Council to discuss Mass appointment tonight
GREENFIELD — The full Town Council will most likely decide tonight whether it will approve or deny Mayor William Martin’s appointment of local lawyer Isaac Mass to the Planning Board.
Confirmation of the some-time booster of large-scale commercial development in town has been cast in doubt because many councilors are more critical of so-called big box development.
A little more than a week ago, the council’s five-member Appointments and Ordinance Committee recommended against the appointment. Nine votes are needed to block the appointment tonight.
Martin recently appointed Mass to the seat left vacant by James Allen, whose reappointment to the board was denied by the council earlier this summer, also because critics considered him “pro-growth” to the point of not being open-minded.
Mass, who is a former town councilor and former Planning Board member, has been outspoken over the years about his support for large-scale development and, according to some councilors, that was cause enough for concern.
Mass said he accepted the mayor’s appointment after Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner suggested he consider returning to the board.
Martin said he considered other candidates, including Wilson Roberts and George Touloumtzis, before choosing Mass, but decided that Mass had the most experience and was the best fit for the position.
Some town councilors did not agree, saying Roberts and Touloumtzis — whose politics run more against big box development — would have been good fits.
This summer, the mayor appointed the two men to the two vacant alternate seats on the board, but withdrew those appointments, even after the council approved them, when the council denied Martin’s reappointment of the more conservative Allen.
Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer, who is also a member of the Appointments and Ordinances Committee, has suggested the mayor’s appointee to the board should currently be serving on the town’s Sustainable Master Plan Committee, because it is in the middle of creating a new green master plan that the board will eventually be using as a guide.
While Mass said he has not participated in the process of creating the new master plan, he said he has given input to members of the committee working on it.
Councilors have also voiced concern that Mass was a founding member of Citizens for Growth in the late 1990s, which was for big box development over the years.
After the complexion of the council changed following recent elections, more councilors voiced support of “smart and sustainable growth,” not large-scale growth, over the past year or more.
Mass’ promise to be fair and open-minded did not change any minds last week. He said he would not automatically be opposed to any project, but that he would review each that came before him and make sure the impacts were minimal to the town.
Some of the town’s more outspoken opponents to the big box project for French King Highway, including Sandra Thomas and Albert Norman, have spoken out against the mayor’s most recent appointment, because of Mass’ promotion of large retail stores in the past.
Thomas, Norman and many of the town councilors have voiced their support for Roberts and Touloumtzis, saying they feel both would be open-minded and that they have not spoken out publicly like Mass has about such projects.
But Touloumtzis was outspoken when he opposed Home Depot in 2002, Walgreens (he was one of the neighbors who filed an appeal against the project) in 2003, and creating a commercial zone along the French King Highway in 2004.
Roberts spoke against the large retail project planned for the French King Highway during the board’s review of it a couple of years ago. He said, at the time, that he was afraid a large retail store would draw people away from the downtown.
The council also plans to discuss taking the police and fire chief positions out of Civil Service, though the mayor has hired a Civil Service permanent police chief, Robert Haigh, who is currently the police chief in Orange. Haigh is expected to begin as Greenfield police chief in mid November, so it is unclear whether the issue will be discussed and voted on tonight.
The council will meet in the studio in Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St. at 7 p.m.