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Wedegartner/My Turn: Reappoint Jim Allen

For many reasons, it would be a mistake for the Town Council to not reappoint Jim Allen as a member of the Planning Board.

I think we have only to look at the elections for town offices this year to understand that it is very hard to get people interested in serving their town on a volunteer basis, elected or appointed. Jim Allen has been a reliable member of the Greenfield Planning Board for a number of years and has treated all applicants before the board with respect. He would like to remain as evidenced by his request to be reappointed. His colleagues on the board would welcome him back. It would be a real shame not to reappoint him because some members of the Town Council don’t like the way he voted on one issue, the retail project on the French King Highway.

Mayor William Martin makes a good point when he states that he’d prefer to see Jim Allen reappointed so that if the court sends the French King project back to the Planning Board for a second review, it will be reviewed by the same individuals who heard the application in the first place and who have the full history of its details.

But there’s really more to it than that one issue. If the Town Council appoints Will Roberts and George Touloumtzis as alternates to the Planning Board, the council will have helped the Planning Board and the town accomplish something that hasn’t been a reality for several years: a full Planning Board with its requisite five members and two alternates. The board will retain five members who have overcome the learning curve of serving on a town regulatory board and two alternates who will undoubtedly learn while they sit in on our regularly scheduled meetings. That is as it should be, but only if Jim is reappointed. Should, in the near future, if another sitting Planning Board member decides not to request reappointment, one of the new alternates will take that member’s place. This is how the intended succession of board membership through mayoral appointment and Town Council approval works.

Any new member coming on the Planning Board with the intention of blocking certain projects or types of businesses from coming into town expressly based on personal bias would be very disappointed and mistaken in that intention. The vast majority of what the Planning Board does under its statutory authority is to help existing small businesses and new businesses gain approval to expand or begin to do business in town under its bylaws and the state’s bylaws. Most, if not all, of our decisions have been beneficial to the town, not detrimental. We also have statutory authority to regulate subdivisions in town, and have done so to the benefit of the town by bringing new taxpaying residents into our community. It is, by and large, fairly mundane but important work.

Jim Allen deserves to be reappointed to Planning Board. I would respectfully ask the members of the Town Council to do so.

Roxann Wedegartner is chairwoman of the Greenfield Planning Board.

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