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Mayor not backing down on his appointee

Doesn’t buy argument against putting Mass on Planning Board

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin said he will ask town councilors again on Wednesday to consider local lawyer Isaac Mass as his appointee to the Planning Board.

Town Council can only deny a mayoral appointment with a two-thirds vote, or nine “no” votes, of the 13-member council.

“I hope Town Council will have the foresight to see Isaac’s qualifications,” said Martin. “Isaac has the qualifications, motivation, dedication and experience.”

Martin said the appointment “stands on its own merits” and should not be denied.

It appeared on Oct. 7, though, that the council would need only four more “no” votes to deny the mayor’s appointment, because all five councilors who sit on the Appointments and Ordinances Committee voted to recommend against Mass.

Many of those five — Precinct 1 Councilor Marian Kelner, Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zaltzberg, Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer, Precinct 7 Councilor Rudy Renaud and Precinct 8 Councilor Karen Shapiro Miller — said they feel like Martin is trying to “stack the deck” by appointing Mass to the Planning Board.

Based on some of the votes the Planning Board has taken over the years, some residents have accused Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner, former Citizens for Growth member Clayton Sibley, and Mary Newton of being large-scale development and pro-growth advocates.

Board member Linda Smith has been reluctant, at times, to approve larger projects. She was the only member to vote against the big box project planned for French King Highway, while Wedegartner, Sibley, Newton and former member James Allen voted to approve the project.

Some members of the council who dislike large commercial development, and so-called big box stores in particular, seem to prefer a replacement planner who holds views closer to theirs, especially on issues like sustainability, which is the latest watchword among those working on the town’s new master plan.

Mass, who was one of the founding members of Citizens for Growth and who over the years has been in support of larger-scale development in Greenfield, would, if appointed, possibly be the fourth of a supermajority vote a larger project would need.

“The projects that people are afraid of are few and far between,” said Martin. “He would be doing a lot of other important work, which he has the experience to do.”

Singer said last week that he felt the next member of the Planning Board should also be working on the town’s new sustainable master plan. He said that person should be very familiar with what the town wants concerning development in the future.

“The idea that there should be that type of prerequisite for an appointment is not found in the charter,” said Martin. “I think the perception of me trying to stack the deck is only because of who is already serving on the Planning Board.”

Martin said he chose Mass because of his skills and experience. Mass is a former town councilor, a former Planning Board member and has been serving the Greenfield community since he was a teen.

Some councilors and Greenfield residents have suggested that the town change its charter to make positions on the Planning Board elected, instead of appointed.

“You can’t modify the charter to fit the needs of the town at a particular moment,” said Martin. “That would need planning to do something like that. We need someone on the board now.”

Those opposed to Mass’ appointment have also complained that the mayor appointed Wilson Roberts and George Touloumtzis to the board’s two alternate seats earlier this summer, but withdrew their names when the council denied the reappointment of Allen to the board.

Albert Norman, who is known nationally as a sprawl-buster and has opposed the big box project on French King Highway from the beginning, said he would have liked to have seen Roberts or Touloumtzis appointed to the board. He was against Allen being reappointed, saying Allen had made up his mind before the project was reviewed by the board and that he was rude to those who spoke out against the project.

Norman said he does not believe Mass should sit on a board that can approve or deny large-scale projects when he has been so outspoken about being in favor of large-scale development.

“Everyone has an opinion,” said Martin. “An opinion is not a reason to disqualify a qualified, really good candidate.”

Martin said he has confidence that Mass would review each project with an open mind and that his legal background would benefit the board.

“My job, according to the charter, and common sense, was to find someone who was interested, motivated and qualified,” said Martin. “Isaac fit that bill better than anyone.”

Town Council will discuss Mass’ appointment during its monthly meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the studio in Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St.

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