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Letter: In Wayland, Safety Does Come First

Wayland Fire Chief Vincent Smith submitted this letter in an effort to "set the record straight" about the Finnerty's Village development.

In a letter to the editor, published in two local newspapers recently, my position about the Finnerty’s Village plan for a "curb cut" on Main Street was mischaracterized. Allow me to set the record straight.

As fire chief in Wayland, my position is based solely on my responsibility to maintain a safe and efficient response from the fire stations for the benefit of the public we serve and the safety of the responding firefighters. It is also important to bring the trucks safely back to the fire station after the emergency is over.

It is clear to me that the original proposal of an unrestricted entrance and exit to the Finnerty’s Village development on Main Street will adversely impact the movement of the Fire Department trucks and crews both in response mode and when they return to quarters. I am especially concerned that northbound traffic waiting to turn left into the development will clog the area in front of the fire station. I have made my concerns known to the Wayland Planning Department.

A second curb cut proposal has been floated that would allow exactly two traffic movements: Traveling south on Main Street, a right turn into the property, and exiting from the property, only a right turn onto Main Street heading south would be allowed. This traffic pattern, if enforced, would clearly lessen the adverse impact on our emergency responses to a considerable degree. I would feel comfortable with this more recent plan if I could be assured by the traffic experts that my conclusion is correct and if some form of physical structures enforced the limited vehicle movements. I don't believe that signage alone will make all drivers do the right thing. The more recent plan with limited vehicle movements is not my first choice, but with the proper assurances from the experts, conscientious planning and careful implementation, the Wayland Fire Department could live with it.

I would like to assure the Wayland community that as the plans for Finnerty's Village evolve, decisions that I am involved with will reflect my concern for the safety of the community as a whole and the effective, safe and efficient operation of the Wayland Fire Department. I look forward to the continuing discussion.

Vincent J. Smith, Fire Chief
Wayland Fire Department

Just Say NO! September 28, 2012 at 03:04 AM
The Chief says his position has changed with "physical structures", "signage", "limited vehicle movements", "Proper assurance from the experts". All that sounds like it's even more unworkable than his original position and lots of reliance on "experts". “Don't be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment. Elites can become so inbred that they produce hemophiliacs who bleed to death as soon as they are nicked by the real world.” -- Colin Powell Chief, you’re right to go with your original gut instinct!
sheila Loayza September 28, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Agree, the Chief should trust his own judgment. Also agree with a earlier comment that another CVS isn't the best option for the space. ACommunity center or something for teens seems more appropriate
Kate Fitzpatrick September 28, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Thanks Chief. We need to listen to your judgement and let you look out for us. Physical design like at the new Wellesley Whole Foods is needed here.
Jeff Baron September 28, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I'm sure for the right price, all you folks can buy the property from the developers and turn it in to whatever you want. Put your money where your mouth is, or stop complaining about what those who have done so are doing. These are good guys from Wayland who are trying to improve our community. CVS allows them the anchor to do so.
Wake Up September 29, 2012 at 03:42 AM
CVS is NOT an improvement to the community. If you want it so much have the "good guys" put the CVS in your front yard.
Wayland Resident September 29, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Stop shilling for these guys. The traffic is a public safety issue. Most developers option sites, find tenants and then seek permitting. To say that the residents must suffer because the "developer" did not do its homework prior to acquiring the site is simply a false dilemma. The project is flawed in too many ways to describe, parking, FAR, traffic, open space...And will constitute an eyesore.
Jeff Baron September 29, 2012 at 05:47 PM
NIMBYism at it's worst. I did not choose to live in a commercial area. You did. Guess what, this is a commercial project. It should and hopefully will go forward despite this nonsense...
Wayland Resident September 29, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Missing the point Jeff. This is not a site which can support this project as of right. Zoning relief is required. No one is objecting to a project which is permissible under the zoning bylaw. This is a public safety issue and you want to put our children at risk for marginal tax revenue. Not a very considered opinion.
Wayland Resident September 29, 2012 at 06:16 PM
why are you shilling for these guys anyway Jeff? Did you invest in the project?
Cynthia Hill September 29, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Something none of you have mentioned are are the great number of kids on their bikes, using that sidewalk because the street is already too dangerous. Shouldn't this be your major concern? Secondly, I'm not in favor of another CVS anywhere in town! The developers should look beyond instant gratification and put something in there that people actually want. Have you learned nothing from the mess called Town Center....the quaint village that now looks like Wrentham Mall or Rt.1 in Saugus. All we need now is Kowloons and the Golden Banana!
Cochituate Resident September 30, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Aah, not in YOUR front yard, but it's ok in MY backyard. Talk about NIMBYism at it's best! If you feel so strongly about CVS, talk with your neighbors to have your property re-zoned Commercial and let the "good" guys build in your neighborhood. We'll have the Finnerty's property re-zoned Residential and build a couple of houses. Fair swap problem solved!
Jeff Baron September 30, 2012 at 02:16 PM
I have no stake in the CVS project other than the stake we all have in Wayland. I get it you don't want change. So, buy the development from these guys at fair market value and do as you wish -- end of story. But in the America that I know, put up or shut up still rules the day. You bought in a commercially zoned area and paid a price for your house reflective of that (i.e. - lower than if it wasn't right next to commercially zoned land). Your argument is the same as people who buy discounted housing next to the Mass Pike and then complain endlessly about the noise and want everyone else to pay for barriers to block out the sound. As to the safety issue, the "process" will work out what is permissible and what is not. If they get a fair shake and the project doesn't end up getting approved, then your safety argument will pass muster. I'd be a lot more worried about the major traffic on 27 and 30 that already exists and you seem to have been OK putting your children's safety at risk knowing that when you bought. And the argument about CVS in my neighborhood is ridiculous on its face. Even if what you were saying made sense, which it clearly does not, I could barely add on to my house without the ConCom telling me about the "river" next to me and all the restrictions. I'd love to hear how many meetings you went to in support of the people on Glezen Lane etc that were against the Town Center to fight for their children. Maybe I'm wrong -- but I'm guessing zero.
Bill September 30, 2012 at 02:50 PM
It has become abundantly clear the “NO” folks have no interest in public safety or any other legitimate issue in this debate. Their only interest is blocking any commercial development. They all cried “listen to the Fire Chief” when they thought it supported their blocking efforts. The Chief is interested in one thing – making sure the Towns emergency vehicles are not adversely impacted. Now that his concerns have been addressed the “NO” folks are saying don’t listen to him – he has not thought this trough. Which is it folks? Your play book is exposed – just say “NO” to everything no matter how thoughtfully the concern was addressed and maybe we can block this site from ever being developed. If I where you, I would have not have taken on the fire chief on this one – it makes you look disingenuous. Wayland is changing folks – and it’s for the better. I love to see the silent majority find their voice. It’s about time!!!
Wayland Resident September 30, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Bill, you generally reasonable tone is hostile this morning. There is nothing disingenuous about the public safety argument. Reread what the chief said, he is hedging more than a little. He basically said he would go along reluctantly if the traffic studies showed that the new proposal will not have a severe adverse impact AND there are physical barriers to ensure compliance AND there is assurance of enforcement. Hardly a ringing endorsement. Jeff, I don't need to buy the site, it is subject to the zoning bylaw just like your house and mine. I can't build whatever I want nor can you, nor can the owners of the site at issue. The safety issue is not only about emergency vehicles, but children riding bicycles to the parks or existing retail or walking to same. As far as the fair market value of the site, interesting question. Your pals bought the site for a price which suggests no big box retailer could be wedged in. Now they seek to have a windfall at the expense of the safety of the town's residents. They probably paid FMV and they have the right to build what the site supports as of right. This is a overreaching plan which is not in keeping with the surrounding area. For the record, I do not live in Cochituate or even on that side of town, but if I do need a emergency vehicle it may well come from the firehouse on Route 27. I also have children who go to the middle school and walk or ride their bicycles to Liberty Pizza or the convenience store.
Wayland Resident September 30, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Not everything is as simple as you would like it to be. Your pals who are seeking to develop this site are not doing any of us a favor. They are seeking to line their pockets at the expense of the safety of the residents of the town. If you are not an investor in the deal, what is in it for you? 50-100k in tax revenue or a shorter drive for Rx refills? As I mentioned, 10-15 new townhouses generate the same tax revenue without the safety issues. Maybe you should move to Needham, lower taxes and a great commercial tax base, plenty of wharehouse and class b office space nearby as well....
Bill September 30, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I re-read the letter and I’m not sure I agree with your characterization of his comments. I read it more like he had a legitimate traffic / access concern, their seems to be a solution that he finds acceptable but would like the opportunity to review the traffic study before he fully embraces it. Sounds fairly reasonable to me. I did not see any “reluctance” at all. With respect to $100K being chump change, consider what that does for Wayland. It’s not just $100K – its $100K in perpetuity. CAP that out at our borrowing rate and its worth over $2,500,000. You do that a few times and we are talking about real money. As far as Town homes, it’s a commercial overlay district. That means the Town specifically voted to approve an overlay that promoted commercial development. (and I do mean promoted) It’s the corner of Main and Main (literally). That is where we decided as a community to put our commercial and retail – and that is where it will go.
Wayland Resident October 01, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Can't agree that there is no reluctance demonstrated in the letter. Simply the statement "not my first choice" demonstrates reluctance. My statement regarding residential development is a comparison of tax revenue. Your cap rate argument is another red herring/ false dilemma. Are we going to borrow the money if the project is not approved? No, we both know that it will simply be MARGINAL savings to you and me of $10.00 or less annually. You are kidding yourself and the rest of us if you think this deal offers any benefit to anyone other than the greedy developers. I am staring to think you re working with the developers...
Wayland Resident October 01, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Bill read this sentence again, you really think this is not reluctance? "The more recent plan with limited vehicle movements is not my first choice, but with the proper assurances from the experts, conscientious planning and careful implementation, the Wayland Fire Department could live with it." It starts with "not my first choice" adds three specific qualifications and concludes with "the Wayland Fire Department could live with it." I don't know about you, but when I tell someone something is not my first choice, but if they make several changes and add conditions I could live with it, I really mean that I think the idea is a bad one. The sentence is reflective of political pressure on the chief not to look like the nay sayer and to appear reasonable. He clearly thinks this is a bad idea and a safety issue.
Bill October 01, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Sounds like he is "comfortable with this more recent plan” and the proposed changes “clearly lessen the adverse impact”. Sounds like they have addressed his concerns. My argument visa vi the tax revenue is the concept of perpetuity. You don’t have to borrow the money to assign a value using the time value of money. Actually, I would rather see the town start to pay down their debt – not borrow more. But that is an argument for a different day. It’s worth over $2.5MM no matter how you cut it… I have nothing to do with the development team other than having a keen interest in expanding our commercial tax base in areas that are zoned commercial in a way that is favorable to the Town. I judge the Use, not the occupant.
Bill October 01, 2012 at 01:12 PM
You also have to remember – I come at this with a totally different vantage point than you do. I believe they can do CVS without zoning relief. Given that, I just want the best development possible.
Wayland Resident October 01, 2012 at 01:26 PM
They definitely need relief on parking and the curbcut is still an issue. Regarding the 2.5mm, I guess a 25 year annuity delivers that return, but I do not see the present value of that asset as 2.5mm. Just heard that the meeting has been continued for two more weeks. Looks like they are back to the drawing board...
Bill October 01, 2012 at 06:50 PM
The terminal PV of $100,000 / year with a discount rate of 3.5% = $2,427,656.45. Using our weighted average cost of capital is the common way of setting a discount rate weather you borrow or pay off debt – does not matter. We can debate the $100,000 but the rest is math…
Wayland Resident October 08, 2012 at 09:58 PM
I'm not a math major, but I am not sure (a) where you came up with the 25 year assumption or (b) how that revenue is not duplicated by 10 new townhomes without the traffic and safety issues. In fact, the townhomes are more likely to have a return in perpetuity. Commercial developments may go out of business (see e.g. Finnerty's Restaurant); whereas, there are few abandoned homes in town. Any idea what the other CVS pays annually in taxes? We can probably assume that the numbers would be similar.
Bill October 09, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Hey there Wayland Resident. Generally, in real estate you project a 10 year discounted cash flow, however that assumes a residual value which is something that the Town does not participate in. That said the term of the analyses should be indefinite do to a lack of residual value. Think of a house that is 100 years old – the taxes have always gone up. The outer years are not wroth hardly anything in my calculation. With respect to the tax value, I would need the lease rate to answer that question. It is as simple as dividing the Rent by .05 (or a 5% CAP). Some Towns do not assess at the full value and I am not sure if Wayland is one of those Towns. On the town homes, the developers are looking at this as the “highest and best use” within the approved “use” group of the zoning by laws. Residential is not an allowed “use” on this site and a change in the zoning would take a 2/3 vote at town meeting – never going to happen nor should it as this is a commercial area. Wayland has the lowest commercial tax base within their pier group of Towns.
Wayland Resident October 26, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I understand cap rates. I am just not used to using them for tax revenue, as opposed to rental income. I see your logic, however, the town is not selling its tax revenue. I was not advocating the townhouses as a solution, merely pointing out that no one is excited about the tax revenue from the new townhomes on Route 20, for example, which will probably produce more revenue than this project. There seems to be some misperception that "commercial" tax revenue is better than residential. Not so, dollars are fungible. The commercial rate may be higher, but the focus should be on overall revenue.
Bill October 28, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Nice to hear from you again. The 5% CAP is just a metric that is used for valuation. It is the most relied upon metric when appraising an occupied commercial asset. The town will use a discounted cash flow (basically the same concept). There is actually a difference between “commercial” and “residential” tax revenue. While the income is the same the net financial impact to the Town is different. Without being specific to this project, the general concept is commercial based revenue does not come with the associated cost of educating children. That is why towns (not just Wayland) generally look to commercial revenue to lower the financial burden on residents. I know, many people will suggest this development has many other costs that are not being taken into account, however, I am just speaking in general terms as to why towns typically favor commercial over residential tax revenue (it’s the net financial impact). I don’t think the tax argument on my side is very compelling here - My argument is: given the current zoning, let’s get the most favorable deal we can for the Town. In more general terms I am also in favor of increasing the Towns commercial tax base as that is a key factor as to why our mill rate is comparatively high compared to our pier group.

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