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Traffic Engineer Says Finnerty's Development 'Reasonable'; Police Chief, Public Have Curbcut Doubts

More than 50 people filled the large Hearing Room at Wayland Town Building for a public hearing about a peer review traffic study of the Finnerty's redevelopment plans.

A recently completed traffic study related to the redevelopment of the Finnerty's site at 150 Main Street revealed that the project can be "safely and efficiently accommodated" provided some suggested improvements are completed, according to an independent traffic engineer.

Current plans for the development include two buildings, a CVS and a second building housing a restaurant with patio seating and office space. Entrances and exits to the development are planned on West Plain Street and Main Street.

Kevin Dandrade with TEC Inc., completed the peer review traffic study for the town of Wayland and reported his findings during a joint meeting of the Planning Board and Board of Public Works Monday night. (Read a PDF of his report.)

In particular, Dandrade said, he would not support a left-hand turn option on Main Street, but the current plan calls for a right-in, right-out option only, which Dandrade said he believes will be an effective and safe option for that corner. He said that a raised triangular island in the Main Street curbcut will direct traffic into a right-turn exit and help prevent left-turn entrances to the property.

Dandrade acknowledged that he has multiple concerns about the intersection of West Plain and Main streets, stemming from its outdated equipment and the poor alignment through the intersection from West Plain to East Plain. Still, he said corrections could be implemented with the existing equipment, and the town could later tackle a larger overhaul of the intersection.

He also recommended adding new curbing in front of the parking area of the Wayland Fire Station on Main Street, a change that Fire Chief Vinnie Smith said would require apparatus drivers to maneuver the vehicles differently, but shouldn't pose a problem.

While Dandrade said he doesn't anticipate the development to be an efficient cut-through for impatient drivers trying to avoid the traffic light, several residents spoke up to express concerns about cut-through traffic through area neighborhoods.

Because cars cannot leave the development and head directly north on Main Street, a few residents said they expect cut-through traffic to use King Street and Mitchell Street to head north.

But by far the largest concern expressed Monday night was related to pedestrian safety. Police Chief Bob Irving said he was specifically concerned about the curbcut on Main Street.

"By putting in that curbcut, we put in a spot for another conflict between pedestrians and vehicles," Irving said. "When we get to the point when we’re putting in a curbcut on a street like that, it needs a lot of thought. It’s going to have to be something that the people, especially in those neighborhoods, are going to have to live with and be comfortable with.”

But resident Doug Alongi spoke up to ask why so much concern was being directed toward this particular corner when there were several other curbcuts, noted to be dangerous by other speakers, at different points of that same intersection, including those at the Dunkin' Donuts commercial space and Liberty Pizza strip.

"I think if we’re all so concerned about the safety here, I think we should have some concerns for these other corners as well,” Alongi said.

Dermot Kelly, a traffic engineer working with developers Jesse Adelman and Matt Levy, has drafted responses to the report comments Dandrade issued. The responses include creating ADA-compliant ramps at several crossing points, moving the dumpsters to create better site lines and several other actions. (The report of the response is available as a PDF.)

"Rather than argue … I just tried to do as much as I can that he’s suggested,” Kelly said Monday night. "I basically did everything he asked for. There’s a few more things to do, but we’re really down to mitigation and what’s appropriate for that project."

No vote or action on the project was taken Monday night. The hearing was continued to Jan. 8.

Jeff Baron December 21, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I understand given your further explanation, Bill, and I agree that it is not "our" choice as to CVS or another long-term leasee. In thinking about my participation on these forums, my original goal was and continues to be to support the rights of the owners/developers of this site to proceed with their project given that it is a permissable use of this site. It never was my goal to engage with certain types of people. The issue of anonymity of these boards remains a central and important one to me because it has been my belief (substantiated both here and elsewhere) is that it brings out the worst in people. Names attached to comments insures accountability. However, given the limited scope of my goal in participating on this topic, I deleted many of my previously posted comments. There was and is no point to debating with those who choose to behave badly.
Wayland Resident December 21, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Please also be mindful that special permits are still being sought. Therefore the proposed project is not an "as of right" development, it requires zoning relief. That relief will be subject to appeal. I have always said that a proposal which complies with applicable land use and zoning cannot be stopped regardless of the tenant. This is not the case in this instance. For the love of Mike Mr. Baron enough about anonymity. I have demonstrated in my prior posts that anonymous political debate is an American tradition and endorsed by this forum. By using your name you have simply advertised the fact that you are unwilling too consider alternative opinions (even in the face of overwhelming evidence) and that you hold many elitist values (see e.g. comments about how village residents get what they deserve for living near commercial property, unlike Mr. Baron).
Bill December 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Wayland Resident – you do realize the only special permit being sought is for the number of parking spaces. The Curb- Cut is not a special permit. Even if it was, the Town has their own peer review specifically saying the project is safer with the curb-cut and that would become evidentiary in your appeal. You’re down to parking; Parking is something that does not affect anyone adversely (with or without standing) and has been granted on many other projects in Wayland. The judge is not going to listen to any argument that does not specifically address an adverse impact directly attributable to the number of parking spaces serving the property. If you think the judge is going to allow any argument having to do with CVS, how large the project is, or the purported 500 signatures – you will be very disappointed because those arguments will be found not germane to the appeal as it has nothing to do with parking. I don’t see the appeal making it passed a motion for summary judgment. It will become a colossal waste of $10,000 in legal fees.
wayland December 21, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Something to keep in mind, the Planning Board has overall Site Approval, and that includes curbcut. The Planning Board can grant special permits (ie parking) contingent on other aspects (no curb cut). @Bill - when you mention legal appeals, are you referencing appeals that the developers may file if certain special permits are not granted? Or appeals that abuters may file if special permits are granted? As I understand it, both are legal, and both realistically could happen.
Wayland Resident December 21, 2012 at 05:36 PM
@ Bill, so we agree that the special permit may be appealed. Thanks for the legal advice, but I think in addition to the cost to defend the action the developer may incur delay and lose the interest of a tenant. More parking spaces=more traffic. More traffic=adverse impact. There is an argument to be made and the appeals will go on for some time.
Bill December 21, 2012 at 07:09 PM
All this talk about how this project is too big for our village got me thinking. Does the math support such a claim? So I did a little digging and found out that claim not be supported by the facts. The industry standard formula for determining the comparative size of a project is called the Floor to Area Ratio (FAR). It simply takes the total square footage and divides by the size of the lot. Here are the numbers: (Proposed Finnerty’s = .23 FAR) (Dunkin Donuts Plaza = .19 FAR) (Starbucks Plaza = .19 FAR) (Donelan’s Plaza = .22 FAR). The one that is most similar is Donelans because it is mixed use with a multi-story office component. Proposed Finnerty’s is 26,000 SF while Donelans is 47,834 SF. So, Donelans is nearly twice the size of the Proposed Finnerty’s while at the same time has basically the same FAR. It is interesting when you actually use facts to support your argument. Turns out, this project fits right into our village when compared to the other developments using math. So, it cant realy be about the size – right….
Bill December 21, 2012 at 07:55 PM
OK Wayalnd Resident – while I am at it I will give you another free piece of legal advice. If you do (exactly as you just suggested) file a law suit or appeal for the purpose of slowing it down thereby making it less economically feasible (losing a tenants) they will simply file a SLAP counterclaim (look it up). It has been upheld in Massachusetts courts for exactly what you are suggesting - and comes with treble (3X) damages plus attorneys fees. That could easily be six or even seven figures. Are you willing to bet your house on that – because that is what you will be doing now that you have admitted to it in a public forum. Have fun getting an attorney now to – if they file the appeal knowing your intention is to slow the project down they will be sanctioned by the BBO and possible lose their license to practice law for a while. Are you ready to play in the NFL – because that is where you are headed with tough talk like that…..
wayland December 21, 2012 at 09:18 PM
@Bill and @Wayland Resident - you both touched on a scenario that isn't that far-fetched. I do believe that both developers and surounding residents have legitmate concerns with the outcome of site approval. And while the developers don't have to listen to residents, both do have legal footing. I'm sure that some that are opposed would think to use legal recourse to delay the project. I would also guess that some residents may use legal resources to try to protect their home/way of life. What needs to happen is for both sides to legitimately come to the table to honestly discuss concerns. The outcome could be a terrific redevelopment project. Or, it could end up as a legal mess.
Sharon Burke December 21, 2012 at 10:02 PM
My goal commenting on this forum was not to offend anyone, but to voice my opinion on a topic that does not just impact "Cochituate village", but all Wayland residents and taxpayers. I am a someone who speaks my mind, without the protective shield of anonymity, and a commercial property that has been abandoned for years has the right to development so our town can increase our tax revenue without raising taxes.
John December 21, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I don't know how accurate your assessment is about the mathematical formula for fitting in. But even if it is, I'm not sure that's the time of fitting in we're talking about. You could probably fit a small missile silo on that footprint, but it wouldn't exactly fit in, would it? Bill, are you involved in this project in any way? Are you affiliated with it or do you stand to benefit from its successful completion?
Bill December 21, 2012 at 10:56 PM
@John – I was responding to the argument made several times that this project is way too big for our village. Saying it was out of proportion in terms of size. While some people may have that opinion, the math (which is 100% correct) does not support that position. I can tell you I am not involved or do I stand to benefit from this project in any way other than that of a resident in the Town. I got into this debate because I am in commercial real estate. I started reading some of the posts and had to correct the record because some of the assertions where completely inaccurate – then it snowballed into a fairly entertaining debate. Now it’s become a passion. Some people watch TV, I like debating about real estate – my wife thinks I am odd too 
John December 21, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Bill, thanks for the clarification. I guess it was just your enthusiasm for the project that had me wondering. I think everyone is anxious to see something go in there after 7 years of nothing. But I share the concerns of many about the intersection looking like Natick (with no offense intended to Natick). We have something very special here and CVS doesn't exactly fit that description. We pay a premium for living in Wayland, but part of the reason for that is a charm and a character that we enjoy. It's worth it. And as long as the Selectmen continue to vote to keep the commercial tax rate the same as the residential rate (something they just did again a few weeks ago), there is not a lot of reason to get excited over the tax revenue from this project. Aesthetically speaking, the town is going to hell in a hand basket and I'd like to see that cease. The CVS on Rt 20 is ugly as sin. The TD North Mountain that replaced Cochituate Motors is an abomination. A very well lit abomination. Why does this keep happening? Is anyone planning this stuff out or are we so hungry for tax dollars that we're happy to say yes to anyone with an open checkbook? I realize that CVS meets the criteria for what's allowed to go there, but this makes me wonder what, if any, criteria we actually have. What do you think, Bill?
Bill December 22, 2012 at 04:01 AM
@John – I am not a huge fan of CVS either although I do not have as big a problem as most. The issue is if the planning board does not work with the developers (including a curb cut) they will simply go with a CVS only option with a drive through with absolutely no zoning relief at all. They will not need the curb cut, the parking or any other form of zoning relief. They don’t want to do that (because the back building gets them more money) but they will if backed into a corner. That is more like RT. 9 in Natick. Some believe the curb cut makes CVS go away – it will not. They would prefer to give up the cut and get the site to themselves. So- If CVS can be done without zoning relief and you believe a CVS only option is not best for the town because it will look ugly – you then work with the developers and do some horse trading. Which they have. The Planning board gets this and agrees with this analyses. There are some on this site that will say no to anything in an attempt to make CVS go away. Do you want to roll the dice and back them into a corner or do you want to get a decent project? 25 years of experience tells me we should not roll the dice on this one.
John December 22, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I'm sorry, but I just don't believe this. It sounds too much like a threat. I don't agree or believe that the only two options are either CVS the easy way or CVS the hard way.
John December 22, 2012 at 04:23 AM
I don't want to back them into a corner. I want them to realize that a CVS is the wrong business for "Finnerty Village" and that if this project is too big too succeed without a major chain throwing its money behind it, maybe it's time to rethink the scale of the project.
Bill December 22, 2012 at 01:39 PM
You really think these guys are going to wake up tomorrow and say “you know what – I am starting to re-think this development. We should call up CVS and tell them the deal is off – they are just too big of chain store with too much credit and some people have an issue with them in Town. Let’s scrap the whole thing and start over with some small users – we were never in this for the money anyway”.
Bill December 22, 2012 at 01:39 PM
You say it is too much of a threat so you don’t believe it. First – pull out the plan and white out the curb-cut on Main and the so called “back building”. Now you have reduced the parking requirement by 70 spaces by eliminating 14,000 SF. Now pencil in parking spaces where the Back Building used to be. You can probably get some 50 spaces in its place – that is a parking swing of some 120 spaces (now you are swimming in parking spaces by our by-law standards). You do those two things and you need no relief from zoning AT ALL. Keep in mind – Drug Store is a permitted use in this Commercial District. So in order for this to be a threat – you have to be able to actually do it. We can check that box. The second is a willingness to do it. Put yourself in their shoes – no reasonable person would ever call up CVS and tell them we re-thought the deal and you are out. I would not call this a threat – I would call this plan “B”. The only reason some people believe it is a threat is because they have CVS. They look at CVS and they see highest and best value. One last thing to keep in mind – the drive through that everyone hates so much (including me) is back under this scenario. Its allowed and an accessory use under our by-laws.
John December 22, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Whatever plan you want to call it, i don't think it's fair that residents are placed in the position of needling to choose between the least offensive of two things that don't want. You said yourself you don't love the idea of a CVS. I understand why the developers would be focused on "highest and best value", but the rest of us who will have to live with this permanent, irreversible change to the neighborhood, are focused on preserving the charm and character of Cochituate. Why are you focused on "highest and best value", Bill? Do you live in Cochituate?
Bill December 22, 2012 at 02:38 PM
First – I do live in Cochituate. My family has lived in Cochituate since 1954. After my grandfather got back from the South Pacific in WWII he decided to raze his family here. I decided to raze my family here, just as he did. I love my town too. I hate to say it, but fair has nothing to do with it. They are just playing by the rules of our Zoning By-Laws. If you don’t like the permitted uses in our by-laws then the residents can change them – all it takes is a zoning change warrant at Town meeting. That is a real option and you will probably get every resident in that area to vote for it. Your right – I am not a big supporter of having CVS here, however I recognize it does not matter what I (or anyone else) thinks about CVS as it is a permitted use. I can either chase windmills and complain about how unfair it is or I can take a business approach and say - given the rules of the game how can I improve on the project. I like to think of myself as a “good” business person so I chose to effectuate change where the situation (and rules) allow it. I look at the course of action the “just say no” folks are advocating and my analyses tells me the result will be a CVS contorted to meet zoning with a drive through. I am not on board with that….
Bill December 22, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I also come at this from a slightly different vantage point. Between the various gas stations that have not be touched in 50 years, the used car lot at Mell’s, the unsightly retail at Liberty pizza, the train wreck retail and office at Donnalans and the abandoned Finnerty’s project - I am not sure what we are trying to preserve here. I have earned the right to be self-critical of our village as I have been here longer than most anyone. I love my Town and I want to see this section of Wayland fixed up. If something is not done, I think this section for town is starting to look more like Brockton – and I am thinking more like Wellesley is where we should be shooting for. That is why I support the two building scenario – I do not want this to look like Rt. 9 and that is where we are headed if only one building can be done. I know people will be offended by that – but it is what I believe. I just don’t know what we are trying to preserve here – I want Wellesley not Brockton.
Geoff December 22, 2012 at 02:59 PM
FYI, the Finnerty building has several broken panes of glass on the Main Street side and the whole area is falling into more disrepair every day. Regardless of what happens down the road, the owners of the lot and building need to take some responsibility now. Surely these 'good Wayland sons' realize this?
Wayland Resident December 22, 2012 at 05:23 PM
@Bill, reread my post I never indicated (i) that I had standing to file a suit (I do not, as I am not an abutter) or (ii) that the purpose of any suit appealing zoning relief which might be granted would be to delay or hinder the project. That is your incorrect inference. My point is that if an abutter were to appeal any zoning relief granted it could be time consuming and costly. Which part of that is incorrect? I hardly think sanctions,court costs or multiple damages would be awarded if an abutter appealed any zoning relief granted in good faith. Nice try with the procedural cudgel though. I will look up SLAP suit, I suggest that you look up "raze".
Wayland Resident December 22, 2012 at 05:57 PM
@ Bill, so one building looks like Route 9 and two oversize buildings look like Wellesley? Not sure that position is, as you would say, defensible. Also, with due respect to tenure, all taxpayers in town have an equal voice. Abutters enjoy additional legal rights, you have not claimed to be an abutter so I am assuming that you are not. It is starting to sound like you are connected to the project. Otherwise why would a village resident not support a smaller scale project with local shops. Such a project would be financeable with lower LTV and some recourse to credit parties. The only thing CVS does is get the developers greater loan proceeds with less recourse exposure. As a real estate professional you must recognize this.
Bill December 22, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Wayland Resident – I am going to have to give up with you. You are just not listing or worse, not getting my argument. In an ideal world, I do support a smaller development with local tenants. I would rather see the site be turned into a soccer field or even a community center. Like you, I am not thrilled with CVS. I would much rather see an art gallery, Ice cream shop, restaurant – anything but a drug store. I just don’t live in that ideal, Capraesque world where the will of the abutters can dictate what goes there, where everything in world is sunshine and puppy dogs. The world I live in is colder and more complicated than that (I wish I could live in your world – but life and experience has made me jaded). My world is dictated by the reality of money, leverage and laws. If you can’t see the difference between a CVS with a drive through surrounded by a sea of parking and a mixed use development (with a restaurant)as proposed, then we have no way of communicating anymore. We just live in different worlds. I can understand the emotional reaction the abutters have to this – if I lived across the street I would probably react the same way. Like me, you are not an abutter and can look at this as a business deal and take emotion out of this. I am just thankful the Planning Board can do that. You want to make fun of my auto-spell – OK. At least I am not Pollyannaish in my world view.
Wayland Resident December 22, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Bill, I guess jaded and condescending beats Pollyannaish...I am listening and I do understand your argument. You refuse to hear listen to my argument or tell me how what I said is incorrect. If the developers were great guys they would do a smaller development which would be good for the town. Instead they are just trying to maximize profit. I guess you are now backing off your legal cudgel as well. I do not believe that dollars and sense are the whole story. If so, these guys should lose the local good guy BS.
wayland December 22, 2012 at 09:59 PM
@Geoff - seems like a stategy to me. The 5 or so years that the property was vacant, but owned by the Finnerty family, it was landscaped and upkeep was done. Since the property changed ownership, it has not been taken care of. Windows are broken, the fence at the corner has been down for over a year, the gutters have been ripped from the roof, there are still leaves down, and branches from the hurricane and before. So it is either a strategy by the developers to make it more of an eyesore so people will clamber for redevelopment or the owners are negligent landlords. Should we look forward to this in the future?
Bill December 22, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I have answers your question at least a dozen different Ways. We are in very familiar ground here. Try this one - if I am incorrect in my assessment then why is the planning board, design review, fire chief, economic development all in agreement with me. They are all impartial about this question and come to the same conclusion I do. How does that work?
Wayland Resident December 23, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Bill, first of all people frequently agree on incorrect conclusions. NASCAR is on network television...If you are saying that the planning board, design review board and fire chief are not critical of the project you are simply not reading the comments. That is the only way "that works". Every person/ body you named has voiced opposition to the project, but you see agreement. There is something in the equation not working.
Wayland Resident December 23, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Bill, I will say that I do respect your knowledge of the topic, although you should recognize that others also know the industry. At this point I think you have become attached to your opinion, as perhaps have I. At the end of the day, if the developers want to play the town resident card they need to do better than a CVS. Otherwise they may as well be National Development. Can we agree on that and call it a day?
Bill December 23, 2012 at 01:35 AM
We can agree on those two things – NASCAR I don’t get at all. Stock Cars running in a circle – what is the draw? We can also agree on these” Local” guys. The fact they are from Wayland has no bearing on this subject – to me anyway. The only difference is I think these guys will put their heart into this development and that will matter to most people. The only difference – National Development would have come in with the CVS only concept at the beginning and let the Town have a heart attack. Then they would have let the Town suggest the two building option themselves so it would have looked as though they were going along with it as an accommodation (that is what I would have done). I will admit, they are not as slick as the big guys – but im not sure that is a bad thing. The fact they are from Wayland has gotten in the way a little – they cannot come in over the top with a CVS only option and simply told the Town A or B – you pick!!! Again, that is what I would have done if I did not live in the Town – but then again, I am a prick when it comes to this stuff. Which is a third thing I’m sure we can agree on…. Have a good night Wayland Resident and happy holidays. Be safe…..

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