Tom DeHoyos back on Greenfield Con Com

GREENFIELD — A member of the town’s Conservation Commission, who served six years before the Town Council rejected his reappointment in June, is back on the commission this week.

Not taking “no” for an answer, Mayor William Martin returned to the council this month, asking it to appoint Thomas DeHoyos to the vacant seat on the commission that his rejected reappointment created. This time, enough minds had changed that the council was one vote short of keeping DeHoyos off.

Martin said there is nothing in the town’s charter that prevents him from resubmitting someone as an appointee after the council turns down that person’s reappointment.

The mayor said he’s not sure why some councilors changed their votes, but said it might have had something to do with a letter sent by the other four commissioners who support DeHoyos.

In the letter submitted in July, which was signed by Alex Haro, chairman of the five-member commission, John Blasiak, Dee Letourneau and Timothy Mosher, the commission said it considered itself fortunate that Tom DeHoyos had applied to fill the vacant position on the commission and that it enthusiastically recommended that the Town Council approve his three-year appointment.

Commission members went on to say that DeHoyos’ long tenure in town — he was born and raised and now raises his family in Greenfield — provides a perspective, when reviewing projects, that those with fewer years or a less intimate association with the town could not provide.

“Tom is the sort of person who asks the right questions during project reviews,” the commission said in its letter.

Its four members went on to say that the commission “walks a fine line between preserving the natural resource base of the community and accommodating the lawful, healthful utilization of those resources.”

“It takes someone dedicated to protecting and preserving all that is good in Greenfield to serve effectively on the Conservation Commission,” they said. “Tom DeHoyos is that person.”

In mid June, nine councilors voted “no” to DeHoyos’ reappointment — nine votes out of 13 are needed to veto mayoral appointments and reappointments.

Some councilors said just before the June vote that they didn’t think DeHoyos had enough experience and didn’t feel he advocated for the environment strongly enough.

DeHoyos attended that meeting and waited for the vote, but was not asked that night to go before the council and answer any questions or defend himself.

DeHoyos said he isn’t sure how the councilors who voted against him would know that he isn’t experienced or doesn’t advocate for the environment, because he said he has never seen any of them at a Conservation Commission meeting.

“I’d like to think that someone who would make comments like that would do their due diligence and find out about me by watching me in action,” said DeHoyos.

Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner did not attend the council’s June meeting, so did not vote on DeHoyos’ reappointment, but voted “no” on his appointment.

Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zaltzberg, who voted “no” to DeHoyos’ reappointment, abstained this time, and in the case of such a vote, an abstention acts essentially as a “yes” vote. Zaltzberg also could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Precinct 6 Councilor Hillary Hoffman, who voted “no” last time, was ill, so did not attend the meeting or vote.

This time, eight voted “no,” three voted “yes,” and one abstained.

Council President Mark Wisnewski said he was disappointed that DeHoyos did not attend this month’s meeting, because there were councilors, including himself, who wanted to ask him questions.

“I had considered changing my vote to ‘yes’ until he didn’t show,” said Wisnewski.

DeHoyos said he attended the council’s Appointment and Ordinance Committee meeting earlier this month and answered many questions. He said Wisnewski was also at that meeting.

“I had a family emergency the night of the council meeting,” said DeHoyos. “Family is first.”

Albert Norman, the Greenfield man who is known nationally as a “sprawlbuster” consultant against Walmart and other big box developments and who fought against the big box department store planned for French King Highway, spoke against DeHoyos’ reappointment in June and sent a letter to the full council this time, asking that it stick to its original decision.

Norman said in his letter that voting not to accept DeHoyos as a reappointment to the commission was correct and that there wasn’t any evidence to the contrary that should change councilors’ minds.

Norman also told councilors that he believes DeHoyos is only one of several members of town boards who are “unsuited for positions that interact with the public.”

DeHoyos was the only commission member up for reappointment this year. He was serving on the commission when it voted to approve the big box project. Norman represented abutters who were against the project.

Norman also fought against the reappointment of James Allen to the Planning Board this year. The council also voted in June to veto Allen’s reappointment. Allen also voted for the big box project.

Martin said he has no plans to resubmit Allen as an appointee to the Planning Board at this point.

“That’s always an option in the future,” said Martin. “I decided to appoint Tom, because I felt some of the comments that were made about him were unsubstantiated, and because he had the backing of the entire commission.”

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