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  1. #1
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    Default The Town Center is Dead

    This is an outrage and we can not let 4 people ruin what a Town Meeting record turn out accomplished. They should be held accountable. Please see the following from SOS. Town Center Project is Dead
    Jan 18, 2007


    In This Issue...


    Town Center - The Facts

    Options Moving Forward

    What You Can Do - Let Your Voice Be Heard

    SOS: Mission




    Dear Friends,
    Despite a record turnout and an 80% majority vote at Town Meeting last April, the Town Center project is dead - and with it a key piece of the Finance Committee's long range plan to provide adequate revenue to maintain services without annual overrides.

    While much can be debated about what brought the project to its current state, the facts are clear about where we stand now. We need to explore the alternatives to salvage this critical project.

    Please read below for the facts, some options we are evaluating and what you can do.

    Save Our Services

    Lori Frieling, Paulette Greene, Cynthia Lavenson and Lisa Valone

    If you have questions, comments or would like to help, please email info@soswayland.org.





    Town Center - The Facts


    Tuesday night 1/16 , the developer spoke at the Board of Selectmen's meeting and said they will no longer pursue the Town Center project. Their primary reason was that the leadership of critical boards (Planning Board and Board of Road Commissioners) was not allowing for a process that is expeditious and fair.
    The Finance Committee's Long Range Plan to maintain services and avoid annual overrides has 6 key steps and includes "Expand our commercial tax base (town center)".The Finance Committee Chair reiterated this during public comment at the 1/16 meeting.
    Potential Revenue Critical - The Finance Committee determined that using the property for a mixed use development (town center) rather than a 40(B) project would provide the greatest net revenue for the town.
    The Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen support this project and have backed it since before Special Town Meeting in May 2006.
    Record turnout at the May 2006 Special Town Meeting lead to an 80% majority vote in favor of developing a Town Center.
    Due to the by-law passed at Special Town Meeting the Planning Board (PB) is the permit granting authority for the Master Special Permit Process for Town Center.
    The current chair of the PB, along with the associate member, have opposed Town Center since it was first conceived. The associate member and chair of the PB drive much of the process and set the tone for the meetings.
    The property of the Town Center site is owned by the Congress Group and KGI Properties. If town boards do not provide an open, expeditious and fair process, it is the owner's right to opt for a different use of the property. Developing another project such as a 40(B) would require much less interaction with the town than the Town Center project .




    Options Moving Forward


    Change the Leadership of the Critical Boards - People have asked us if it is possible to call for the resignation of the chair. We are not clear on the legal aspects of this. The chair is elected by 3 out of 5 votes of the full members and a vote can be initiated by any member of the board at any time.
    Change the Members of the Critical Boards - Positions are up for election in April. We could elect qualified candidates with relevant work or board experience who could garner the 3 votes needed to be chair and see if the town could bring the developers back to the table.
    Change the Authorizing Board for the Project - concerned citizens have posed the question if this is possible. A grass roots effort resulting in a petitioner's article could be filed that would shift the oversight to another board, for example the Board of Selectmen or Zoning Board of Appeals. This would require a 2/3 majority vote at a Special Town Meeting at the end of April.
    Sit back and do nothing (not an option in our view!) - the developers will most likely evaluate the current market and decide whether to go ahead with an alternative such as a 40(B) housing project that will generate far less tax revenue for the town. The town will lose out on a major revenue stream which will be felt beginning in 2009 and services will be cut if overrides of correct magnitude are not passed.




    What You Can Do - Let Your Voice Be Heard

    Email Town Boards:

    Board of Selectmen at selectmen@wayland.ma.us. Members are: Joe Nolan (chair) Michael Tichnor, Bill Whitney, Doug Leard and Alan Reiss. (all emails will be printed and distributed to all five members)
    Planning Board - c/o Joe Laydon (town planner) jlaydon@wayland.ma.us Board members are: Albert Montague, Daniel Mesnick, Lawrence Stabile, Christopher Seveney, Lynne Dunbrack (chair) and Anette Lewis (associate member)
    Finance Committee - c/o Michael Dipietro (town finance director) mdipietro@wayland.ma.us Committee members are: Cherry Karlson(chair), Christopher Riley, Charles D'Ambrosio, Bob Lentz, Sam Peper, Richard Stack, Karl Geiger.

    Speak at public meetings:
    Click here for schedule and agendas at town's web site

    Next Planning Board Meeting is Monday, January 22nd at 7:30 at Town Building (agenda will by posted by Jan 19 at noon so you can check the time of public comment).
    Next Board of Selectmen's Meeting will be on Tuesday, January 23 at 7 p.m. in Town Building and public comment is usually at the beginning, but check the agenda on the Town website.
    Next Finance Committee Meeting has not yet been posted.

    If you can't attend meetings, watch cable channel 9 for live and rerun video of meetings. For a schedule, go to www.wayland.ma.us/WayCAM/listings.htm WAYCAM does a great job covering these meetings.

    Write a Letter to the Editor of the Crier - the deadline is Monday at noon. Email Mike Wyner at Mwyner@cnc.com.

    Let us know what you think and if you can help - either cc info@soswayland.org when you write the boards or email us directly.



    SOS: Mission

    Save Our Services is a grass roots coalition with a far-reaching mission to preserve Wayland's services and quality of life by exploring ways to:

    Increase state and federal aid and lessen mandates that restrict our flexibility to reduce costs
    Explore alternative revenue sources to fund all services
    Relieve the tax burden on our residents through an expanded commercial tax base
    Draw on the expertise of residents in the areas of rationalizing costs in support of the FY 2007 Ad Hoc Budget Committee.






    Email: info@soswayland.org
    http://www.soswayland.org













    SOS Wayland | P.O. Box 151 | Wayland | MA | 01778

  2. #2
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    Default Throw da bums out?

    I agree with you, Craig. The outcome of the special Town Meeting and ballot initiative signaling the intentions of the people of Wayland to go forward with the development of the Town Center could not have been clearer.

    Unless someone can offer up some very convincing reasons for the delays and obstacles, we can only conclude that the current impasse signals either deliberate stonewalling or incompetence or both by the members of the Planning Board, in which case they need to be replaced.

  3. #3
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    Default the Town Center is NOT dead

    The Developer is simply playing hardball. Since November, the Developer has been continuously delaying their Master Special Permit application in search of one concession or another. The latest? A request that the Planning Board reopen the Concept Plan process in order to first reach an understanding on the number of access points.

    In a letter to the Planning Board, Board of Selectmen, and Board of Road Commissioners dated January 9, 2007, the Developer said

    "In closing, we want to recognize and thank Planning Board members, staff, and other Town officials for the countless hours and efforts to date they have expended on behalf of the Town in connection with the Town Center proposal, and for those yet to come."

    The next evening, the Developer withdrew from the Project. A week later, the Developer blamed this withdrawal on lack of support from the Planning Board, but without specifics.

    "Divide and Conquer" is a well-known business tactic, but many appear to be falling for it hook, line, and sinker. If we give the Developer free reign, we'll get what they want, not what we need: a Town Center where we can shop and meet friends, a Town Center that generates substantial tax revenues, and a Town Center that fits into Wayland without disruption.

    To achieve this, we need all of the Town's Boards working together effectively to manage the Project, not blaming each other or voicing desparation -- both of which only encourage the Developer to play even harder ball.

    Dave Bernstein

  4. #4
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    Default PB should commit to making TC happen

    I don't think it seems unrealistic to determine number of access points...

    As far as the letter, I have to say I am impressed that the Developer still had it in him to be so cordial! He clearly is thanking them all for the "countless hours and efforts", not support and follow-through!

    I don't think anyone is saying we should give the Developer "free reign". That is quite different from what I believe the townspeople are looking for...a positive approach by the PB to overcome barriers. I think we all understand the PB needs to provide us due diligence, but they don't see the forest from the trees. More specifically, I believe the Chair and Associate Member's goal is to hinder the TC, not enable it. It appears that it is a personal crusade to keep the project from happening and I can only think it stems from a serious overall negative attitude toward sensible progress for Wayland.

    If you and others truly believe that we "need a TC where we can shop and meet friends and generate substantial tax revenues", then please urge the PB to find creative negotiation strategies that evaluate our best interests, while working with Developers to MAKE THIS PROJECT HAPPEN!
    "Without disruption"? I don't think anything that happens will be without disruption--unfortunately the town does not own the land, but I have seen huge efforts and suggestions toward mitigating disruption, by the Developers and BOS.

    No plan will be perfect, but as with anything else in life, you do your best to maximize the benefits and minimize the risk---but you keep moving forward. After the TC vote, I believe it is our Boards duty to negotiate this, using full comittment toward MAKING IT HAPPEN in the best way possible. I don't see that from 2 or 3 Board members and that is what is causing the outrage in town. They need to let go of their biases toward change and understand that yes, we all love our rural Wayland, but we also understand the need for comm. tax base, the private ownership of property, and the stress on our schools and public services. PB needs to find a way to work with the Developers to create the best TC possible and stop trying to "protect" us to the detriment of what the majority believes is the right thing to do.

  5. #5
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    Default re: the Town Center is NOT dead

    Yes, its realistic to determine number of access points. This determination is to be made as part of the Master Special Permit (MSP) process -- to which the Developer agreed at the outset of the project. Choosing between one and two access points requires significant measurement and study of current traffic conditions in order to forecast the Town Center's likely traffic impact in both configurations, and to forecast the effectiveness of mitigation techniques in each case. At the Board of Selectmen's public "Town Center Traffic" meeting on January 10, the Town's traffic consultant made it clear that the appropriate measurement and study had not yet begun.

    By asking to reopen the Concept Planning process and reach an understanding on the number of access points BEFORE making their MSP application, the Developer is threatening a significant delay in the project . The only way the town can avoid this delay is by agreeing to the Developer's desired access configuration without measurement or study. This is the Developer playing hardball. If the Town caves on this issue, the Developer will employ similar tactics on every subsequent issue of substance: "let us have our way, or we'll delay your pot of gold."

    Should the Planning Board (and other Town Boards) simply roll over and do whatever the Developer wants?

    In your post, you say "I believe the Chair and Associate Member's goal is to hinder the TC, not enable it", but you offer nothing in support of this claim. Exactly what is it that the Planning Board Chair and Associate Member have done or not done to hinder the Town Center project? Please be specific.

    Yes, building the Town Center will be disruptive; everyone understands that. When we voted for the Town Center, we agreed to use the MSP process to work through the issues and find the right balance. Not everyone will be happy with the results, but if the process is followed they will have had their say and a decision will have been reached in a timely fashion. The Board of Selectmen's Town Center Traffic meeting on January 10 was not part of the MSP process (because the Developer has yet to apply!), but was a first step in this direction; it was going quite well until the Developer strode to the podium and withdrew from the project.

  6. #6
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    Default Question

    Can anyone provide specifics as to what the Planning Board, Road Commissioners, or any other Town officials have done to impede development of the Town Center in the manner approved by the Town?

  7. #7
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    Default The demise of Town Center

    One only needs to attend a couple of Planning Board meetings to realize that the tone set by the Chair and the Associate Member have undermined the project. In addition to unprofessional demeanor, yes, swearing and riduculing of the Developers, the Chair's inability to commit to a schedule, the Board's perpetual rehashing of issues, and currently, the Chair's assertions that the Developers have pulled out because the market has turned and they can't lease space reflect a deep-rooted 'anti-development' attitude.

    None of the members of the Planning Board are professionally trained. They are town volunteers. And while I fully respect that they have volunteered for the town and given countless hours, they have failed to understand the most basic limitation: that they are not professionally trained. Given this, they should hire professionals and let these hired consultants advise them. Instead, they have second guessed Town Counsel and other professionals, and are not letting professional opinions steer them.

  8. #8
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    Post re: The demise of Town Center

    "Tone" is subjective. We can all agree that the interaction among Town Boards and the Developer is suboptimal, but this is likely a symptom of deeper problems, rather than the root cause. There are many examples of business arrangements whose magnitudes dwarf the Town Center project being successfully executed by organizations that absolutely despised each other. Thus "tone" cannot be the smoking gun that places responsibility for the Developer's actions on members of the Planning Board.

    Like "tone", "perpetual rehashing of issues" is also subjective. While some may perceive this behavior as counterproductive, others might characterize it is as "assiduous attention to detail". Establishing clarity during a project's early stages is without question good business practice; the devil is most certainly in the details. Unless you can provide examples of malicious behavior, "perpetual rehashing of issues" isn't a smoking gun either.

    Regarding "Failure to commit to a schedule", I have the correspondence between the Developer and the Planning board. Here's an excerpt from the Developer's letter to the Planning Board dated January 9th:

    "You will recall that we delayed our original November 1, 2006 MSP filing date in order to allow the additional time that the Planning Board desired in order to allow the additional time the Planning Board desired to complete its determination of on the Concept Plan and in light of the lack of a committed schedule on the Planning Board members at that time. When issued, the Concept Plan determination did not address traffic issues because the traffic study we submitted on September 15, 2006 did not include the travel time assessment, which we were able to complete and submit thereafter, on December 8, 2006. In addition, we needed to be permitted to engage in discussions with the Town traffic consultant to reconcile and respond effectively to the myriad requirements of the Development Agreement, MUOD By-Law, Concept Plan and MSP rules and Regulations and the Finds and Determination on the Concept Plan. Among the further delaying factors were the lack of other technical consultants to be hired by the Town and the need for the Planning Board, while attending to higher profile needs, to also prepare the application form required under the MSP rules and regulations and to correct certain errors in those ruls and regulations as published. These delays have been resolved, but it has become increasingly clear to us and, we believe, the Town, that a preliminary understanding on the question of access from Route 27 is needed prior to the MSP submittal".

    Taking the Developer at his word, this excerpt indicates that delays were contributed by both parties. It also indicates that as of January 9 -- the day before the Developer withdrew -- that these delays had been resolved. The Developer's letter goes on to request a much larger delay in the submission of the Developer's MSP application: reaching an understanding on the number of access roads.

    After-the-fact speculation from the Planning Board's Chair regarding the rationale behind the Developer's action cannot have been a cause of that action.

    As for the lack of training, the Planning Board asked the Selectmen to retain a professional project manager, a request on which no action was taken. This does not sound like a board unwilling to accept professional help. To substantiate the claim, please cite examples where the board ignored professional advice or second-guessed Town Counsel.

    With the continued absence of specifics, the most recent post post increasingly confirms my suspicion that the allegations blaming a few people for thwarting the Town's have no basis in fact.

  9. #9
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    Default Losing It

    Like most people in Wayland, I’m looking forward to a Town Center that provides a place to shop and meet friends, that increases tax revenues, and that fits into our community without disruption. I was encouraged by the Developer’s pro-active attitude toward traffic management, and so attended the recent traffic-oriented meetings of the Board of Selectmen and Board of Road Commissioners. There I witnessed first-hand the events of January 10, when the Developer strode to the podium and withdrew from the project, and the events of January 16, when the Developer further explained this decision before the Board of Selectmen. I have reviewed letters exchanged by the Town Boards and the Developer, and have spoken with several of the principals. My conclusion: the Developer is playing hardball. Their recent actions employ two well-known business tactics: “gun to the head”, and “divide and conquer”.

    The Master Special Permit (MSP) process cannot begin until the Developer submits an application. That application was promised on November 15, but has been continuously delayed by the Developer – not by the action or inaction of any Town Board. On January 9, the Developer sent a letter to the Planning Board stating its intent to further delay its MSP application until an understanding on the number of access roads could be reached; the Developer requested that this be accomplished by re-opening the Concept Plan process. By threatening to further delay its MSP application, the Developer put a gun to the Town’s head: either concede to the Developer’s strong preference for two access roads before beginning the MSP process, or suffer a significant delay in the project’s financial and community benefits.

    By explicitly blaming its withdrawal on the Planning Board and Road Commissioners, the Developer has driven a wedge between those boards and the Selectmen – seriously degrading the Town’s ability to manage the project, and turning hardworking volunteers into scapegoats. This attempt at “divide and conquer” was poorly executed, in that the Developer’s public explanation on January 16 offered no evidence of obstruction or malicious behavior; instead, it comprised a stream of vague intimations, not one with enough substance to begin a “how could we fix it?” discussion. Amazingly, it worked! The Selectmen expressed outrage that a small number of individuals could thwart the Town’s will. We’ve seen this cry echoed in newsletters, on web sites, and in letters to local newspaper editors. But like the Developer’s original rant, such claims bear no substance or specifics – they only repeat an accusation unsupported by facts.

    The Developer must be thrilled. They’ve whipped up a virtual lynch mob intent on doing whatever it takes to bring them back to the table. They know exactly what buttons to push whenever a concession is needed. Are we going to fall for this? Its time for thoughtful and deliberate action, not for emotional outrage directed at convenient scapegoats.

    If we give the Developer free rein, we’ll get what they want, not what we need. Playing hardball doesn’t make them bad guys -- they have profit objectives and investors to satisfy – but does highlight the need for strong project management. Wayland’s citizens voted to manage the Town Center project with an MSP process – a task that requires the concerted efforts of the Town Boards working together, not throwing each other under the bus. If we cave in to the Developer’s manipulation and ignore the poison spreading through our Town government, we’ll lose a lot more than the Town Center.

  10. #10
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    Default Looking for Specifics

    Dave,

    You were looking for specifics regarding the Town Center situation, and I thought I would respond by summarizing the letter the Selectmen wrote to the Town Crier on February 1. I have included the complete text of the letter as well.

    Here's my summary:
    * The current chair and Associate Member have publicly voted against the zoning by-law twice
    * The by-law requires a 4/5 vote to pass
    * If the Associate Member is allowed to vote, there would be two members who have publicly opposed the project who would be able to vote
    * If a Planning Board member misses two hearings on the MSRP, they cannot vote
    * One Planning Board member had missed nine consecutive meetings during a period in which the current chair was pushing the developer to file (and start hearings)
    * The current chair became chair during an unusual changeover from the previous board. While the new chair is usually elected after town elections, the chair was this time elected BEFORE them, not allowing one of the current board members to participate in the selection of his chair.
    * The conduct of certain, but by no means all, of the Planning Board members toward the project proponents was discourteous and dismissive, deteriorating occasionally into profanity. (As I understand it, the board has conducted meetings in such a way as to make it very difficult for the developers - taking agenda items out of sequence, discussing items not on the agenda, waiting until the developer has left very late in the evening before beginning discussion of relevant items.)

    I'll add to this that the chair wrote in a letter to the Crier: "With respect to this particular zoning bylaw, special permit applications that comply with the relevant regulatory requirements must be approved. There is no discretion in that regard. As an elected official, I have a legal obligation to carry out the duties and responsibilities of my office and I intend to do so."

    This is simply not true. If it were true, the Planning Board would have a checklist, walk through it as regards the application and determine factually whether or not the project passes. However, there is always a subjective element. A member can vote against it if they have a "reasonable" concern, perhaps they view traffic impacts as too great. What is too great, 10%, 20%, 100%? That's obviously subjective. If a member wants to vote no, there will be nothing stopping them.

    So, here's the very short version: if the developers submit their application, and it is denied, they cannot apply again for two years, a period they cannot afford to wait. If they apply while there are two board members that have publicly declared their opposition, they are virtually guaranteeing they will fail. Reasonable conclusion: they cannot apply with the current composition of the board.


    Here's the full text of the Selectmen's letter:

    Selectmen committed to fair review
    By Board of Selectmen

    The Wayland Board of Selectmen is taking this unusual step of writing as a board to respond to the public comment of Jan. 23 and the guest column written by Lynne Dunbrack in the Jan. 25 edition of The Wayland Town Crier ("Board upholding bylaw and due process"). We are loath to criticize the work of other Wayland residents who volunteer their time to serve on town boards. However, Ms. Dunbrack’s guest column is sufficiently replete with speculation and omissions of fact as to require correction.

    The Mixed Use Overlay District zoning bylaw was adopted overwhelmingly at the spring 2006 annual Town Meeting, the most heavily attended such meeting in memory. That bylaw stipulated the allowable land uses (residential, retail and office), the permitted density of each use, the permitted floor area and building heights, number and sizes of stores, permitted signage and the other substantive land use and dimensional controls for the development. Therefore, what could be built was approved by Town Meeting, and how the project would be arranged on the site was to be worked out in the Master Special Permit process.

    We agree with Ms. Dunbrack that while the Concept Plan review was long and arduous, it was completed by the Planning Board and the developer with a good outcome. The conceptual site plan for the development initially submitted was reviewed at a community design forum, and revised by the developer in ways responsive to the feedback received.

    We also agree that the Planning Board spent many, many hours in meetings late into the night parsing virtually every sentence of the draft regulations governing the Master Special Permit submission. Unfortunately, the developer’s representatives and consultants were afforded very limited opportunity to participate in the Planning Board’s discussions concerning the draft regulations. Also, the conduct of certain, but by no means all, of the Planning Board members toward the project proponents was discourteous and dismissive, deteriorating occasionally into profanity.

    It is important for the Town Crier’s readers to understand that in the next stage of development review, the Master Special Permit, different ground rules apply. Under state law, a Master Special Permit must be approved by a minimum four-fifths majority of the Planning Board after a series of public hearings. Further, only those elected members of the board who participate in all but one session of the hearings on the Master Special Permit are eligible to vote on the actual permit approval.

    In the event that an elected member of the board is ineligible to vote, the board chair may designate the associate member of the board to vote on the Master Special Permit. Previously, both Ms. Dunbrack and the associate member of the board, Anette Lewis, voted against the zoning bylaw in two town meetings, and publicly expressed opposition to the rezoning for this project.

    Also, we should remember that Ms. Dunbrack was elected chair of the Planning Board under extraordinary and unprecedented circumstances in 2006, i.e., she was elected chair with the slimmest possible majority before the expiration of the term of the former chair and before the election of an incoming member, thus depriving the new member the opportunity to vote for the chair. In doing so, the Planning Board placed a member who opposed the adoption of the zoning bylaw amendment in the position of managing the development review process.

    The project proponents became concerned about the likelihood that each of the elected members of the Planning Board would be eligible to vote on the Master Special Permit application due to the possibility of missing more than one public hearing. This was not a theoretical concern as one elected member of the Planning Board had missed approximately nine consecutive board meetings during the Concept Plan review without explanation.

    The project proponent asked the Planning Board roughly two months ago for a non-binding indication that it would be permitted to withdraw a Master Special Permit application without prejudice once filed. The Planning Board initially agreed to do so without conditions, but later recanted that position. Such an agreement would have posed no risk to the town whatsoever, and would have enabled the Master Special Permit to proceed.

    Though the proponent’s position on this issue was clearly articulated to and discussed by the Planning Board, Ms. Dunbrack now states that the proponent "inexplicably" has not filed the Master Special Permit application. In addition, she engages in irresponsible and unfounded speculation that market conditions caused the developer not to file. In view of the facts, neither assertion is credible.

    She also states that had the proponent filed the Master Special Permit application earlier, the review would be halfway to completion. She fails to disclose, however, that the elected member of the Planning Board who missed so many meetings has since sold his house and left town without notifying the appropriate town officials. Had the developers filed when Ms. Dunbrack wished, we believe that she would have designated the associate member to vote on the Master Special Permit application. It was the associate member who replied "Fine with me" when the project proponents announced the decision to withdraw their proposal.

    This is just one example of a pattern of behavior by certain members of the Planning Board which caused the developers grave concern as to whether the application process would get bogged down and whether it was possible for them to receive a fair hearing.

    Lastly, Ms. Dunbrack’s suggestion that the Board of Selectmen is somehow responsible for the current state of affairs is wholly without merit. The selectmen have repeatedly stressed the need for a thorough and comprehensive review of the project, and supported the Master Special Permit process.

    It is the Planning Board that is solely responsible for the conduct of the Master Special Permit review. Therefore, the attempt to deflect blame to the Board of Selectmen for the current disposition of the project cannot be justified.

    What is at issue is neither the scope of the review process, nor the associated schedule. Rather, what has been called into question is the fairness with which the Master Special Permit process would be administered. Unfortunately, the actions of the Planning Board as presently constituted have persuaded the project’s proponent that they cannot proceed.
    More than disappointing, however, is the prospect of losing an unparalleled opportunity for homeowner fiscal relief for which broad community support exists. Rather than cast blame, the selectmen remain committed to working to seek a way to reengage the developer in a thorough, comprehensive and fair development review process; one that properly identifies and mitigates adverse development impacts, yet permits a very substantial new investment in our community.

    The members of the Wayland Board of Selectmen are Joseph Nolan (chair), Douglas Leard, Michael Tichnor, Alan Reiss and William Whitney.

  11. #11
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    Default

    Thanks Kim.

    I asked for specifics as to what the Planning Board, Road Commissioners, or any other Town officials have done to impede development of the Town Center in the manner approved by the Town. You failed to provide even one example of such obstruction.

    Your summary boils down to "the Developer is afraid that the Planning Board will reject its MSP Application". This is a concern about future events, not evidence that the Planning Board (or anyone else) has already impeded development of the Town Center.

    Much has been made over the Planning Board's refusal to formally give the Developer the right to withdraw its MSP application without prejudice at any time. At a Planning Board meeting on November 13 attended by the Developer, the Planning Board did orally agree to this. Subsequently, Town Counsel advised against making such an unconstrained commitment in writing. Instead, the Town Planner responded to the Developer in writing on December 4, saying

    "It is also the Board's customary practice, in the context of a special permit, to grant an Applicant's request to withdraw an application, without prejudice, if it is determined that it will not be possible to maintain a fully empanelled board throughout the hearing process or the Applicant cannot, for reasons of its own complete the process. The Planning Board reserves its right to deviate from these customary practices if there are extenuating circumstances and the Board believes its deviation is in the best interest of the Town. The Planning Board anticipates no changes in these practices for the planned Mixed-Use Project at this time."

    While not the carte blanche sought by the Developer, this written statement makes it clear that the Developer can expect to withdraw its application without prejudice unless circumstances are truly unusual -- a significantly high bar that precludes any subjective or frivolous action on part of the Planning Board. Thus the claim that rejection of the Developer's MSP application by the Planning Board would result in a 2-year delay is simply untrue.

    There has in fact been no obstruction by the Planning Board. To the contrary, the Planning Board has unanimously approved the Developer's Concept plan, and assured the Developer that it could withdraw without prejudice if necessary. Neither of these seem like the actions of people bent on impeding development of the Town Center.

    What’s really going on? The Developer is playing "divide and conquer", strengthening its bargaining position in anticipation of the long string of issues to be resolved in creating the Town Center. Responding to this tactic by attacking components of our town government, as you and the Selectmen have done, only encourages the Developer to hold out for more. The Developer will not return to the table until

    1. Management of the Town Center MSP process is weakened to the point where the Developer can do whatever they want

    or

    2. The Town Boards pull together, establish a united front, and make clear that they will firmly manage the Town Center project in a competent and fair manner

    I vote for #2.

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