Candidates Talk Fire Station, Growth
Highlights from last night's liveblog of Candidate's Night.
Chelmsford Patch's second-ever liveblog was Candidate's Night last night, sponsored by the Chelmsford Business Association at the Radisson Hotel. The debate lasted for just over two hours and the whole transcript can be read here.
But since we know you might not want to read through a whole two hours worth of comments, here are some highlights.
Planning Board Debate
Colleen Stansfield, Bob Joyce, George Zaharoolis, and Mark Dolat are candidates for three seats on the board. Dolat did not attend Candidate's Night.
Chelmsford Patch: First question: Planning Board candidates use the term "responsible growth." What does that mean to you and how do you expct to contribute to the Planning Board's obligation to manage growth responsibly?
Colleen Stansfield: "We all understand Chelmsford has little land left..we talk a lot about land use and re-use, using things already out there without taking away open space. It's something we're looking at to make it easier for people to come in and do that."
George Zaharoolis: "I look at it as subdivisons, how can we make sure that we have lot sizes that have to be maintained, to balance that with open space...to make sure developments have open space component. We should look at redevelopment instead of new development...we should maintain a certain lot size and make sure subdivisions have open space."
Bob Joyce: "It means not trying to put developments and buildings on lots that probably don't qualify otherwise...I don't think we should be supporting economic development at cost of tax payers and trying to squeeze things onto small lots. We need to protect neighborhoods."
Chelmsford Patch: I just asked about Stop and Shop in the center, and what residents who want a say about what goes on there can do about it.
Stansfield: "Until we can an application or re-zone for a mixed use we have no clue what is going on there."
Chelmsford Patch: Stansfield says the town has reached out to them.
Chelmsford Patch: She's encouraging residents to write letters to Stop and Shop.
Zaharoolis: "This property is privately owned, property owners have rights...the town is being proactive...to try to create ongoing discussion to redevelop that property. Here is a prime example of working with the bylaws to create redevelopment."
Joyce: "As long as it's a retail they can rent it to whoever they want and not come before regulatory board. They're not going to put a competitor there...I think it's a great place for multi-use...the town is working hard to make that happen but they have a long term lease with Marshall's still and they're not in a hurry and they don't really care..the truth is they can put whatever they want retail-wise there."
Pat Wojtas, George Dixon, Roland Van Liew and Jim Murray are four candidates for two seats on the board.
Chelmsford Patch: Question: "Last Monday the board voted to put a non-binding question on the ballot for a new fire station headquarters. Do you agree or disagree with the vote and why?"
Murray: "I agree with the vote as long as it's non-binding...it seems debt never goes away and keeps being added into tax base...if we can take some of $1.4 million we're saving on health insurance to save on fire station, that'd be a good plan"
Van Liew: "I don't agree with the vote...this is a disingenuous maneuver...it's not asking whether they want a new fire station, it asks how they want it funded. It's sort of a, when did you stop beating your wife question? ... There's no good answer to that question."
Dixon: "I'm in favor of it ... I'm in favor of as much transparency as possible, it's up to the people...my concern, and this is not negative against voters, I hope they all look into all the questions they have and get questions answered before they vote...it is a non-binding (question) but it'll be looked at closely."
Wojtas: "I voted in favor of it, it's not just a question of how to fund it, also (if) is this the right location and it's important to get a sense from the community, how they feel about funding and the location...we've been through this several times, it is important for all members of community to get questions answered and make an informed vote."
Chelmsford Patch: A question from the Chelmsford Business Association to Wojtas: Many people feel that you should have taken a more active role in the recall effort against you...some people said you didn't voice a strong opinion on that...how should people trust you're a leader when your actions throughout that time say you failed to assert your power during that time?
Wojtas: "I feel that is unjustified...it's true I didn't follow along with a lot of what was going on, I did speak out, I went to events, made a lot of phone calls, I don't think people could say I wasn't supportive of my colleagues, I supported the town manager...I feel that is unjustified, I know I work well with the board and I've worked with my colleagues to create initiatives and I will continue to that and I feel I can work well with any personalities."
Chelmsford Patch: Dixon to Van Liew: "I saw a TV show and listened on the radio, he seems to be against growth..when is growth good?"
Van Liew: "...the answer is no. developers have to convince me and the town that it's beneficial. redevelopment is not the same as development and I don't consider redevelopment growth. ... Growth ain't good. Period. You have to convince me why it would be good."
Chelmsford Patch: Question from the press: "The recall effort led by Van Liew in many ways was seen as referendum on town manager...we all know where most of you stand on that from what we've all reported and what you've heard...Mr. Van Liew, is there one thing you can point to the town manager has done in his tenure you think has been good for the town? And Ms. Wojtas, and Mr. Dixon you're supporters, is there something you wish the town manager would have done better? And Mr. Murray you'll have to wing it...I'm asking you to take opposite sides here."
Van Liew: "Well first of all I realize that town officials wanted to project their own interpretation of the recall, it was not a referendum on town manager...the recall was about the refusal of town officials to uphold the law on behalf of residents. If I'm elected I will uphold the law. I can't say much good about town manager because he has destroyed the willingness of the board of selectmen to uphold the law. That's all I'll say."
Wojtas: "Well since Roland couldn't come up with something good to say, I will. He is responsive, he is creative, he gives answers to questions being asked of him...on the other side sure there are things he could do better. I don't know of things I'd consider a mistake he's made, I'd like to see more communication on some issues."
Dixon: "Chelmsford has about $110 million budget, any company with that budget would have more people making decisions...I speak for my four colleagues, I'd bet my life there wasn't one of them who broke the law or would think about breaking the law. I'd bet my life. We have a lot of pride in this town, Cohen is not perfect...there are issues we discuss with him behind the scenes, it isn't all roses but unwillingness to uphold the law? That's a slap in the face."
Murray: "I know (on a certain occasion) calls to town manager's office went unanswered from business owners, that's the only negative thing I can say..."