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The Great email chase


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2007 email exchange between Selectman Sam Chase, Paul Cohen and Roland Van Liew

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The Great email chase

  1. 1. Submitted to the In-Town Report by Sam Chase former Selectman--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Message -----From: Roland Van LiewTo: clochase@verizon.netSent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 11:28 AMSubject: FW: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorSam, below is the thread of my recent communication with Paul Cohen. I do not understand why the Town Manager has decided to beso confrontational toward the thousands of residents who clearly feel the town should support slow growth policies and oppose unsus-tainable growth. To me, his lack of common sense has been astounding. I call your attention to his actions with respect to BentleyLane, Jones Farm, the Development Coordinator job focus, the Fire Station study recommendations. Our seemingly-deaf Town Man-agers lack of common sense is proving destructive, yet the Board of Selectmen has been quoted praising him instead as "innovative."The very day that your quote about his "good political instincts" was in the paper, a petition with 1,000 signers was presented to theZBA repudiating the Town Mangers position with respect to the Cease and Desist Order. He has dismissed concerned longtime resi-dents like myself as "drawbridge raisers." It is important that you look more critically not just at his arrogant behavior, but at his unwisepolicies moving forward.Sincerely,Roland Van Liew6 Hemlock Drive-----Original Message-----From: Roland Van Liew []Sent: Tue 7/24/2007 12:16 PMTo: Cohen, PaulSubject: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorWith the resignation of Andrew Sheehan from his position as "DevelopmentCoordinator" the town has a fortuitous oppportunity to refocus thatimportant staff position onto real analysis and coordination of multipleactivities that affect the town, not just "Development." The positionshould be retitled and the skill requirements reworked to include morethan the minimal qualifications listed on the recent job posting. Sincemost officials concede that there will be little "development" movingforward, it is time to retitle and refocus that position on issues ofconcern to residents: water and sewer services, traffic management,economic activity coordination, preservation of open space, financialstability -- in short, a sustainability engineer.Additionally, it would seem to me that a salary of some $70,000 is toohigh to pay the holder of a bachelors degree and just a few years ofexperience (as indicated in the originally posted job description). Amasters degree should be required along with some demonstrated priorfocus on sustainability issues.Sincerely,Roland Van Liew6 Hemlock DriveFrom: Cohen, Paul []Sent: Sunday, August 05, 2007 12:11 AMTo: Roland Van LiewSubject: RE: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorMr. Van Liew,

In the current hiring process to find a successor to Andy Sheehan, I have considered your comments.At this time, I am more concerned with finding the best planner for our community rather than the title of the position.The position title can be changed at any time. What I am seeking is the best person who can address the concerns
  2. 2. that you noted as well as other priorities such as the ability to assist in an update to the Towns master plan, the skillto write defensible decisions, and the experience to draft zoning bylaws. 
I expect that the salary given to the newperson will be reflective of the persons education and experience and it will be competitive with the market for thisposition.

Paul Cohen
From: Roland Van LiewSent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 11:21 AMTo: Cohen, PaulSubject: RE: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorI believe I can infer correctly from your response that you have decided, two weeks after receipt of my expressedconcerns, to respond in no meaningful way to those concerns. Your reply is sophist, purposefully focusing on thejob title and avoiding the central concern over the job description and job focus.These same concerns have been expressed by the hundreds of residents who actually signed onto the petition call-ing for slow growth. The vast majority of residents agree with the Master Plan that we should resist urbanizationand do not want "urban planning" to be the focus of your assistant, as the job description now reads. The result willbe continued political uproar over your decisions like the one to commission a consulting firm at a cost of $17,000only to come up with the resulting outrageous recommendation that we build on town park land. A sustainability di-rector would have adequately briefed the consultants and would not have brooked such unacceptable proposals.Sincerely,Roland Van Liew6 Hemlock Drive----- Original Message -----From: Roland Van LiewTo: Samuel ChaseSent: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 11:26 AMSubject: RE: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorSam, thank you for your message. Responses are embedded below.Sincerely,Roland Van Liew6 Hemlock DriveFrom: Samuel Chase []Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 11:18 PMTo: Roland Van LiewSubject: Re: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorRoland,Thank you for your e-mail.I would like you to consider that the full text of my quote is that the town manager "demonstrates good politicalsense without resorting to making decisions based on self serving politics," quite a different standard and proposi-tion than your characterization of my remarks implies.I learned long ago that there is no substitute for getting the facts, and very often that means having to listen to andacknowledge discussion that may not necessarily comport with ones point of view. I am generally suspicious ofanyone who promotes a single issue or party line without considering that other alternatives may have merit.Are you saying that slow growth is a "single issue?" Obviously its not. Are you saying that slow growth isa "party line?" Obviously it’s its not. Im really not sure what youre getting at here, or what “other alterna-tives” may have merit. More fast growth? Could anyone seriously suggest that?

  3. 3. Your wording regarding being suspicious is interesting. You are of course speaking to me, but I am not pro-moting a single issue or party line. I don’t know whether you’re going off on a tangent or whether you’resaying that you disagree with the Slow Growth Initiative action plan. The action plan is a positive one, withonly benefits for the entire town. It is laid out clearly on the home page of the Slow Growth Initiative web-site. The only conceivable losers would be developers looking to make quick, big bucks via projects at reg-ulation-busting densities with negative overall effect on the rest of the community.What is suspicious about wanting growth to pay for growth?What is suspicious about wanting sustainability analysis to be a focus of town planning?What is suspicious about wanting to take the town off of growth autopilot?What is suspicious about wanting to enforce the town’s Master Plan? Isn’t it suspicious that the Town Man-ager is suddenly talking about updating the Master Plan – without so much as a mention of sustainabilityanalysis -- now that it’s become an embarassment to town officials?What is suspicious about wanting to focus on economic well-being, prosperity, equity, and security ratherthan urban growth?What is suspicious about wanting to shatter the specious myths about the spurious benefits of growth, sooften spouted by well-meaning but uninformed town officials?What is suspicious about wanting timely postings and notification of abutters?What is suspicious about demanding that 40B developments actually provide a good amount of affordableunits rather than the bare minimums enforced by statute?What is suspicious about wanting affordable housing that is restricted in perpetuity, providing a more sus-tainable supply?What is suspicious about requiring verifiable financial data for undesirable 40B developments? What “cer-tain constituencies” are objecting to that?What is suspicious about requiring reasonable densities for 40B projects? Aren’t Chelmsford’s zoning by-laws in place for the common good?That’s the slow growth action plan on the SGI web site. The resistance from town leaders like yourself is,frankly, perplexing.If you are to be suspicious, be suspicious of developers who won’t provide verifiable financial data beforeseeking approval of significant zoning variances.If you are to be suspicious, be suspicious of town employees and board members who repeatedly provideincorrect information regarding state law and affordable housing guidelines, particularly with respect toChapter 40B. Be suspicious of town leaders who state that they’re trying to be responsive to everyone butact on behalf of very few.Be suspicious of politicians who, upon receiving a petition with broad support and accompanied by cogentcomments from dozens of frustrated citizens, do nothing.Be suspicious of politicians who, confronted with a project that is ten times regulation density and providesthe minimum of affordable units needed to place it in 40B category, vote to fast-track it as a “friendly” proj-ect via the LIP process despite ferocious opposition by a variety of constituencies.I have known and worked with Philip, Clare, and Bill for many years, and am getting to know Pat and Paul. We donot always agree on approach, but it is certain that all of us want the best for Chelmsford. It is difficult sometimes tomake decisions that do not please certain constituencies, but a Selectman and Town Manager must represent allthe townspeople all the time. No one group has a lock on the truth or on the way things "ought to be."There is an undeniable truth, and it is that the overwhelming majority of Chlemsofrd residents want slowgrowth. While canvassing for the Slow Growth Initiative I have spoken at length with dozens of residents,most of whom I don’t even know. Not a single one is happy with the growth we’ve experienced. Not a sin-gle one wants further growth. What’s special interest about that?How would it “not please certain constituencies” to slow down growth? Fast growth proponents are nar-row special interests that are often not comprised of residents: a few developers, banks, realtors, lawyers,and businesses who would benefit directly from the growth but don’t want to pay the true costs. Are those
  4. 4. the “certain constituencies” that you fear would be upset by working to slow down growth and stabilize ourcommunity?Our jobs require that we consider all sides of an issue before making recommendations or decisions, and that iswhat we try to do.It would appear that you are willing to consider all sides of Development Coordination except sustainabilityanalysis, the focus that’s of most interest to virtually all of Chelmsford’s residents – the biggest con-stituency of all. That’s what’s so puzzling to me. Why has this been so dramatically omitted from the jobposting and the job description to date?Comments from the petition submissions were provided to you, and if you read them you will see that theyreflect immense frustration with past growth and the prospect of future growth. Ordinary residents get theconnection between growth and the costs, both financial and with respect to quality of life. Too many ofour town officials don’t get that connection. Those comments and the petition were put in front of you to letyou know the depth and breadth of feeling regarding the town’s failure to stabilize itself. It’s time to takethat sentiment seriously.Again, thanks for your support and hopefully we can continue to move forward with a balanced approach that willbenefit the town in the long run.When I read “balanced approach” above I know what it means: continue the status quo -- more unrespon-siveness to the desire for sustainability planning and more undesirable growth. I’m sorry, Sam, you justcan’t defend that position and it doesn’t benefit the town in the long run.Sam Chase, BOSFrom: Samuel Chase []Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 10:49 PMTo: Roland Van LiewSubject: Re: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorRoland,You are entitled to your opinions, and you have the right to express them. As an elected official of the town, I am ob-ligated to listen and consider them. I may agree with some, and disagree with others. If we do not agree completelyon how things ought to be, that does not mean my motives are bad or that I lack integrity, as you seem to suggest.If that is not what you meant to convey, then I apologize for misunderstanding your meaning.SamFrom: Roland Van LiewTo: Samuel ChaseSent: Thursday, August 09, 2007 11:01 AMSubject: RE: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorSam,Thank you for your response. I certainly am not conveying in any sense that you lack integrity. Nor have I evereven implied that your motives are questionable. However, my questions in the e-mail are not rhetorical. Based onyour original use of the word "suspicious," what is "suspicious" about those items on the Slow Growth InitiativeAgenda? My questions to you remain unanswered. What would you think of an official who refused to explain ei-ther opposition or support for said recommendations? I believe that you would rightly conclude that said official wasbeing evasive when there is no reason to be.
  5. 5. You can, if you like, substitute, "What could possibly be the negative impact" of those items on the Slow GrowthAgenda? I, and thousands of other residents, would like to know why you do not publicly support them. We alsowould like to know why you do not publicly support slower growth, the benefits of which are well documented. Iwould like to know why you have supported with your policies and your votes faster growth, the deleterious effectsof which are well documented. I am perplexed as to why you do not seem to want to answer these questions, yetyou remain wedded to your longtime position of supporting the status quo of faster growth driven by projects submit-ted by developers. What could possibly be the down side of supporting slower growth? If you are unconvinced ofthe benefits of slower growth, then you havent looked at the data. I would find that hard to believe in your case.Unlike some town officials who simply have the wrong idea of the facts, and believe the truisms associated with theidea that growth automatically brings additional economic prosperity, I believe that you understand that growth is un-sustainable and certainly undesirable for Chelmsford at this point in its history as a community. I believe you alsounderstand that Chelmsford residents are overwhelmingly opposed to further growth. So until you answer the ques-tions Ive posed, and until you come out with the simple statement that you understand that slow growth is betterthan faster growth for Chelmsford, I will, like most residents, remain perplexed and frustrated with statements thatyou "may agree or disagree" with "some" positions but not "others." Thats vague to the point of being completelyopaque.Sincerely,Roland Van LiewFrom: Samuel Chase []Sent: Friday, August 10, 2007 6:41 PMTo: Roland Van LiewSubject: Re: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorRoland,I will make this a simple as possible. No doubt my comments may be misconstrued by some, but I will try to be asclear as possible. Before I do that, however, I will tell you that I strongly believe that many issues do not lend them-selves to a simple "for or against" position or answer.Re 40B: I am opposed to the law in its current state. I have written two editorials in opposition, stating my beliefthat 40B is a flawed law, one published in the Sun, the other in the Independent. I have stated my position severaltimes on Chelmsford Cable TV and Warren Shaws WCAP Saturday morning show. I dont know how much morepublicly I can answer that question. I have vocally and publicly opposed several proposed 40B developments duringthe past 10 years, some of which were abandoned or severely scaled back. Since 2002, the Board has formally,consistently and publicly lobbied our state legislators to make changes in the law, and has signed on to various ini-tiatives (most recently that of the Walpole Selectmen) to encourage legislative changes. At the same time, however,I believe we must work within the current law and do our best to mitigate its undesirable effects until such time asthe law changes.Affordable Housing: I favor adaptive reuse vs. building more buildings. Requires developers willing to pursue thisoption. I also favor including non-subsidized affordable market rate units in the affordable housing inventory stock.Commercial Development: I favor adaptive reuse vs. building new buildings. I also am in favor of encouragingcommercial entities to explore the possibility of locating in existing vacant commercial buildings if possible beforeconsidering a "build to use" model. Requires commercial enterprises that are willing to locate to existing facilities vs.building new buildings.Open space: I believe in the town purchasing land and committing it to open space where possible. I supported theinitial ballot question adopting the Community Preservation Act for Chelmsford, and I supported the recently-passedincrement. I am in favor of preserving open space. Both these actions were enthusiastically supported unanimouslyby the Board. Mike McCall, a former Selectman, was the Selectman member on the Community Preservation Com-mittee and a vocal supporter of open land and environmental initiatives.Recycling: I support and promote recycling. I supported the recent bylaw encouraging increased recycling withinthe town.Zoning: I favor strict zoning bylaw enforcement to protect the integrity of the town.Education: Aside from School Committee personnel, I have been probably the most vocal and visible Chelmsford
  6. 6. elected official to support a revamping of the Chapter 70 funding formula that would guarantee a more equitable dis-tribution of aid to Chelmsford. I have testified twice before the House Committee on education on this subject, andhave as well written two editorials supporting increased aid for Chelmsford, both published in the Sun.I can add more things, but I believe I have hit the highlights. Hopefully you understand that I am not a "pro fastgrowth" or "anti-resident" single-track person, and that I generally support reasonable efforts to maintain and en-hance the quality of life in Chelmsford.If you would like to discuss further, please call me. I will be happy to meet with you, and believe that, at this point, itwould be more productive than creating an extended e-mail string.Regards,SamHome: 978-256-5617Wrok: 978-858-7243----- Original Message -----From: Roland Van LiewTo: Samuel ChaseSent: Friday, August 10, 2007 6:09 PMSubject: RE: Staff Vacancy - Sustainability DirectorThanks, Sam. I appreciate your taking the time to reply in some detail.One of Slow Growths supporters put it this way: "I think the petition was pretty clear and the basic message is this:We want our town to use all means at their disposal to resist new growth and instead focus on stabilizing our currentsituation. Ultimately, we cant grow our way out of our problems, and even if we could, thats not the type of commu-nity that we want to preserve."The part of that message that I think hasnt been done is "to use all means at their disposal to resist new growth." Ihavent seen much recent impetus in that direction, either, although I am encouraged after speaking with PaulCohen and Bill Dalton that we can, through continued dialog, implement processes that will help the town vigorouslyresist unwanted new development. I believe you agree with that goal, and Id be very pleased to meet with you atyour convenience to discuss in a bit more detail what I mean. To be honest, however, few of the ideas are my own,and they are mostly laid out in the Action Plan on the home page of the Slow Growth Initiative web site.Still, you are always interesting and informative to talk to, so I hope we can get together sometime in the next coupleof weeks. I will be out of town until next Thursday, when Fred Marcks and I will be meeting with Phil Eliopoulos andClare Jeanotte to discuss these same issues. After that meeting, Ill contact you and you can decide whether it willbe worthwhile for us meet soon thereafter.Again, I am grateful for your response, though I remain puzzled by your steadfast refusal to state that you wouldsupport a slow-growth strategy for Chelmsford.Yours truly,Roland Van Liew