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Itr 03-17-10


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Itr 03-17-10

  1. 1. ******************************* ***************************** THE SGI SAGA CONTINUES... LOWELL SUN Political Column Rita Savard 2/28/2010 A sparring match over attack mailings rages on in Chelmsford. The contenders: Slow Growth Initiative Executive Director Craig Chemaly vs Chelmsford town officials. But Chemaly pulled the plug on round two of a contentious debate involving the 40B affordable-housing law and SGI’s charges that certain Chelmsford officials support big development in town. On March 10, Chemaly was scheduled to discuss a ballot initiative to repeal 40B on Politically Incorrect, a political talk show hosted by Tom Christiano. Dennis Ready, member of the town’s Historic District Commission and a former select- man, was also scheduled to appear. The fireworks between Chemaly and Ready started going off last weekend during Warren Shaw’s Saturday morning radio show. Chemaly’s presence prompted a string of Chelmsford callers who said they’ve had enough of SGI’s “propaganda” mailings, including Town Meeting Representative Fran McDougall, Assessor and former selectman Sam Chase and Philip Eliopoulos, co-chair of the town’s Master Plan Committee and a former selectman. Chase blasted Chemaly for the latest round of “vitriolic” missives that called on residents to petition the Board of Select- men on removing Eliopoulos from the Master Plan Committee, as well as removing Town Manager Paul Cohen. Chase, who said town officials have historically fought to keep the 40B developments out of town, asked Chemaly to answer why he thought removing educated people who serve the town honorably furthers SGI’s agenda. Chemaly said Chelmsford had 21 40B projects already built, mpore than any other community in Greater Boson. Removing Cohen and Eliopoulos is more about slow growth and sustainability, he added. “We don’t skirt the issue, we ram into it” Chemaly said. it Chemaly accused Ready of cronyism when it came to the Historic District Commission’s approval of a building project be- hind the North Road fires station that was brought forward by Michael Eliopoulos, Phil’s father. The normally mild-mannered Ready had enough, and told Chemaly his group twists the facts. “I’m closer to Martha Coakley than I am with Phil Eliopoulos,” Ready said, adding that the Historic District Commission held tow public hearings, more than they’ve held on any other issue. CLICK HERE to hear the Warren Shaw’s Saturday Sources tell the The Column that Chemaly withedrew his invitation to Morning Live show with Christiano’s show after several people he was close to asked him not to do it. Craig Chemaly and guests
  2. 2. ******************************* The Night They Fought Back During the Board of Selectmen public input forum Monday night March 1st, town officials take aim at the Slow Growth Initiative who have been taken aim at them over the last year. CLICK HERE for VIDEO SEGMENT ****************************** Unedited version submitted by Fran McDougall SGI mailings spread distrust, misinformation The Lowell Sun 03/04/2010 There is an undercurrent of distrust and venom being spread here in the town of Chelmsford. A group called the Slow Growth Initiative is responsible for this festering sore in our community. Mailings have been sent to the residents over the past few years containing false accusations and innuendoes aimed at the employees, elected officials and good people who have offered their services to our municipality. Two names in particular are responsible for this "literature",Craig C. and Roland Van Liew. SGI have caused many people to doubt the inten- tions of the decent, hard-working people who make our town continue as a great place to live and raise our chil- dren. I would ask these individuals to cease their mailings and start helping us in our efforts to unify Chelmsford. Good citizens do not tear down the town where they live. They become productive and supportive to uphold the motto, "Let the children guard what the sires have won." FRAN McDOUGALL Precinct 1 town meeting representative Chelmsford
  3. 3. Chelmsford-based nonprofit at center of controversy By By Chloe Gotsis/staff writer GateHouse News Service Mar 08, 2010 Chelmsford — The town officials and board members, under attack in recent mailings by the nonprofit group, the Massachusetts Slow Growth Initia- tive, are speaking out, urging residents read the information with a healthy dose of skepticism. Over the past two years, the Slow Growth Initiative, which works state-wide to oppose large developments including Chapter 40B affordable housing developments, has been disseminating mailings to Chelmsford households, critical of town employees. The most recent mailing took square aim at an office building being planned for North Road. The document purports to outline events over the year prior to approval of the building, controversial because of its proximity to the historic district. Titled “The Eliopoulos Office Building: How the Plot Unfolded,” the e-mail ac- Unfolded cuses several town officials of unsavory practices during the permitting. At the end, it urges readers to call for a state investigation. “I’m on the long list of town employees and town officials attacked by the [Slow Growth Initia - tive,” said Phil Eliopolous, a former selectmen. “In my 14 years of town service I’ve never seen a group tive, [promote] such lies. In my opinion it shouldn’t be tolerated to attack individuals. To me, it doesn’t serve the best interest of the town.” town Philip Eliopoulos Another face in the blast zone is Town Manger Paul Cohen. The e-mail reads, “In short, to facilitate the Eliopoulos development, Paul Cohen allowed the Eliopoulos family to buy the land behind the fire station out from under the town; has refused to even consider plans for the fire station that would interfere with the Eliopoulos’ development plans; and unilaterally removed all repair plans, upgrades or expansions at the current location from consideration…” consideration… The mailing, which was sent in February, further calls for Cohen’s dismissal and contends he has misled the select- men and residents. “Town Manager Paul Cohen’s actions may or may not be unlawful, but they certainly serve as further un - Paul Cohen deniable evidence that he is not the right person to serve as Chelmsford’s top public official,” the mailing official reads. Monday night, at the Board of Selectmen’s public input session, a group of residents responded to the mailing, closing ranks behind town officials. “…What bothers me is they come and criticize everyone by name like Phil, Clare Jeannotte our town manager, but it’s another thing if you won’t have the courage to come and back it up by ap - pearing in person or on TV or on the radio. I think it’s a cancer on our town , ” said Tom Christiano, a Town Meeting representative. Christiano, host of the weekly television show on Chelmsford Telemedia, “Politically Incorrect,” told the board and residents in attendance he had invited Slow Growth Director Craig Chemaly and Roland Van Liew, whom Christiano identified as a major donor to Slow Growth, to appear on his show and both declined. Tom Christiano Selectmen Chairwoman Clare Jeannotte said residents should contact town officials whenever they receive a mailing from Slow Growth and ask about the information it contains. “All of us have been approached by strangers in the grocery stores saying, ‘Why are you doing this or letting this happen?’ and we aren’t,” she said. “I would hope all of the residents who get this would know that anyone who runs for town office is doing it [serving in town] because they have the best interest of the town in mind.” mind. Slow Growth sent a similar mailing out before the October debt exclusion vote for a proposed new Center Fire Station Clare and Department of Public Works Facility, alleging the new facilities were unnecessary. Voters rejected both proposals. Jeannotte In a phone interview this week, Chemaly denied he is making personal attacks on town officials and volunteers. “A personal attack in my opinion would be Paul Cohen has bad breath,” he said. “But when you talk about people’s breath, job performance, that’s a professional attack and so we don’t consider them personal attacks.” attacks Chemaly said his colleague, Austin Simko, has been working with Chelmsford Community Development Director Evan Belansky over the past several months, offering input on the town’s Master Plan. Chemaly said he hopes to continue working with other town officials like Belansky and to mend the organization’s battered relationship with some town officials. But Chemaly couldn’t answer how he intends to do that mending. “I think both sides feel like they’ve been slapped in the face a little,” he said. little, Cohen, who has stayed away from public criticism of Slow Growth, said his door is always open to Van Liew and Chemaly. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” he said. “But the prob - opinion, lem is inconsistencies. They say they want to work with the town and then there will come a letter slamming town officials.” officials Austin Simko Roland Van Craig Chemaly Liew
  4. 4. ***************************** Turning Over A NewLeaf? Slow Growth Initiative teams with Community Development on new Master Plan Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 02.MAR.10 Despite what could be labeled open hostility between the two groups, the Slow Growth Initiative and the Chelmsford Com- munity Development Office have teamed up to help shape the town’s latest Master Plan. SGI’s Director of Public Policy Austin Simko and Community Development Director Evan Belansky have met several times in an effort to resolve their differences in how the town should approach development. In an e-mail to Master Plan Committee members last week, Belansky wrote he and Simko discussed issues of growth rates, carrying capacity and sustainability. “Based upon these discussions we identified conceptual definitions/frameworks that we thought would be relevant and beneficial to the Master Plan Process,” wrote Belansky. Process, Simko appeared before the Master Plan Committee last week to talk about some of the recommendations his group con- tinues to push for in the town’s planning process. “At this point we recognize ‘no growth’ is not legally feasible,” said Simko. “New construction should be feasible, approached with more caution. Growth should not degrade the quality of life.” life. Although Simko acknowledged some growth is inevitable, he urged committee members not to think of potential revenue sources as the reason to OK development. Master Plan Committee member Dave McLachlan questioned how the town could maintain its quality of life without resources? “How do you provide services without a revenue stream from commercial development?” development? asked McLachlan. “What is the purpose of commercial development if not revenue? If you have no new development, you can have no redevelopment.” Simko understands development will occur; he just wants to redevelopment. make sure officials realize there are costs associated with all of it. Currently Chelmsford has 8.1 million square feet of commercial and industrial space, 3.9 million square feet of multi-family and 666,000 square feet of rental apartments, for a total of 12,666,000 square feet of development. For SGI, new com- mercial growth should be limited to about 50,000 square feet annually. Between 2001 and 2008, the town added about 55,718 square feet a year. There should also be no more than 30 single-family homes approved annually, according to Simko. Between 2000 and 2008, the town issued an average of 37 building permits for single-family homes annually – with a high of 65 issued in 2004 and a low of 12 issued in 2008. SGI also believes any future commercial and multi-family development should be capped at 5.8 million square feet. Belansky said if the Master Plan made no recommendations on zoning changes, the town would expect a minimum of 5.8 million square feet of future development. Whatever development occurs, Simko said it should be determined by the residents who are in Austin Simko, town today. But some Master Plan Committee members questioned why SGI has become so in- SGI Director of volved in the Chelmsford planning process. They also took exception to some of the group’s Public Policy mailings, which attacked some town employees, and contained, what some committee deemed factual errors. “I can see the similarities between what Evan (Belansky) and SGI presented,” said McLachlan. “What re - presented, ally disturbs me is the garbage of those three newsletters. I don’t know what to believe.” believe. “We’re a big organization and we’re here to stay,” said Simko. “If we can work together, I hope in the fu - stay ture we can avoid the situation that you believe anything (we say) is garbage.” garbage.
  5. 5. Anti-40B group calls cease-fire in battle against Chelmsford By Rita Savard, 03/05/2010 CHELMSFORD -- After more than a year of mass mailings that singled out town officials for ruining Chelmsford's character, the anti-40B group Slow Growth Initiative is calling a truce. "Our approach has been so negative for so long that it's been polarizing," said Craig polarizing, Chemaly, executive director of SGI. "We want to work to remove those barriers. We're com - pletely abandoning this super-critical approach and moving toward a relationship which we hope will allow SGI to work collaboratively with the town." town. SGI planned to meet with town officials today to discuss burying the hatchet. The peace offering follows a contentious debate over the state's 40B affordable-housing law that has lasted more than a year, with a series of mailings by SGI that have attacked town officials, including Town Manager Paul Cohen, Commu- nity Development Director Evan Belansky and former Selectman Philip Eliopoulos. The mailings have sparked outrage among some residents, even leading off discussions at a townwide public-input session Monday night. Officials have blasted SGI for its criticism, including leading a short- lived petition effort to try and recall Cohen. But only elected officials can be recalled from office. "I put that aside," Cohen said. "I have to act in the best interest of the community, not on aside my own personal feelings." feelings. On meeting with SGI today, Cohen added, "I don't see the downside. I'm always open to dialogue." dialogue. Chemaly praised Belansky yesterday for the sudden cease-fire. Belansky had sev- eral meetings with SGI's director of policy, Austin Simko, to discuss development in town. In the end, Chemaly said, SGI discovered there is a lot the two parties agree on. "I can't speak highly enough about the role Evan Belansky played in this whole thing," Chemaly said. "He extended an olive branch on behalf thing, Craig Chemaly, Chemaly of the town. ... It was so successful that we looked at it and said we executive director of SGI need a total reversal of approach in dealing with Chelmsford." Chelmsford. Since early 2009, SGI's mass-mailing campaigns have targeted town officials for disregarding the will of the voters on 40Bs and bringing multifamily, high-density projects into Chelmsford. Town officials have said SGI's allegations are false and that the town has consistently fought against de- velopments that would be bad for the town. But the 40B law, Cohen has said, often gives developers the upper hand. After sitting down with Belansky and the town's Master Plan Committee, Chemaly said there is a lot of common ground covered on redevelopment of the town's buildings versus new development, including re- vamping the Stop & Shop Plaza in Chelmsford Center. "The things we do agree on have been lost in negativity," Chemaly said. negativity, "What we were sharing was a mutual disrespect. I think we'd all like to move on now to something more productive." productive.
  6. 6. LOWELL SUN Political Column Rita Savard 3/7/2010 In the spirit of Charles Dickens, one Town Meeting representative joked that Craig Chemaly must have been visited, by “the three ghosts of Chelmsford ,” all in one night. “The ghosts of Chelmsford past,present and future helped him to see the light,” light said the rep. Ghosts or no ghosts, it’s true that Chemaly,excecutive director of the Slow Growth Initiative, has announced plans to cease mass mailings that accuse town officials of rubber-stamping 40B projects and destroying Chelmsford’s character. Since 2009, SGI’s mailings have launched verbal attacks on several officials, and even launched an unsuccesful campaign to recall town manager Paul Cohen. The most recent mailings prompted backlash from town officials and others on WCAP radio and continued at a townwide meeting in Chelmsford last Monday. But SGI’s policy director Austin Simko, sat down with Chelmsford Community Development Director Evan Belansky. And Chemaly said SGI discovered it had more in common with the town than it originally thought. “They sat for hours over the course of three months,agreeing on things and talking about things,”Chemaly said. things, “It’s gone in a very positive direction,so beyond what I ever thought could happen.” happen. **************************************** Will the next mass mailing be a love letter from SGI to the town? Chelmsford officials cautious in wake of meeting with Slow Growth By Chloe Gotsis GateHouse News Service Chelmsford — A recent détente meeting between town officials and representatives from the Slow Growth Initiative left both sides questioning the outcome. Slow Growth Director Craig Chemaly views the meeting Town Manager Paul Cohen and Community Development Director Evan Belansky as a truce between his nonprofit organization and the town. Slow Growth faces vocal and public criticism for a series of mailings excoriating a long list of public officials and municipal organizations. “It went phenomenal,” said Chemaly in an interview in his Chelmsford office on Monday. “Evan Belansky really deserves a phenomenal, ton of credit. George Dixon has also been really phenomenal in getting everyone to sit down together and he really has been great also in helping us put behind us what is a very very negative chapter and work together to start getting things done for both sides.” sides. In the most recent mailing, Chemaly rips Cohen, calling for the manager’s ouster, inferring Cohen’s handling of permitting process for 9 North Road was corrupt. In Cohen’s opinion, the meeting was productive, but nothing concrete was accomplished. Although Chemaly agreed to stop the negative mailings, Cohen is taking a wait-and-see approach. “There is no truce,” Cohen said. “There is no quid pro quo. Time will tell if this is such an effort. I’m not sure if this will be truce, an end to the mailings.” Monday night, Cohen spoke publicly about the mailings and the impact on him personally. “I’ve made every one of their newsletters,” he said. “In my case this is very dear to me. I’ve put six years of newsletters,
  7. 7. higher education and 20 years of professional service towards [this job] and to have attacks like this… this is how I support myself and my family.” family. The relationship with Slow Growth, a nonprofit promoting what it calls sustainable public and economic policies that promote and improve quality of life, has been contentious for several years. The simmering private anger harbored by some targeted by the group in its mailings began boiling over at a public input session two weeks ago. Monday night, that distrust and anger continued. “There’s no question this group has been erroneously spreading information full of lies. The town needs to be actively combating these mailings not holding hands with a group that is actively lying,” lying, Selectmen Chairwoman Clare Jeannotte. Donald Van Dyne, a Finance Committee member and candidate for selectmen last spring, asked selectmen to demand a public apology from the group. Van Dyne found himself in the Slow Growth crosshairs during his run for selectman. “I ask you to take a position on behalf of all public officials who have been wrongly affected by these mail - ings,” said Van Dyne, after rolling off a list of the names of all officials named in the numerous mailings. “This board should ings, aggressively protect the men and women who volunteer [in town].” town]. Van Dyne said on Friday that he was speechless after hearing town officials were meeting with Chemaly and Simko. “After 18 months of being berated by SGI and having been an official on the receiving end, I’m not too happy to hear that this is happening,” he said on Friday before hearing about the outcome of the meeting. “What’s in it for happening, Chelmsford?” Chelmsford? The architect of that meeting was Selectman George Dixon. “Craig Chemaly called me,” said Dixon after the board’s meeting on Monday. “I think he’s a good kid. I think it was bet - me, ter to meet than not to meet. I’d do it again. I don’t have any regrets. Until they break their promise I have to respect them.” them. Slow Growth is noted for opposition to the controversial housing law Chapter 40B. In February, the group’s mailing focused on the development of 9 North Road, property owned by former selectman Philip Eliopoulos. Having been targeted on multiple issues, Eliopoulos is dubious about the recent meeting. “I don’t have much hope [for what they’ve said],” said Eliopoulos, who served on the board until April 2009. “We’ve met said], with them before.” before. He bases his opinion on past meetings held with Slow Growth representatives. Eliopoulos said the recent mailing, “Eliopoulos Of- fice Building: How the Plot Unfolded,” was leveled as revenge for Eliopoulos’ efforts to set the record straight. Monday, Chemaly was enthusiastic with the Friday afternoon meeting. He repeated several times that Slow Growth and Chelms- ford share many concerns about development, concerns addressed together. When pressed, he would not repeat the call for Cohen’s ouster, promising efforts to work with Cohen. He would not promise that Chelmsford has seen the permanent end of Slow Growth’s attack campaign. In Chemaly’s view, the town will dictate what the fu- ture holds. “The reason why I can’t guarantee anything is because I don’t know what they’re going to do, but I don’t see anything on the horizon or any reason why we would need to do anything harsh,” he said. harsh, Chelmsford Board of Selectmen 3/8/10 Donald Van Dyne wants an apology to the town from Slow Growth Initiative’s Roland Van Liew and Craig Chemaly whom Van Dyne calls liars. CLICK HERE to watch segment Selectmen George Dixon Speaks on the Slow Growth Initiative and the groups meeting with the town management CLICK HERE to watch the clip
  8. 8. Chelmsford-based activist group ordered to stop soliciting until it registers with state By Rita Savard, 03/13/2010 CHELMSFORD -- Attorney General Martha Coakley has issued the Slow Growth Initiative a cease-and-desist order to halt all solicitation activity until the Chelmsford-based group registers with the state. SGI, a self-described charitable organization that promotes sustainability in housing, energy and the economy, was cited by Coakley's office for "holding itself out as a public charity on its Web site." But a search on the state's Division of Public Charities database showed no registration for SGI. Charitable organizations are required by law to register with the state. "We require organizations to submit their financial statements so people can search and view annual filings," said Emily filings LaGrassa, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office. "People need to have a place to go where they can educate themselves on how an organization spends its money." Since the order was issued Wednesday, the donate tab on SGI's Web site states: "Please be patient while we update our Web site." Craig Chemaly, director of SGI, said his organization made a mistake. "Somebody screwed up at some point," Chemaly said. "It was an oversight that occurred long before I got here. But it's an point, easy fix and a quick fix. We will fix this." this. The oversight, said Chemaly, most likely occurred because SGI's parent organization, the New Hampshire-based New England Coalition for Sustainable Population, is registered in New Hampshire. "We are their Massachusetts branch," Chemaly said. "The thought was all you have to do is register in one state so you can branch, operate in any state. Clearly that was wrong." wrong. According to a 2008 tax return, the most recent available, The NECSP's total revenue was listed as $202,375. It was unclear yesterday how much of that money was donations for SGI. Chelmsford resident Roland Van Liew, who Chemaly said is strictly a donor for the SGI and nothing more, was listed as a director for NECSP in 2008. Van Liew no longer serves on the NECSP board, Chemaly said. Although the NESCP is registered in New Hampshire, the organization's mailing address is a post-office box in Acton. Chemaly said some of NECSP's members live out of state, including New York and Vermont, so the Acton mailing address makes it easier for members like Chemaly to retrieve their mail. Chemaly said SGI is gathering the necessary documents to register in Massachusetts, which includes a copy of the organization's charter, a list of current officers and directors and their addresses, a copy of the organization's bylaw and a copy of the IRS letter designating the organiza- tion's federally recognized charitable status. Based on this information, the state determines whether or not the organization is indeed a public charity. All charitable organizations must meet the state requirements to receive a certificate for solicitation before engaging in fundraising activities. In January, SGI also made headlines after Freedom Petition Management, a professional signature-gathering firm, said they were in the process of filing suit against SGI for a breach of contract. Rob Wilkinson, co-owner of the company, said SGI still owed thousands of dollars to the company for its work gathering signatures for a ballot question to repeal the state's Chapter 40B affordable-housing law. Chemaly said SGI is working with that company to quickly pay back the money. And after more than a year of mass-mailing campaigns that accused town officials of ruining Chelmsford's character by promoting 40B projects and other growth, SGI made a formal apology last week. Chemaly said SGI is looking forward to a collaborative relationship with the town. The group plans to come out in support of a $5 million debt ex- clusion to relocate the Department of Public Works to the former Old Mother Hubbard dog food plant on 9 Alpha Road, he added. Chemaly said if any donors wish to see where SGI is spending its money, they just have to ask. ******************************************************************************************* "All the information is available," Chemaly said. "It's not like we're some shell organization that hides in the bushes." available RELATED STORY: BOSTON HERALD AG bars donations to groups Charities illegally raising funds to repeal housing law Craig Chemaly, Slow Growth Initiative’s executive director, said yesterday the Chelmsford- based group will comply with the state law. He accused the powerful affordable housing lobby of trying to discredit the repeal efforts. “They are trying to find a way to shut us up, because they are concerned that we may be successful in getting rid of their cash cow,” he said. Massachusetts Attorney Chemaly said the Slow Growth Initiative began soliciting donations four months ago. Before General Martha Coakley that, Roland Van Liew of Chelmsford was the group’s only donor. The operator of a computer CLICK HERE software training company has contributed $500,000, Chemaly said. for the AG Letter READ MORE to SGI CLICK HERE
  9. 9. A New Beginning Submitted by Craig Chemaly Over the past few weeks, the Slow Growth Initiative has taken significant steps to repair and improve our relationship with Town Hall. Through substantive and productive conversations with Selectmen, Town staffers, and the Town Manager himself, we have initiated a process of sincere reconciliation. Our motivation in seeking this change of direction is simple: We hope that a civil working relationship between the Slow Growth Initiative and Town Hall will produce prudent policy and make Chelmsford more sustainable. As we attempt to regain the trust of town officials, we believe that residents need to clearly understand what the Slow Growth Initiative stands for and exactly what we try to work towards. We seek to promote, at the state and local level, public policy that allows Massachusetts to progress in a way that protects our environment, maintains our communities’ fiscal health, and preserves our quality of life. Simply put, we believe that the majority of development should be done through the redevelopment of existing structures. We strive to show town officials across the state that, in most places, the negative effects and costs of new development outweigh the benefits. We also advocate on behalf of our members in towns across the state. Our philosophy is flexible, sensible, and responsible. Our philosophy manifests itself in vari- ous ways, including protected parks, town-maintained open space, and economic revitalization via redevelopment. While some Chelmsford residents may have felt alienated by our past approach, we hope that our sincere efforts to change our strategic direc- tion will allow residents to embrace our important philosophy. That is what we hope to achieve. We would also like to provide a bit of information about the Slow Growth Initiative for those who have expressed an interest in knowing more about us. We are a statewide organization with over 2,000 members and hundreds of volunteers — many from Chelmsford. We promote slow growth policies through public information campaigns, legislative partnerships on Beacon Hill, outreach and education of public officials, and through grassroots organizing. While we are very active in Chelmsford, we have a broad base of operations in dozens of communities. We invite you to visit our website and read our reports on electrical grid efficiency and effective tools for creating affordable housing that respect communities’ autonomy. It is with these goals and projects in mind that we hope to start a new chapter in Chelmsford. In meetings with the Town Manager and other offi- cials, it seems we have reached a mutual understanding. The Slow Growth Initiative will cease to produce and distribute the offensive mailings, and in return the Town will respect the input of the Slow Growth Initiative on important projects, ranging from the protection of town-owned open space to the implementation of the Master Plan, and will recognize that we are not just working on behalf of the philosophy of slow growth, but also on behalf of hundreds of Chelmsford residents who are members and the thousands of residents of Chelmsford who support slow growth as a philosophy. We understand that some residents and Town Hall employees will greet this new beginning with skepticism. In the interest of alleviating this dis- trust, some critical points need to be addressed. First, SGI is seeking reconciliation because we hope that cooperation with Town Hall will foster better policy. There is no other motive. Already, the Town Manger has assured us that the parcels currently used by the DPW will be transformed into open space, if and when the sites are va- cated as a result of a vote by the town for consolidation. This is the kind of success we are seeking. And we look forward to many, many more. Second, some residents may wonder what this “new beginning” will look like. These residents need only look to the partnership between the Slow Growth Initiative and Chelmsford’s Community Development Director, Evan Belanksy, on the new Master Plan. For months the two sides met on more than a dozen occasions, sharing perspectives, exchanging information, and working to articulate a shared vision for land use in Chelmsford. This partnership culminated in our offering of nearly identical testimony to the Master Plan Committee. Mr. Belanksy and the Slow Growth Initia- tive articulated mutually-held beliefs regarding sustainability, carrying capacity, and sensible means of growth. In the end, all we seek is a duplication of this positive and productive experience. Third, many residents may wonder why a state-wide organization like the Slow Growth Initiative is spending so much time and energy on one town. The answer is simple: Chelmsford is a mature suburb, whose proximity to several major highways, quality of public education, and avail- ability of town services like water and sewer make it extremely desirable to both new residents and developers. Places with this convergence of growth factors are where the slow growth approach is needed most. Chelmsford represents the kind of community where excessive physical growth threatens quality of life, fiscal health, and the environment. But it is also important to note that as a large organization, the Slow Growth Initiative works with multiple towns at once, and on multiple projects at once. At this very moment, we are engaged in projects with Andover, Wilmington, Tewksbury, and Framingham, as well as many statewide projects. Fourth, we recognize that some may feel that this cooperation is unlikely to succeed. However, it is already working. As previously mentioned, Evan Belanksy and the Slow Growth Initiative offered nearly identical testimony to the Master Plan Committee. Additionally, through a conversa- tion with Town Manager Paul Cohen, we received an assurance to turn the old DPW sites into open community space, if the April debt exclusion passes. If we can work together on the Master Plan and the DPW consolidation in the current climate of distrust, then surely we can accomplish much in the improved climate we are trying to create. We do not expect this process to be easy and we recognize that the town and those who support a slow growth philosophy will not always agree. Many in Town Hall feel personally attacked and slighted by our past mailings. On the other side, many supporters of slow growth and members of the Slow Growth Initiative feel ignored and abandoned by town hall. These feelings will likely linger, but we must put them aside and work together to achieve success on issues important to Chelmsford residents. And so, to the thousands of residents in Chelmsford who have signed our petitions, volunteered with us, donated to us, and who communicate with us on a regular basis, we’re still on the job. For those who have been on the other side, meet us in the middle and let us work together for the town. And to most of Chelmsford’s residents, who find themselves in the middle, tell your friends, neighbors, and elected officials to support this new beginning. Together we can all help maintain Chelmsford’s standing as one of the most desirable towns to live. Craig Chemaly, Director Slow Growth Initiative 1 Village Square, Suite 3 Chelmsford, MA 01824 Office: 978-319-2051 Cell: 617-669-4968 Email:
  10. 10. IT'S TIME FOR THE PEOPLE TO RISE UP AGAINST 40B Warren Shaw The Valley Dispatch 02/26/2010 For the most part, I've been in favor of letting our Legislature take care of complex issues. Having legislation enacted by ballot question oftentimes leads to problems. Like the beaver-trap law that has flooded basements and made wetlands out of perfectly good land. And there was the so-called Clean Elections Law, which was really a publicly funded campaigns bill. But the Legislature has had many opportunities to correct the serious inequities in Chapter 40B, the affordable-housing law, and hasn't done it. So it's time to get rid of this piece of well-disguised special- interest legislation and seek out real alternatives to create af- fordable housing. And the only way we have of doing it is to get it on the ballot. Enacted in 1969, 40B was supposed to help create affordable housing here in Massachusetts. It hasn't made a dent in the problem, but has ruined neighborhoods and made local zoning and community land- use planning a waste of money. The law allows developers to ignore local zoning that may only allow an acre per lot and put in eight or more single-family units per acre, as long as they have 25 percent affordable units. They're allowed this privlege if a community doesn't meet the state's threshold of 10 percent affordable housing. Not many suburbs meet the 10 percent because, you see, it's only affordable if it's done in one of the state's programs. Using logic that only a bureaucrat can fathom, they tell you the free-market housing stock that often sells below what the state allows for affordable housing units can't be depended on to stay affordable. After all, the free-market units weren't created as part of their social engineering. I wonder if they have been watching what the real estate market correction has done to these values. So towns like Dracut, with 30 to 40 percent of their housing stock affordable on a free-market basis, must continue to be inundated with high-density developments that they couldn't possibly have planned for because the state is in the tank with the home building industry. Not that working with developers is a bad thing, but this law is the most corrupt piece of the-government-against-the-peo- ple legislation in the state's history. Don't believe me? Listen to Gregory Sullivan, our state inspector general, "the 40B scandal represents the biggest abuse in the state's history." You would think somebody would do something about this, right? Some have over the years but in the end, attempts to make 40B more equitable have been defeated by special interests. The only way to fix it is to get it on the ballot and let the people decide. The coalition to repeal 40B, led by John Belskis of Arlington, has submitted 100,000 signatures to get the matter on the ballot. The next step is for the Legislature to vote to put the matter on the ballot. If they don't, the group must get another 11,000 signatures. Call your legislators and ask them to vote to put it on the ballot. Warren Shaw is a former Dracut selectman who hosts a popular Saturday morning radio show on WCAP-Am from 6 to 10.
  11. 11. North Road office project needs additional special permits in order to proceed Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 24.FEB.10 Residents opposed to Epsilon Group LLC’s proposed North Road office building will get another chance to speak out against it during a second Planning Board public hearing. Community Development Director Evan Belansky said while crafting a decision on the project he discovered the applicant needs two addi- tional special permits. The parcel behind the Center Fire Station is located within the Aquifer Protection District. “You need a special permit by the Planning Board if you exceed 15 percent lot coverage,” said Belansky. Between the building and parking lot, the plan would exceed that limit, said Belansky. A second special permit would deal with the Emerson House located on the same parcel. It is needed because of parking and landscaping setback violations that resulted after the original parcel was split into two during an Approval Not Required (ANR) plan. The Planning Board is expected to vote on the original special permit requests tonight. Each one requires a super-majority of five out of the seven members to be approved. But the other two special permits would have to be granted before the applicant could pull a building per- mit, said Belansky. And that will require a new public hearing. **************************** Chelmsford planners OK building in center By Rick Tessier, Sun Correspondent 03/11/2010 CHELMSFORD -- The Planning Board voted 6-1 last night, with Robert Joyce opposed, to approve the site plan for Epsilon Group to construct a 15,494-square-foot, two-story professional building in Chelmsford Center. The board also voted 5-2, with Joyce and Edmond Roux voting against, to grant Epsilon the special permits it requested in connection with the project. Roux deferred to Epsilon's earlier statement that it could undertake the project without the special permits if necessary. The board's approval follows the earlier Historical District and Conservation Commissions' respective ap- provals. The special permits cover off-street parking and loading, natural screening from parking areas, and land- scaping. Upon completion, Epsilon building will occupy 9 North Road, along with the colonial Emerson building. The new building will house medical, dental and legal practices, and will have 23 parking spaces. Community Development Director Evan Belansky said the project does not need to go before selectmen for approval. Epsilon must appear before the Planning Board again, on Wednesday, March 24, to address a final issue that concerns aquifer protection.
  12. 12. PHIL'S ROAST IS WELL DONE By Tom Christiano Over 180 Open Space supporters gathered recently at the Chelmsford Elks for a fundraising Roast and dinner. The Lead Chelmsford Open Space Steward (COSS), Phil Stanway, was the guest of honor and roastee, as we also celebrated his 50th birthday. The total amount raised at this enjoyable event was approximately $5,000.00. As Phil told me after the big night, at their average funding rate of $200 per year, this $5,000 should last them about 25 years! He was kidding of course... as the COSS program will now be able to buy some long awaited equipment & tools. I asked Phil if this will be an annual event...he said he's not sure right now. The party included: a tasty pasta dinner provided by Nashoba Tech, humorous skits, a telemedia video, CLICK HERE a slide show, and our Town Manager, Paul Cohen, presenting Phil Stanway with the key to the town. for video from the night taken by The Open Space Stewards have been building trails and grooming the town's outdoor areas for over four years now... all on a volunteer basis. Chelmsford is a much more visually appealing and healthier town because of all the hard work the Open Space Stewards have performed in the past. May the fu- ture of our town's open spaces be as bright...and with the Stewards on the is sure to be so. Photos by Tom Christiano
  13. 13. TOM TV Political Junkies with Tom Christiano State Rep Tom Golden State Rep & Jim Arciero Daughter Abigail ******************* CLICK HERE CLICK HERE for 30 minutes with State Rep Tom Golden for 30 minutes with State Rep Jim Arciero * Politically Incorrect with Tom Christiano with Selectman George Dixon, School Committee Chairman Angie Taranto, and two Town Meeting Representatives and re-election candidates... Barbara Bellanger & Karen DeDonato CLICK the show to watch HERE
  14. 14. T O W N TA L K with Dennis Ready and Mary Gregoire School Committee Candidate Jack Wang talks with Dennis and Mary about the race CLICK HERE for segment Town Meeting Representaive and former Planning Board member Pam Armstrong talks about the Slow Growth Initiative CLICK HERE for segment
  15. 15. In sign of the times , Chelmsford looks to billboard revenue By Rita Savard, 02/28/2010 CHELMSFORD -- A contract was awarded to Capital Advertising to lease town-owned land for the first billboards in Chelmsford. But several hurdles remain before the outdoor signs become a part of the landscape. Before the applicant can apply for a license from the state's Outdoor Advertising Board, it must first obtain ap- proval from the town's Planning Board, which shot down the proposal last year in a 5-2 vote. After weeks of deliberation, the Planning Board ultimately decided that adding billboards would ruin Chelmsford's small-town character. But the Board of Selectmen unanimously endorsed sending the issue to Town Meeting last April, where a billboard overlay district was approved by a two-thirds majority, with 94 representatives supporting the measure and 41 opposed. Despite the Planning Board's disapproval, it still created a new bylaw that members felt would protect Chelmsford by enforcing certain zoning requirements, which include placing full control over sign content under town control. Capital Advertising came in as the high bidder for both locations marked for billboards, agreeing to pay $72,000 a year over 20 years for a sign near Chelmsford High School, and another $60,000 for property at Oak Hill near Scotty Hollow. The contracts also require Capital to pay a 2.5 percent increase annually over the 20-year period for each billboard. But some residents are skeptical that Capital will be able to move forward on the signs due to regulations in the state law. Town Meeting Representative Rick Mahoney asked the Board of Selectmen last Monday to get more feedback from residents on the contract before pushing it through. "A lot of people feel these are not going to be attractive options for a town called Chelmsford," Chelmsford, Mahoney said. Mahoney also brought up the law for billboard's governed by the state's Outdoor Advertising Board. The statue sates that no permit shall be granted for a sign that is within 300 feet of a public park, playground or scenic recre- ational area. He asked how a billboard could be put up near the high school, which has more than one recre- ational field. Town Manager Paul Cohen said there were never any guarantees that a billboard would receive the necessary permits. "It's up to the applicant to do the leg work," Cohen said. "The town has made no assurances in work, our request for proposal that the billboards could in fact be licensed. They have to first go through the Planning Board before the state even talks to them." them. If the Planning Board approves the necessary permits, the state's Outdoor Advertising Board would also have to approve the sites. Colin Durrant, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said in general, a school field is usually considered a park under the regulations because it's available for public use. "But again, a determination is always made by a MassDOT employee based on a site inspection in response to an application," Durrant stated in an e-mail. application The idea of putting up a billboard was originally pitched by local pizza-chain owner Sal Lupoli, Chelmsford High athletic director Jack Fletcher and Chelmsford High football coach Bruce Rich, as a way to generate enough rev- enue to build a new community athletic field. Town officials saw it as a potential way of generating more money each year. The issue has been through Town Meeting twice.
  16. 16. Resident Neal Lerer who lives on Manahan street shared with the In-Town Report his Q&A with David Hedison of the Chelmsford housing authority on the proposed Manahan St. Project . Q: For clarification, what is the total occupancy (number of tenants) and total number of bedrooms for the property? A: It is currently a duplex with four bedrooms per unit. We estimate that there will be no more than 4 people per duplex for a total of 8. The property adjacent to 9 Manahan on 15- 17 Morgan is a duplex on .4 acres with 3608 sq ft and has a total of six bedrooms. In a duplex with three bedrooms on each side you could have as many as 12 or more. ******************************************************** Q: (a) What are the specific qualifications for tenants in terms of who will get preference? Will recent Iraq and Afghanistan veterans get preference? (b) In addition to a CORI check will there be other background checks? A: a.) We are currently working on the preferences. Right now, one of the strongest options is having the site be for woman only. The VA has found that there are very few programs that focus on the needs of woman veter - ans. They have also indicated that the highest number of woman veterans are from the recent deployments. We would not exclude veterans that DID NOT serve in Iraq and Afganistan - but our goal would be to help them as they are the ones that we see having the a very high need now. b.) We do a credit check, landlord check, sex offender check and will also be documenting and certifying on-going support from the Veterans Administration for anyone that has documented needs. ******************************************************** Q:After reviewing the present materials, since it is a family neighborhood (the property has been a single family home in my memory) and the project as planned seems dense to me, I personally would prefer that the Housing Au- thority change its option and seek a low income, handicapped accessible, single family home for a recently return- ing disabled veteran and his family. A: Single family housing for a vet is not currently an unmet need. A returning veteran that wants to buy a home can apply to our office and participate in our home ownership program. In addition, we are in the process of of - fering almost 40 new units of first time home ownership units in Westford. These units will include homes that are handicapped accessible. The price is $142,500 for a two bedroom and $155,000 for a three bedroom. In addition, we have a very short waiting list for home ownership units. With regards to density, 4 Manahan has 2238 sq ft on 6347 sq ft of land, 15-17 Morgand Drive has 3608 sq ft on less than half acre and 215 Chelmsford Street has 30 units on about 1.5 acres. The proposal is not overly dense in our estimation. ******************************************************** Q: Thank you for considering veterans.Does the Housing Authority give veterans preferences on any other of its prop- erties? A: We provide a veterans preference for our three bedroom rental units and one bedroom units. The current wait is between 7 and 10 years for the three bedrooms and over two years for the one bedrooms. There is currently a documented lack of housing for veterans in Chelmsford. ******************************************************** Q: What is the purchase price of the property? A: We are in the process of finalizing the purchase price but it is about $200,000 which will include delivering the site free and clear of the existing building with specific environmental guarantees. Lastly, I want to make it clear that we are "NOT" proposing a homeless shelter. We are not saying that everyone that moves into this building has to be disabled. We are providing options for veterans that could be disabled --- needing an accessible unit to live there. If you want to drive by 1 and 3 Harding Street in N. Chelmsford to see the duplex we built there ----- granted it is a ranch and the one on Manahan would be up and down -- half the foot print --- you will see that it is an attractive building. I welcome additional comments, concerns and thoughts. Direct communication is always my preference as I will provide you with the most up to date information we have as the plan evolves. Thank you and take care David J. Hedison
  17. 17. Schools to request $45 million budget for 2011 Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter • Tue, Mar 09, 2010 At his final School Committee meeting, Business Manager Bob Cruickshank presented a $45,085,000 fiscal 2011 budget request that requires no cuts to staffing or programs. The number is up from the current year's budget of $43,085,682, or roughly $2 million, Cruickshank told school officials Tuesday night. "It's a level-service budget not a cut budget," said Cruickshank. "That hasn't happened in a few budget years." years. Cruickshank's budget includes increases in five areas he called fixed costs. There's $700,000 for step and degree increases to staff as required under contractual obligations. It works out to about $650,000 in step increases and $50,000 in degree increases. Special education funding accounts for $550,000 of the fiscal 2011 increases. Tuition for special education stu- dents is increasing $385,000. In the area of special education programming, which includes adding staff posi- tions, the increase is $105,000. The remaining $60,000 is for increased special education transportation costs. Additional funds are also needed to cover salaries for about 14 teachers, who were saved last year after the town received a one-time payment of $750,000 in federal stimulus money. "That money helped pay for 14.4 staff teachers that would have been cut," said Cruickshank. cut Budget requests do not include money for any cost-of-living raises, but because school officials are still in nega- tions with the unions, no one brought the topic up. The five fixed costs increases total $2 million, which Cruickshank said is how much the town has agreed to in- crease the school's budget. Cruickshank said he remained "cautiously optimistic" about the additional $2 million. "Today I met with the town manager's team and asked how firm is that $2 million," said Cruick- million, shank. "He said it is firm. Paul (Cohen) feels comfortable that it will be there." there The business manager also presented a five-year recap of the school's budget and the changes between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2011. In five years, the school budget has increased $3 million, which has come exclusively from additional Chapter 70 state aid. Back in 2007, the state picked up 18 percent of the school's tab; today it pays for 23 percent. Because the town covers the entire cost of health insurance and payments to the Middlesex retirement system for all municipal and school employees, it has not added to the school budget, said Cruickshank. "Those two numbers have handcuffed the town and it has not able to give additional money to the school system," he said. system, Other changes over the five-year period include a decrease in enrollment, which has gone from 5,522 students in 2007 to 5,303 in 2011. This year, Cruickshank also provided what he called a fully loaded budget by function, basically what it actually costs to provide education. For regular education costs, he projected a 2011 budget of $34.8 million; for special education costs, he esti- mates a cost of $15.39 million. So the total costs of running the schools in 2011 will be $49,468,000. That means the town receives just over $4 million in grants and other revenues to cover costs.
  18. 18. At last, Stop & Shop gets go-ahead Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter • Mon, Mar 08, 2010 After almost a decade, Market Basket has abandoned its appeals of a Stop & Shop at the former Route 3 Cinema site on Chelmsford Street. Town Manager Paul Cohen told the Board of Selectmen Monday night the appeal period has ended. Representatives from Stop & Shop met with Cohen and Community Devel- opment Director Evan Belansky last week. "They are still interested in building a 69,000-square-foot store," store said Cohen. "They expect to start construction in September." September. It should take about nine months to construct the store, said Cohen. Once the grocery store moves, officials will focus on developing the current site on Boston Road. Previously, planning ******************************************* officials said they would like to see a mixed-use commercial/residential development on that site. Photos from The Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship And the Rains came down 3/14/10 Beaver Brook flooded (behind Fish Bones) Parlee fields flooded Heart Pond ...water is on the wrong side?
  19. 19. Field flooded next to Hart Pond Hunt Rd & Alcorn Rd. Water running off other side of Crooked Spring Rd. Crooked Spring road flooded out by the Dam Roads flooded; DPW urges caution GateHouse News Service Mar 15, 2010 Chelmsford — According to Jim Pearson, director of the Chelmsford Department of Public Works: Primary problem has been flooding. Turnpike Road is impassable Warren Avenue by the nursery is impassable Littleton Road is impassable due to road collapse Hunt Road is flooded, but the water isn't too deep and the road is open Acton Road is flooded but passable According to Pearson, the town is watching the Merrimack closely. If it floods, the sewer pump station could be impacted, so the town is getting ready for emergency operations, including building sand- bag berms. The last time there was a serious Merrimack River flood was 2006 "Just be careful when driving and don't drive through flooded roads. Go slowly," Pearson said. Littleton Rd (110) is collapsed right next to the Chuch junction of hunt and 110
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  21. 21. Chelmsford’s Election Quote of the Season:Season Insanity: ************************************ doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results CLICK HERE for the Chelmsford Business Association’s Candidates night - SCHOOL COMMITTEE DEBATE Thoren says experience has bettered school district The Lowell Sun Updated: 03/08/2010T CHELMSFORD -- Evelyn Thoren says experience can go a long way in steering a school district. The only incumbent in this year's School Committee race, Thoren says she has a 12-year track record of help- ing to make Chelmsford one of the top school districts in the state. She's running for re-election this year to help map out a long-term strategic plan for schools. A member of the School Committee since 1998, Thoren says her constant push for transparency has helped her get elected for four straight terms. Over the years, she's worked with fellow committee members to success- fully lobby the state for increased Chapter 70 education aid, and more than $16 million in school building reim- bursement funding for the high school and the middle schools. "The $31 million school building project was voted in without any hope of getting reimbursement," Thoren says. "There was a moratorium on reimbursement for quite some time, but we continued to fight for that funding and were able to bring a good portion back to taxpayers." Thoren, who has been criticized by her competition for not being more open to new ideas, including holding quarterly public input sessions, says it's not true. The School Committee's previous attempts to hold input sessions were poorly attended so it stopped having them. But, she adds, that doesn't mean she would be opposed to trying again. "My philosophy is been there, done that and willing to look at it again," Thoren says. "My approach has always been about how we can make the school district even better." Thoren says over the years, she's kept meticulous records of minutes that have helped keep the committee on track with a number of issues. She says she has also devised a system of tracking and evaluating policies, making the committee's work more accessible and transparent. Thoren is a retired high-school chemistry teacher and also operated her own business, the Crafters Shop, in North Chelmsford for 25 years. She has also taught continuing-education classes in Chelmsford. She says she's most proud of the way the School Committee has been able to save the district money during its toughest financial times, adding that the district's total budget has grown less than 2 percent each year. Savings have come from a number of creative cuts, Thoren adds, including privatizing the school- lunch program, cutting some employees hours below 20 a week to save on health insurance, having ad- ministrators pick up more duties instead of hiring new personnel, and putting the School Committee's policy manual together without hiring an outside consultant. If re-elected, Thoren says she will continue to lobby for more aid for Chelmsford schools. "Excellence in education is not a campaign slogan," she says. "It's my mission."
  22. 22. Wang says schools need Askenburg says officials strategic plan for success need to be transparent The Lowell Sun The Lowell Sun Updated: 03/08/2010 Updated: 03/08/2010 CHELMSFORD -- Jack Wang says Chelmsford Public Schools need CHELMSFORD -- What if the school district's top earners re- a plan for success. ceived bonuses only when they measured up to the district's goals? "Right now if you ask, is the Chelmsford school system a good school system, that's tough to answer because you can't define what Janet Askenburg, a candidate for School Committee, says she's good is," Wang says. "I want to help develop a strategic plan that a big proponent of pay for performance -- a concept that's imple- clearly defines what our goals are as a school district. It will give us mented in many school districts around the country. a way to measure our successes and learn from our mistakes." "Take the superintendent, for example," Askenburg says. "Rather Wang is one of three candidates running for two open seats on the than his salary being $169,000, what if we paid him $145,000 School Committee. It's the first contest for a School Committee seat and in order to get bonuses, he'd have to first meet clear and since 2006. measurable goals?" Wang, who says he's running to bring a fresh voice to Chelmsford Askenburg says adopting a pay-for-performance system could schools, had his two children enrolled in a charter school until last change the behavior of employees, "making them more strategic September when he moved them into the public school system. in thinking." Initially, Wang was attracted to the charter school's smaller class The director of business development at Ryan Inc., a corporate sizes. But last year, he felt one of his children, who "wasn't taking" to tax-consulting firm in Burlington, says she's running for one of the charter-school setting, might fare better in public schools. Over two open seats on the Chelmsford School Committee to the past six months, both of his children have done very well in strengthen communication between residents and the school Chelmsford schools. district. "I know there are both proponents and opponents of charter Askenburg says school officials need to be more transparent schools," Wang says. "For me, it's about choice. We have choices and open to new ideas. One of her goals, if elected, will be mak- when we go out to eat, on which cell-phone plan we want, on how ing the school's Web site more up-to-date and user friendly. we invest our money -- why not have a choice when it comes to our children's education? "Going on the Web site and trying to find information, and seeing how long it takes them to post meeting agendas, minutes and "Having that choice also gives parents a basis to measure the public other information is very frustrating," Askenburg says. "It takes school system by, and that's a good thing," Wang says. minutes to update a Web site. People shouldn't have to spend a lot of time digging for this information, it should be a click away." Wang graduated from Chelmsford High School in 1989, and earned a bachelor's degree in finance with a minor in accounting from the Askenburg says everything from the school district's University of Texas at Austin. He worked in the banking industry for unfunded mandates to the superintendent's job-performance 10 years, most recently as a financial adviser at Merrill Lynch before evaluation should be posted online. starting his own business, MERJ Financial Group, which helps indi- viduals, families and businesses better manage their money and If elected, Askenburg says she'd also like to hold quarterly meet- map out financial goals. ings open to the whole town to answer questions and address concerns, much like the Board of Selectmen does during its Whether people admit it or not, Wang says a school system, in every public input sessions. sense of the word, is a business. "I've been told that the School Committee has tried that before "Kids are the customers and teachers are your front-line employees and it hasn't worked because nobody attends," Askenburg says. who deal with the customers day in and day out," Wang says. "Cur- "Well, I say we have to try again. I do believe there are a lot of riculum is an important part of the operation but so is managing the people in town that would like the opportunity to be heard. It's money." just about finding a recipe that works." Wang believes that figuring out a solution that works for taxpayers Askenburg earned a bachelor's degree in legal administration at and educators isn't impossible. As money dries up for public em- the University of West Florida. She says her business experi- ployee pensions and health insurance, Wang wonders if any school ence and leadership skills can help make a positive difference in officials have asked the unions if there is something that can be town schools. done differently. All three candidates for the Chelmsford School Committee have "Having the same conversation gets tiring," Wang said. "Has anyone one thing in common -- all say the school district needs a strate- ever asked the unions what it is that they value the most? I don't gic plan. think that question has been asked. Employees are often willing to make sacrifices in certain areas if they feel they're keeping what's Askenburg says she was not only the first candidate to return most important to them." her nomination papers this year, but that she was also the first to talk about the need for a strategic plan on her Web site, That way, Wang explains, taxpayers don't have to pick up the short- fall. "Without a strategic plan, the school district is left to be reactive "At the end of the day, I know we can do better," he says. "We just versus proactive," Askenburg says. have to bring some new ideas to the table."
  23. 23. Submitted by Evelyn Thoren “No Overrides.” I have read recent comments on the questions and answers from the Chelmsford Business Association debate. I was disturbed by the lack of detail and perspective in the comments concerning my position on an override. My position on asking for more money from the taxpayer for the town or the schools at this time is simply this, “No override.” For other candidates to say they would never go to voters in the future, regardless of the financial situation in the town or the schools, is unbe- lievable to me. I choose not to pander to the voters by making irresponsible promises and statements like that. If the safety of our students is at risk, the state slashes local support, we continue to layoff police and fire personnel sacrificing safety, close more fire stations, curtail our snow plowing, cut to one barrel of trash per week, I would definitely ask the voters for financial support and then let the voters decide. Any re- sponsible elected official would do that. But an override? Not now, and not anytime soon, if I can help it During my time on the School Committee, I’ve done everything possible to get more money into our school system without having to ask for an override. I have fought for more state aid, more Chapter 70 money and I co-founded the Arts and Technology Education Fund to help students through private donations. The good news is that we have been successful. We have received $16 million from the state for taxpayer relief, saved thousands of dollars in consulting fees, captured more Chapter 70 money, executed operational consolidations and cost savings meas- ures and have lived within our means and the Town Manager’s budget for the twelve years that I have served on the School Committee. Many of our tax dollars go to support big cities that have underperforming schools. Since I have been on the School Committee, Chelmsford consistently improves academic achievement with a lot less money. We send more money to Beacon Hill than we get back. That upsets me, and that is why I fight through aggressive lobbying to get our own money back and to make changes in legislative mandates so we do not have to keep paying so much of our money to help other cities towns catch up to us. We get more than $4 million in grants each year because we work hard for them. So, I have put my work and efforts where my words are. My priority is to stay away from an override, continue to find ways to do business cheaper and to fight for the funding to strengthen our children’s future. The schools are in the business of raising academic per- formance, not raising revenue. But I do fight to get our tax dollars back to Chelmsford. At the CBA debate, the Board of Selectmen candidates were asked if they would support an override at this time. The different question that the School Committee was asked was if they would ever support an override for the schools. My record is clear. Since I started voting in 1972, I have never voted for anything that I did not research and study. Sound bites are not my strong point. Neither is promising you something I can’t deliver. I am honest and open with you, as I promised. Not an attribute that you can count on with most politicians. That’s why I will con- tinue to diligently work for cost savings and more state aid, so that I can still say, “No override”. From the F A R S I D E of Chelmsford Parting shots ...err Click words from out going Me SC member A VIDEO PRESENTATION
  25. 25. PAT WOJTAS ITR QUESTION #1 Slow Growth Initiative wants to make amends with the town government and collaborate with the town on its new Master Plan. Knowing the history of SGI, would you be willing to trust and accept their olive branch and work with them on what is best for the town of Chelmsford? PAT WOJTAS - The Master Plan Committee consists of nine well-qualified individuals, whose judgment I trust. Over the past several months, the MPC has been meeting with many groups, officials, and interested residents to collect a wide range of ideas regarding the vision for Chelmsford in the next 10-plus years. I am certain that the new Master Plan will reflect the diver- sity of opinion and values that are represented in Chelmsford. ITR QUESTION #2 40B - Repeal or Reform? Which are you supporting and why in your own opinion will one be more effective than the other? PAT WOJTAS - Current 40B legislation, as it relates to affordable housing, is flawed. However, in recent months, groups on both sides of this issue have been working together to develop a set of reforms, including aspects related to local control, accounting mechanisms to determine profitability, disposition of excess profits, and a ‘safe harbor’ provision which gives communities more control if they are making a good faith effort to increase their affordable inventory. I support these efforts. ITR QUESTION #3 In your own opinion What is the best thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years? What is the worst thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years? PAT WOJTAS - Changes/reforms at the legislative level which allow the Town more flexibility in regards to raising revenue and reducing expenses. Highest on the list includes granting municipalities the ability to make health insurance plan design changes outside of collective bargaining agreements; it also includes the elimination of many unfunded mandates for municipalities and school systems. The best thing that could happen would be sufficient reforms and/or increases in local aid that would result in significant tax relief for the property owners of Chelmsford. The residents of Chelmsford are compassionate, generous, and understanding. Generally, there is an abundance of vol- unteers willing to work for the best of the Town, regardless of individual self-interest. The worst thing to happen would be for these attributes to become lost in a polarized, selfish community, where each resident cares only about their own per- sonal needs and situation. ITR QUESTION #4 Why should I vote for you? PAT WOJTAS - I have been an effective member of the Board of Selectmen for three years. I have worked in partnership with seven differ- ent board members, and under three different chairmen. I have learned from the knowledge and experience of those who served many terms before me, and I am now passing that knowledge on to the newer members of our Board. I have been, and will continue to be, accessible and responsive to all residents. I have served during the most challenging economic times in recent memory. The Town has persevered, and has been recognized as a preferred place to live and do business. Services have been maintained; our public school system continues to pro- vide an excellent education. In order to continue this tradition of excellence, it’s critical to have a level of continuity on the Board. I will provide the leadership and experience required to keep a positive focus on the good of the community. Having grown up here, and been involved on many levels in the community, I understand our proud history, and will continue to be a tireless advocate for the Town of Chelmsford.
  26. 26. MATT HANSON ITR QUESTION #1 Slow Growth Initiative wants to make amends with the town government and collaborate with the town on its new Master Plan. Knowing the history of SGI, would you be willing to trust and accept their olive branch and work with them on what is best for the town of Chelmsford? MATT HANSON - The Slow Growth initiative should not be given any special treatment or a special voice in influencing the Master Plan of Chelmsford. However, it is clear that ignoring this group is not an appropriate approach as it only makes them more hostile. The Slow Growth Initiative has members who live in Chelmsford and who own businesses in Chelmsford. This gives them the right to voice their concerns at public input sessions. As long as there is no special treatment given, they should be able to offer their opinions and perspectives at the same time any resident or group in Chelmsford can. Ultimately, the Master Planning committee will analyze all of the input they have received and make their own decisions on what is in the best interest of Chelmsford and our Master Plan. ITR QUESTION #2 40B - Repeal or Reform? Which are you supporting and why in your own opinion will one be more effective than the other? MATT HANSON - I am in favor of repealing 40B. Chapter 40B does not allow for an effective or efficient way to create affordable housing. 40B does not create a targeted need for affordable housing or provide affordable housing to a range of people living below the area median income, only those who are just around 80% of the area median income. And at 10% below market value, many 40B units really aren’t “affordable” at all. Towns like Chelmsford have no local control in the development of this housing under Chapter 40B. The “reform” of Chapter 40B is an endless process that has been going on for years. The reform of Chapter 40B to fix all of the problems mentioned above, as well as many more, has no chance of passing through the Massachusetts legislature in the foreseeable future. That is why repeal will be more effective than reform. There are other means of creating affordable housing here in the Commonwealth. Developers utilize State and Federal Tax credits to create and maintain a range of income targeted affordable housing. Chapter 40R and 40S allow municipalities control over their affordable housing development. They offer municipalities monetary incentives for setting up their own overlay zoning districts for the creation of affordable housing (smart growth zoning districts). The town receives money from the state in three ways; for creating these zones, for actually building the affordable housing, and for any monetary burden the town undertakes through the education system as a result of the affordable housing.Affordable housing will not disappear along with Chapter 40B if it is repealed. The State will continue to incentivize developers and towns to create af- fordable housing as they currently do in many ways outside of Chapter 40B. ITR QUESTION #3 In your own opinion What is the best thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years? What is the worst thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years? MATT HANSON - The best thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years is that our town makes it back on to the list of best places to live in the Country, and not just back on the list, but to the number one spot. This is done by providing the best possible public services, school system, quality of life, quality of neighborhoods and sense of community, at the low- est possible cost to the taxpayers. Chelmsford already has great potential in all of these areas as our Town was number 21 in 2007. I would like to see Chelmsford be number one. This change won’t happen on its own so let’s utilize our energy, commitment and dedication towards achieving this goal. I am ready to devote my time and energy to working with you to make this happen for our great town. As a member of the Town Halls Utilization Study Committee, myself and a number of other volunteers have put together a plan to restore and utilize our two beautiful historic Town Halls with no incremental taxes to the tax payers. This is just one example of the innovative ideas that people can come up with when they work together that will improve our community.
  27. 27. The worst thing... We do nothing. Stagnation and not taking a hands-on proactive approach to the important issues facing our community is the worst pos- sible thing that could happen in Chelmsford. “If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed” We must always work as hard as we can to continually improve our community and keep up in the fast paced world of the 21st century. And we must do this while keeping Chelmsford, Chelmsford. We must stand up for positive initiatives that are important for improving the quality of our community. I am willing to do this for our great town and that is why I am run- ning for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. With all of your help, we can ensure that our Town is continually improving. ITR QUESTION #4 Why should I vote for you? MATT HANSON - I am a lifelong resident of Chelmsford, educated in the school system, and a benefactor of the inherent sense of commu- nity our town has to offer. I received my Bachelors degree in Political Science from UMass Lowell where I am currently fin- ishing my Masters in Regional Economic and Social Development. I have worked for Chelmsford with State Representative Jim Arciero at the Statehouse. I am a Town Meeting representative, a member of the Town Halls Utiliza- tion Study Committee and have worked with residents on other issues important to our community. I have seen firsthand how the best solutions come from working with people and getting them involved in the process early. I would like to uti- lize this education and experience to benefit our town as a member of the Board of Selectmen. If you want someone rep- resenting you on the Board of Selectmen who will proactively reach out to people for their ideas on how to best improve our community, and someone who has the energy to put in the research on the issues so they can make good decisions and get the job done; I am that candidate. We must continually and proactively find ways to save tax payers money, generate new revenue, and make smart deci- sive decisions to improve the quality of life in our community. I will continue to strive for these things every year while in of- fice and not just when the economy has put our town in a difficult financial position. This must be a continual process. I will be an independent voice on the board that is not afraid to champion issues important to our community such as improving Chelmsford Public Schools, enhancing public safety, encouraging economic development and reducing the residential tax burden through seeking new revenue sources. Let’s work together to improve the quality of life and the quality of neighborhoods here in Chelmsford. I want to hear from you to learn more about your individual concerns. I would encourage you to contact me with your pri- orities or with any questions as to where I stand either by phone 978-319-5383 or by email On April 6th, I ask for one of your two votes so I can represent you on the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen. Thank you, Matt Hanson
  28. 28. JON KURLAND TR QUESTION #1 Slow Growth Initiative wants to make amends with the town government and collaborate with the town on its new Master Plan. Knowing the history of SGI, would you be willing to trust and accept their olive branch and work with them on what is best for the town of Chelmsford? JON KURLAND - All citizens have the right to discuss issues with town boards and committees. While I do not believe that SGI should have any independent recognized status, any resident who is affiliated with SGI has the same right as any other citizen to dis- cuss development or other projects in any reasonable forum. Earlier this year SGI attacked me in a letter to the Lowell Sun. I contacted SGI’s Director Craig Chemaly and refuted all the allegations they leveled at me. Mr. Chemaly then apolo- gized and sent a revised letter to the Sun, omitting all reference to me, and the Sun printed the letter. While I appreciate Mr. Chemaly’s apology and acknowledgment that his original letter was false and misleading, it is still difficult for me to be completely objective in responding to this question. The only way that I will be able to trust SGI is if they behave appropri- ately in the future by acting like responsible citizens, which means no more false and misleading town wide mailings. Only time will tell whether they can earn back the trust of Chelmsford citizens. ITR QUESTION #2 40B - Repeal or Reform? Which are you supporting and why in your own opinion will one be more effective than the other? JON KURLAND - 40B is a flawed law and should be repealed. It does not effectively increase the per cent of affordable housing and it tram- ples the rights of citizens and municipalities by violating town zoning by-laws and other regulations. Reform efforts and minor changes do not address the over-riding flaws in the statute. By repealing the law, voters will send a loud and strong message to the legislature that we need a whole new approach to creating affordable housing. Perhaps legislators should study other states to determine if they have laws that achieve the objective of affordable housing while preserving the rights of municipalities and private citizens. ITR QUESTION #3 In your own opinion What is the best thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years? What is the worst thing that could possibly happen in Chelmsford over the next 3 years? JON KURLAND - At the end of the next three years, I would like to see: • A new Department of Public Works on Alpha Road, and the termination of the litigation between the North Chelms- ford Water District and the Town. • An increase to the Town’s Stabilization Fund that has improved the Town’s credit rating. This allows the Town to bor- row at a more favorable rate saving the taxpayers money. • A reduction in energy costs resulting from the installation of solar panels on the former DPW site. • A restoration of all state aid and increased Chapter 70 funding due to the improved economic conditions, resulting in decreased class sizes and enhanced educational programs. • Elimination of school bus fees, athletic, and activity fees. • Finally, and most importantly, redistricting that restores Chelmsford’s ONE state representative vs. the present FOUR. The worst thing is that the voters decide not to approve the acquisition of the Alpha Road property. The law suit between the North Chelmsford Water District and the Town continues since the threat of contamination still remains costing taxpay- ers tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and other costs of litigation. The Water District wins the lawsuit and Chelms- ford is ordered to move the Department of Public Works to a new location. The cost of the new DPW facility is three times what the Alpha Road project would cost but we have to proceed with the more expensive project due to the court order. Before the DPW can be relocated there is a spill or leakage that contaminates the aquifer in the North Water District. The North Water District sues the Town to pay for the cost of remediating the contamination. That lawsuit costs addition tens of thousands of dollars and the town is now ordered to pay millions more to clean the contaminated aquifer.