18:
Selectmen, 6:30 p.m.
Personnel Board, 6:30 p.m.
Board of Health, 7 p.m.
Recreation, 7 p.m.
Board of Public Works, 7 p.m.
School Committee, 7 p.m.
Assessors, 7:15 p.m.
Housing Partnership, 7:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 19:
Planning Board, 7:30 p.m. Public Hearing to modify DPW project site plan approval
Board of Public Works, 7:30 p.m.
Surface Water Quality Committee, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 20:
Library Trustees, 8:30 a.m. (MORNING), Library Raytheon Room
Special Town Meeting, 7:30 p.m., High School Field House, doors open at 6 p.m.
Finance Committee, 6:30 p.m., High School Field House, agenda includes STM articles, FY15 budget requests, tax classification hearing plans, executive session
ELVIS (Electronic Voting Committee), 6:30 p.m., High School Field House
Board of Public Works, 7 p.m., High School Field House
Thursday, Nov. 21:
Housing Authority, 7 p.m.
Conservation Commission, 7:30 p.m.
Historic District Commission, 7:30 p.m.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor