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WVN #532: Voters OK all STM articles

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, In under two hours voters approved all four articles before them at the Special Town Meeting Wednesday night. Article 1: Taxes lowered With
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 21, 2013
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      In under two hours voters approved all four articles before them at the Special Town Meeting Wednesday night.

      Article 1: Taxes lowered

      With a 251-84 vote, residents approved applying $1.25 million from free cash to the current budget, reducing the amount to be raised by property taxes. As Finance Committee Chairman Tom Greenaway noted, this is a choice to take a tax benefit now rather than later.

      How big is the reduction? The owner of a property assessed at $600,000 will pay about $275 less as a result of the vote.

      Two residents argued against the article, recommending that Wayland maintain cash reserves equal to 10% of the budget because of risks associated with climate change. Article 1 leaves Wayland with reserves of about 5.3%, just within the FinCom’s preferred zone of 5-10%. The state recommends 3-5%. As WVN recently reported, there should be almost $1.5 million more in free cash (spent on the high school project when appropriated funds were not borrowed) that will be returned next July 1.

      Both opponents argued that the increasing frequency of extreme weather calls for prudent preparation. One recommended using free cash to create a contingency fund: “We can figure out where we are vulnerable.”

      Article 2: $12.7 million for a new DPW building

      During an hour of discussion all speakers agreed that Wayland needs a new public works building to replace the ramshackle 80-year-old facility near the Middle School. But there were sharp arguments against the final decision on an access road. A spring Town Meeting proposal with access by Route 20 rather than River Road fell just short of the required two-thirds vote. This time the vote was 441-189, a 70% majority.

      River Road residents expressed disappointment that a “handshake agreement” to use the scenic road only for emergency access wasn’t honored. Some opponents noted that River Road is important for recreational biking and walking and is too narrow, at about 20 feet, for heavy equipment traffic. Proponents said that a new road would have to be 30 feet wide but an existing road isn’t affected by such requirements.

      Proponents argued that a traffic study showed little impact from the DPW’s 23 on-site employees and the town’s 14 vehicles. River Road, which becomes Old County Road at the Sudbury line, is already used as a cut-through by commercial vehicles including 18-wheelers, they said. The Nov. 13 traffic review performed by TEC was an “abbreviated assessment.” There were no data for pedestrian use; several speakers talked about the frequent recreational use of River Road.

      To arguments that Sudbury is threatening action including weight limits on the road, proponents replied that only the state can regulate weights. Furthermore, Sudbury is unlikely to hinder its own commercial and industrial companies in the area.

      The River Road site was criticized as flood-prone and an island in a worst-case scenario. Proponents said the building would be built at grade and on higher ground. The area is used now for the town’s sand and salt shed regardless of weather.

      Access from Route 20 was abandoned because of concerns involving the environment and possible Native American sites. That prompted some voters to ask for a delay until spring Town Meeting to allow time for adequate research, including completing preliminary studies.

      Ultimately the proponents’ argument came down to: It’s time to do something. Putting a band-aid on the old building is a waste of money. Further delay will drive costs higher. If construction begins next March, the new facility is expected to be completed in 2015.

      Some opponents called attention to serious problems and cost overruns when the new Public Safety Building, the Baldwin water treatment plant and the Town Center were built. Proponents said the new Permanent Municipal Building Committee was created to foster better performance. The committee comprises experts in design and construction. Voters will be watching for evidence of that.

      Article 3: $25,000 for CPC administration

      With no discussion, residents voted 534-26 to allow the Community Preservation Committee to use $25,000 of its own reserves for such things as property appraisals and organization dues.

      Article 4: Conservation Restriction

      The vote was 527-61 -- nearly a 90% majority -- and applause followed. The Community Preservation Committee will use $2.4 million from its reserves, accrued through a small surcharge on property taxes, to protect 22.6 acres known as the Lincoln Road fields from development forever.

      Speakers described the land as one of the most beautiful vistas in Wayland; like looking at 1850, as one said.

      One voter questioned the cost, saying that the acreage is assessed now at less than $1 million. A proponent explained that the price is based on an outside appraisal of development potential, assuming that the land could be divided into lots for five residences, while the assessors’ valuation was based on its current use as “excess land.”

      Another question: Will those vistas always be there? Answer: The land has been farmed for many years. The current owner uses parts of the land for haying. In the future, other crops could be planted, so it could be different, but the detailed restriction agreement offers protection against crops tall enough to destroy views.

      After hearing praise of the easy access to the Lincoln Fields along unpaved roads and the 15-foot-wide trails maintained by mowing, the chairman of the Conservation Commission left the crowd with a caution: The owner can deny access if the public abuses the property. Visitors have displaced stones from old walls, he said, and littered the area. Don’t do that, he warned.

      -- WVN Staff


      The Wayland Community Fund, which provides help to financially struggling residents, says it needs money.

      With a recent upturn in requests for assistance, the fund expects to run short of money in the next few months, says Chairman Mike Patterson.

      The fund provides help with utilities, rent, food, medical expenses and other items. All-volunteer, the fund has no overhead or administrative fees. The fund has provided $398,000 in assistance since its founding..

      Checks (tax deductible) payable to the Wayland Community Fund can be sent to Wayland Town Building, 41 Cochituate Road, Wayland MA 01778. More information:

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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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