Candidates Night Part 2: Planning Board

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Above, Planning Board hopeful Beth Wierling and incumbents Tony Padula and  Joe Halligan. Out of view to the left is candidate Jennifer Williams.

Thursday evening, a town-sponsored event brought nearly all candidates for the Nov. 2 election to the Town Council chambers, with former Police Chief Lawrence Benedetto moderating. Due to the length of the event, reporting will be in multiple parts. [NB: Not a verbatim transcript but edited highlights]

Part 2

Planning Board.

Introductions

Joe Halligan mentioned that he was a Franklin High School grad. He raised his son alone and son now at Bryant University. Serves on Community Preservation Committee. Recently purchased Palumbo towing.

Anthony Padula: Third generation resident, second generation veteran, worked for DPW for five years, presently a remodeler

Beth Wierling: 22 years of experience in planning and economic development, currently a planning manager with Gillette. UMass Amherst grad with masters in public administration. “Residents have expressed concern with continued development and are concerned about the [Planning Board] approval process.” She said she offers a new and unconflicted voice and can bring experience and knowledge to the process.

Jennifer Williams: Moved to Franklin 6 years ago to start a family. Wants to represent those residents without a voice on the planning board. “I am a registered architect. I can read construction plans. I have been an associate member of the Board and want to be full member so I can have a more meaningful impact.”

Statements

Halligan: “I am not denying that I have collected foreclosed and rundown properties and fixed them up and rented them to many Franklin residents. With Tony, we are the boots on the ground, we go out and look at sites and make sure town gets the quality they deserve.” Not using this position for a resume. Come by anytime and I will answer your questions. I am open to anyone and would appreciate your vote.

Padula: I don’t have to explain myself. I have been on the board 22 years. I don’t have an agenda. People know me from the board. I just want to set people straight. The Planning Board just accepted zoning back in the 1930s, subdivisions were added in the 1950s. We don’t design. Our job is to review submissions from contractors and builders. “Right now, most of our stuff is reconstruction, tearing down and rebuilding. We make sure they follow the bylaws of the town. It is not our job to change them.”

The Council has the ability to change zoning and took that away from Planning. We also have a Design Review and Conservation Commission as separate functions. “I am dedicated to my job and my priority is the people of the town.”

Wierling: Regarding things like R7 Zoning, Cook’s Farm was the only one approved [under that] in 2013. The statement was made that planning doesn’t make the rules... I feel regardless of who is responsible it is the Planning Board that should actively work together with the Council and Planning Department to make sure the town has the rules they feel comfortable implementing. “As a professional planner, I fully support completing a new master plan. That has very specific elements like economic development and it provides guidance for the town.”

Williams: Tony made some great points about the planning board. We enforce regulations we don’t make them. When changes are proposed by the Town Council, we should help them. We have the ability to comment on those changes, which can affect all development in the town. So, Planning can have a long-term impact. “It is important to have an unbiased view and important to not have to recuse yourself. I am doing this for the good of the residents. We should be thinking about traffic flows and how it impacts the community.”

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