Each week, the Abington News is asking the three candidates for the Planning Board board a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 30.
Because the Editor of Abington News is also a member of the Planning Board, questions for this series were crafted by Jeff Welch, a former member of the Abington Zoning Board of Appeals and past Plymouth County Commissioner. Candidate responses are published as submitted, in the order they were received, and were not edited.
Week 1’s question can be found here.
Week 2’s question can be found here.
Week 3’s question can be found here.
This week’s question: If elected, what do you need to accomplish over the next five years to consider your time on the Planning Board ‘successful’?”
While we can’t foresee all the challenges that the Town and the Planning Board will face during the next five years, there are several known challenges that will have to be addressed effectively as a measure of not only my success but the Board’s as well.
Abington’s Master Plan documents the following:
“A Town must always balance competing interests where there may be pressure to carry out programs that are occasionally at odds with one another and there are limited resources to address all municipal needs. A Master Plan can help establish priorities and resolve conflicts by forming a unified vision.”
I’d consider my term to be successful if I can make a meaningful contribution to the discussion and planning that establishes Abington’s priorities, forms this unified vision and creates a reasonable and workable implementation program to guide the Town’s development over the next five years.
Throughout my campaign I have raised concerns about Section 3A of the Commonwealth’s Zoning Act that will require Abington to establish a 50 acre zoning district for multi-family development and the constraints that the State intends to place on local boards to control that development.
I’d consider my term to be successful if I am able to work with other members of the Planning Board, other Town Boards and officials to create and oversee this district in a way that best maintains the character of our Town and reduces the burden that additional multi-family development will place upon the Town’s services.
The Union Point master developer, Brookfield Properties, will soon present its plan for the next phase of development at the former air base. At that point the conversation of the development of the Abington parcel will begin again in earnest.
I’d consider my term to be successful if I am able to effectively work with Town Boards, officials and the Abington representative of the Southfield Redevelopment Authority to create our vision of how we want the parcel to be developed and create the implementation plan to get that development underway.
If elected, I will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to the Board. There are several things I would want to accomplish over the next five years to consider my time on the Planning Board Successful.
First, I want to help the Board draft and implement changes to our zoning bylaws. While some are outdated, other bylaws contradict one another. We should adopt more precise and less ambiguous language, provide clearer definitions and have bylaws that provide for a wide range of specific situations. Currently, several bylaws could be interpreted a number of ways and, as a result, may be applied differently to different applications.
Second, I want to help the Board review and re-evaluate their rules and regulations and make changes if and where necessary. For example, the Board should have more enforcement authority. Like many other towns, I think site visits should become a common practice. As I mentioned in my answer to the 2nd Question of the Week, site visits would present the Board members with an opportunity to see sites with their own eyes, which would help them to better envision exactly what is being proposed in an application and to check for compliance. I also mentioned that, in Randolph, once an application is signed & submitted, the applicant is authorizing the Board to conduct routine site visits; the visits may be performed immediately, before holding a public hearing, they could occur at later times, or both, to ensure compliance, and continued compliance, with applications & approvals.
Third, I want to help the Board improve communication with the other boards, committees and departments in the Town. Each has an important role in the development of our community, so it is important that they work together. I believe better communication would help guarantee applications and other proposals satisfy all pertinent requirements whether from planning, zoning, conservation, etc. This would lessen the chance of anything being overlooked.
Lastly, I want to help ensure that the Board carefully reviews, analyzes and evaluates applications before voting on whether to approve it or not. It’s important during the review process to follow certain procedures and also to verify that applications conform to the regulations set forth in the bylaws. However, there are a number of other factors, in my opinion, that should also be considered, but especially the potential impact, whether short term or long term, on the residents of the Town in general, but especially those in the immediate vicinity. It’s important to be thorough and make considerate decisions.
It’s ok to say “No” if an application doesn’t conform to all zoning requirements or if it isn’t in the best interest of the Town and it’s ok to ask an applicant to make changes the Board believes would improve the application.
Additionally, the Board is tasked with maintaining a balance between: growth & development; the wants & needs of the community and residents; and environmental impacts. I want to help maintain this balance. I think a good start would be to encourage developers to revitalize empty storefronts and other blighted properties in the Town before looking to develop undeveloped land. It is possible to achieve multiple goals simultaneously; there can be development while having minimal impact on the residents and while also preserving open space, wetlands, vegetation, etc.