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Thread: WaylandeNews Editorial: Public Improvements and Private Desires

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Default WaylandeNews Editorial on Article 5: Public Improvements and Private Desires

    WaylandeNews Editorial on Article 5 of Special Town Meeting

    Public Improvements and Private Desires
    by the WaylandeNews Editorial Board

    In 2001, Wayland approved adoption of the Community Preservation Act (CPA). This authorized the Town to levy a 1.5% tax surcharge, matched dollar for dollar by State funds, to be spent on open space (including recreation), historic resources or community housing. As of August 2006, Wayland's unexpended CPA funds had a balance of $3.7 million, and the Town receives about $720,000 of new CPA funds each year, including State matching.

    Article 5 of Special Town Meeting proposes to use up to $300,000 of CPA funds, or approximately 8% of the current balance, toward the installation of a $1 million artificial turf field at the high school, with the $700,000 balance paid by private donations. This proposal should be a no-brainer, with the Town paying $150,000 of funds already set aside (plus$150,000 in State matching funds) for a $1 million asset that would be used by thousands of athletes of all ages over its 10-12 year useful life. However, in Wayland, even a gift can trigger controversy.

    Vocal opponents cite a variety of legal and environmental reasons, none of which have been proven. The Town has received not one but two legal opinions verifying that the use of CPA funds as proposed is legal, and the CPA statute expressly contemplates expenditures for active recreational uses with specific reference to adult and youth sports and athletic fields. As for the supposed threat to our water, the Chairman of the Water Commission has stated in a public meeting that he has no concerns. The Community Preservation Committee has voted in favor of the project (5-2), as has the Finance Committee (5-0), Board of Selectmen (4-0), School Committee (5-0), and Park and Recreation Commission (5-0). The Conservation Commission’s review of the proposal will not be completed until after Special Town Meeting, so the Article's passage may be made contingent on Conservation Commission approval.

    So, if the economics are obviously advantageous, there are no apparent health concerns, and all of the above committees have voted their support, why the opposition? It appears primarily based on the feeling among some residents that they simply don't want to see CPA funds applied toward this type of project. When the CPA was adopted, individual voters may have envisioned something other than turf - buying vacant land or investing in affordable housing, for example. If you ask any five voters why they supported adoption of the CPA, you will likely get five different answers.

    The core question we must ask ourselves is not whether we personally want to see CPA funds spent on this proposal but rather whether we are sufficiently fair minded as a community to recognize that CPA funds were never intended, statutorily or by vote, to serve any specific constituency.

    Our failure to achieve fair mindedness could have grave implications. What happens when we are faced with an opportunity to build affordable housing and a group of residents organizes around their preference to apply funds to the anticipated purchase of a substantial open space? Or an opportunity arises to restore a historic structure and a group of residents organizes around their preference to expend funds on affordable housing instead?

    In order to succeed in applying CPA funds to achieve the broad good for which they were intended, residents must come to terms with the notion that while their personal preferences may be relevant, they cannot necessarily be dispositive with regard to any one proposal or the broad purpose of CPA will fail. If it becomes the practice to vote in favor of CPA funds only for our personal first priority, then every time there is a CPA proposal there would likely be a great big fight over it, and any expenditure would be more likely to fail regardless of whether it falls within the intent of the CPA.

    A final note: raising $700,000 in private donations is no small feat. It is highly likely that the success of future projects in Town will hinge on substantial private contributions. Article 5 presents a wonderful opportunity, using funds already set aside, to create a public asset with substantial private support, and its success can help create momentum for private support of other projects such as the library, high school, community center or a major land purchase.

    Please consider voting yes on Article 5 at Special Town Meeting on Thursday night.
    Last edited by Ian Hecker; 11-08-2006 at 10:50 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005

    Default Metrowest Daily News Editorial

    WaylandeNews wrote an editorial supporting the use of CPA funds for the artificial turf. The MetroWest Daily News disagrees, and they wrote an editorial against the use of the turf.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 12-03-2006 at 11:55 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Metrowest Editorial on Turf Fields

    I think the editoral is full of useful facts and misguided opinions.

    The Community Preservation Act created the basis for communities to build a fund to be used locally. This fund is locally managed by a committee that was created and structured as the result of our passage of a law. All funding applications must be made to this committee. There is no state entity that approves decisions made locally. The portion of the state government that has an advisory role on the CPA is the Department of Revenue. The DOR does not have an oversight role but an advisory role, they leave the final decision up to the local community. In our case a town meeting vote is required to authorize expenditures of the fund. The editorial states "70 percent [of the fund] can be allocated to the expansion of recreational opportunities". These are facts.

    A turf field at our high school will expand recreational opportunities. In fact the expanded use of the field led a group of opponents to claim that the extra use of the field would create a risk to our water supply. If there was no expansion of recreational opportunities then why would more vehicles be at the field creating the environmental risk described by some local environmental hobbyists?

    The use of the field as described in the editoral is solely for high school football. This is a misguided opinion. It has been stated that this field will now be able to be used by multiple teams from multiple sports almost year round. This includes town soccer and lacrosse teams not just high school sports teams and certainly not just high school football.

    Wayland voters approved this funding for a legitimate use. Why is there a lawsuit against it and why in that lawsuit do the plaintiffs ask for their legal expenses to be covered by the town? Is that a legitimate use of our tax dollars?


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