The latest Wellesley, Mass., town news:
Revisiting mask mandate
The Wellesley Select Board and Board of Health will meet on Monday, Feb. 14 to discuss and vote on the modification or removal of the mask mandate for town buildings enacted in September of 2021.
MBTA community obligations, accessibility
As an MBTA community defined in a 2021 state law, Wellesley needs to adhere to rules around having the areas where it has train stations zoned for multifamily housing.
The Housing Choice Initiative effort has some excited that Wellesley might gain more affordable housing near public transportation, while others fear increased density and traffic.
It remains to be seen how all that plays out, but the more immediate concern for the town (during the draft guidelines period) is setting a date before May to deliver a presentation about this, possibly with town counsel in tow.
Wellesley Executive Director Meghan Jop said during the Feb. 7 Select Board meeting (just past the 2-hour, 22-minute mark of the Wellesley Media recording) that good news for the town is that it appears, after reviewing mapping data and attending information sessions, to meet the zoning requirements already. As is, Wellesley has until 2024 to comply with the new MBTA-related provisions.
Speaking of which, Jop also addressed accessibility issues related to Wellesley’s commuter rail stations, which the MBTA has acknowledged are hurting in this regard.
“One of the issues I have with the zoning…the Commonwealth is putting forward an initiative at all MBTA communities and surrounding MBTA stations, where the Commonwealth has over 40 stations that are not ADA-compliant, including three in Wellesley…yet we’re set to zone for higher density and we’re not universally accessible,” Jop said.
Local political representatives and residents have been strong advocates for change, Jop said. “We’re hoping the advocacy pays off, because otherwise we’re looking at a 10-to-12-year window before our stations are upgraded,” she said. American Rescue Plan Act funds aimed at universal accessibility could potentially be tapped.
PFAS, stormwater updates
The Wellesley Department of Public Works expects to receive its temporary PFAS mitigation system in mid-April, with possible start-up by the end of the month. As with everything these days, the supply chain will dictate the specific timeline, though DPW Director David Cohen said during this week’s Board of Public Works meeting that the vendor has come up with plans to try to address supply chain issues.
The system, designed to get the forever chemicals identified in the town’s drinking water to a non-detect level, will be encased in a protective covering to defend against the harshness of winter.
Separately, the DPW has recommended that its plan for a new way to pay for stormwater management not go to Annual Town Meeting. Instead, it will shoot to have the plan go before Special Town Meeting in the fall once a more solid plan is in place and more public outreach has happened.