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Thread: Will Site Pollution Delay Town Ctr. Commercial Development?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Far north Wayland
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    10

    Default Will Site Pollution Delay Town Ctr. Commercial Development?

    Can anyone clarify?
    Something that one of the candidates for Planning Board, Susan Koffman, said at the Candidates Night a couple of weeks ago has been bothering me since last weekend when we watched it on Waycam. I thought I'd ask this discussion board for opinions on her statements (we Tivo'd it and I just replayed it so that I could try to get the gist of her remarks right).

    Ms. Koffman said that she is bothered by the current Zoning Change that we will be voting on this Wednesday at Special Town Meeting because it will require that 100 units of housing be built first before any commercial use of the Town Center project can take place. She said that the current developer is restricted by the deed which Raytheon granted to use the site for residential or recreation use. She said that commercial development there may be delayed for a very long time while "cleanup continues". She would have liked the situation better if there had been no housing involved at all.

    So in other words what I think she said was:
    1. The site is deed restricted to forbid residential and recreational use because of pollution.
    2. Housing cannot be built there (or occupied?) until the site is cleaned up (including the alternative 40B?).
    3. The new zoning change (Article 2 at Wed. meeting) will require that the housing be built first (or occupied?) before the commercial stores can open (or be built?).
    4. The site may sit unoccupied for years due to the Raytheon pollution.

    These statements were not disputed by the other two candidates, though there was very little time in which to do so in that forum that we saw anyway on the Waycam broadcast. So first of all is she right? If so basically, what are the details of this whole thing (in laymans terms please)? What can the developer really build there and occupy immediately? Could he really even build (occupy) the 40B project? I know they originally wanted to put that 40B housing over by the river side of the site because they said it would have the better views, etc., but were they really trying to avoid the part of the parcel that was restricted due to the pollution? Is the restriction just over part of the 50+ acres? Why does, if it really does, the zoning change include the requirement that the housing be built (and/or occupied?) first? Who's idea was that? How big is the risk that this whole site will sit empty? Is the risk the same for the proposed 40B option? Can anyone shine some light on this whole topic?

    I really support the Town Center Project and maybe I missed some discussions on these matters that would clear this stuff up. I just thought it might be better to know about these details before the Special Town Meeting debate than for them all to surface at the meeting. I wish I'd gotten around to submitting this earlier in the week.
    Thanks.

    P.S. On a slightly different topic, traffic, I clearly heard the developer say at one of the Selectmen's meetings earlier this year that the 40B proposal they showed only developed part of the property with the housing, and that they would be deciding what could/would be done with the other part of the site (many acres remaining) at some time in the future. Did any of the traffic studies consider that the 40B proposal is not the whole and final use of the site and that the unknown future of the remainder of the site might add a lot more vehicles in and out of the site in the future? Seems like that never gets mentioned in comparing the two options.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Default

    Hi Peg,

    I posed your question to the Developer, and received the following reply:
    Under MUOD Section 198-2306.1, the Planning Board has discretion to impose conditions on any grant of a special permit in the MUOD. Such conditions must be reasonable. The very first enumerated condition in that Section is for phasing of construction: Section 198-2306.1.1 reads, "[a] phasing schedule for construction of each component part of the project which ensures integration of residential, non-residential, and municipal uses."

    Under this provision, the Planning Board has discretion to impose a reasonable phasing schedule. Thus, if there were in fact any delay in Raytheon's approval of residential uses, when imposing any phasing schedule the Planning Board would have to take that delay into account, just as it will have to take into account the Town's timing for using the municipal parcel.

    It is, to put it politely, incorrect to say that the commercial space could not proceed under these imagined circumstances. In the first place, under the zoning, any phasing requirement is within the discretion of the Planning Board. Second, for such a scenario to occur the Planning Board would have to impose a phasing condition that actually makes the commercial development impossible under such circumstances. But the Planning Board cannot do that because it is required to be reasonable in imposing conditions (including, obviously, any condition for construction phasing). Hence the scenario is a complete fiction.

    That being said, in the real world the property owners are not laboring under any doubt that Raytheon will follow through on the discussions we have had with them and allow residential development in a timely fashion. This should be apparent enough from the fact that both alternatives for the site include residential uses.
    I hope this answers your questions. If you (or anyone else) has other questions, please email me or post them here, and I will do my best to get an answer for you.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    1

    Default

    Here are the facts:

    The abutting 40B residential development (Wayland Commons) is governed by the same Raytheon title restriction. That project is fully approved and awaiting Raytheonís final blessing. Raytheon is working in good faith with both developers. According to the property owners Raytheon has been completely encouraging and given no indication to either developer that they will not approve residential use for both projects.

    The property will require approximately 18 months of permitting before any residential or commercial construction can commence. Within that timeframe the on-going remediation will be completed and all necessary approvals will be secured from Raytheon, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) and the US EPA.

    Raytheon has cleaned up the proposed residential area. The property owner is working on getting the final legal documents signed to secure the releases from DEP and USEPA.

    The property owner purchased the property last August knowing the environmental issues and their redevelopment plans. They would not have acquired the property for $23 Million and proposed a $100 Million project if the environmental issues could not be addressed in a safe and timely manner.

    The vacant office building is not worth $23 Million. They would not have secured financing for the $23 Million acquisition if the development program was not feasible, including securing necessary environmental clearances.

    There are no environmental issues that would preclude the current office buildings from being re-occupied today as allowed by current zoning.

    I hope this answers your questions.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Far north Wayland
    Posts
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    Default Thanks for your replies, sounds more promising

    Thanks Kim and PGreene. Your responses make this sound much more promising. I assume town officials agree with your (& developer's) interpretations of the state of the pollution resolution and the zoning change. It would be nice to know that they concur.

    I am still wondering why Ms. Koffman thought that the residential use would have to come first. Was this discussed at a Planning Board meeting? Is there any chance the planning board would actually delay, via phasing, the commercial until the residential could go forward? I guess maybe this would be considered unreasonable and therefore could not happen?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    1

    Default Responding to original question

    I wanted to respond to Ms. Obermiller's thoughtful question on my statement at Candidates' Night.

    As the bylaw is written now, the Mixed-Use Project is a mix of residential, service, office, retail, and municipal uses. (See Section 198-2302 "Definitions".) No Master Special Permit can be granted if the Mixed-Use Project is not in compliance with the Section 2309 performance standards. (See Section 2304.3.3., which states: "No MUP Master Special Permit shall be granted unless the Mixed-Use Project is in compliance with the performance standards set forth in Section 198-2309.") One of those performance standards requires the Mixed-Use Project to include residential AND non-residential buildings. (See Section 2309.2.1.3., which states: "A Mixed-Use Project shall include residential buildings and buildings with multiple non-residential uses and a mix of buildings containing single or multiple establishments.")

    It is true that Section 2306.1 reiterates the Planning Board's statutory power to impose conditions on the special permit, including the power to set a "phasing schedule for construction of each component part of the project which ensures integration of residential, non-residential, and municipal uses." I read all of these sections together to indicate that the Mixed-Use Project MUST contain both residences and commercial buildings, not just the shopping center portion. This interpretation is also consistent with the numerous statements made by members of the Planning Board at multiple meetings, indicating that the residential component must be built hand-in-hand with the commercial component. Otherwise, they indicated, this would not be a mixed-use development. The purpose of Section 2306.1.1. was to insure that the Planning Board could set a construction schedule REQUIRING construction of the residences along with the commerical portion.

    The financial analysis is based on full build-out, including both the residences and the stores. Without the residences, the financial impact is different. (Judi Barrett, the town's financial consultant, said at the public hearing that one way to IMPROVE the fiscal impacts is to reduce the commercial component and increase the residential component.)

    My concern about whether the residential portion will be delayed by the site's contamination comes from several sources. I attended the hearing last October, when the Raytheon representatives said that the clean-up could take as long as another 15 years. I was also told by a former member of the Board of Selectman, just this past Saturday, that the Raytheon representative in Sudbury (Ed Madera) had--within the last month--reiterated that likelihood. (I understand that PGreene believes that the clean-up has been complete. That information has not been publicly disseminated yet.) The former selectone thought the developer would come back to Town Meeting in the future and ask that the residential portion be located somewhere else in town, because of the pollution on the site.

    The other replies in this thread mention the 48-unit 40B development that the Wayland ZBA has approved for the eastern portion of the site. I believe that the activity-and-use limitation (which is the deed restriction Raytheon included with its original deed and which forbids residential, recreational, and child-care uses on designated portions of the site) does not bind this portion of the land. The pollution is primarily near the existing office building and trafeling in the groundwater in a plume, heading west toward the Sudbury River and away from the new 40B.

    As for Ms. Obermiller's query about whether the rest of the site could be developed if the developer goes ahead with the 200-unit 40B, bear in mind that ALL USES on the site are restricted by the available wastewater-treatment capacity. Even the 40B plans filed by the developer earlier this year cannot be built as shown, because they show more bedrooms than the wastewater-treatment capacity will allow.

    Certainly the phasing schedule has to be reasonable. But it would hardly be unreasonable to require that the residential component be a "sure thing" and not just a paper plan; to require evidence of when Raytheon is releasing the activity-and-use limitation; and to require that construction under a mixed-use overlay district actually be for mixed uses.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Far north Wayland
    Posts
    10

    Default Thanks for your explanation

    Ms. Koffman,

    Thanks for directly responding to my questions. Though I have not kept up with all the planning board meetings and the actual bylaw wording, your explanation was clear and I think I now understand why you have the concerns you have. This pollution business is a messy affair. Until all parties and agencies have "blessed" this site for residential use, we have to have some level of concern that this is not yet a done deal. I certainly hope the optomism of the developer, owner, and many in town concerning the site contamination proves to be reality.

    The other option being considered, the 40B plan, has the same pollution problem as the mixed use option in this respect. Therefore, I see no reason to not support the current proposed town center concept. The bylaw requirement on mixed use seems like it is also the right thing to do with the site from the town's point of view. Most folks want that if we can get it so I guess there is a feeling that we should try.

    I assume that if the worst case scenerio should come to pass and the site cannot be used for residential for many years, then it seems it would be within the town's power to alter the zoning once again to just do commercial there? (Am I correct?) I think the town could live with that if it has to.

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