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Guest Column: Gaffey for Planning Board

June 4, 2015

The below was written by Precinct 8 Town Meeting Representative Joseph Moraski, and was submitted to 180 for publication:

Dear Friends, Neighbors and fellow citizens of Walpole:

In the forty years that I have lived in Walpole, I have never written to anyone asking them to consider voting for another candidate. This time I am making an exception. The reason for doing so is because I am seeing firsthand why we need a new member of the Planning Board who will stop giving unsubstantiated waivers to landowners. Like some of you, I have been attending Planning Board meetings for over a year regarding the development of Sunny Rock Farm and I am becoming tired and frustrated.

First let me say, that Ed Forsberg, the incumbent up for re-election, is regarded by me to be a friend and a great neighbor with an outstanding family who are perhaps the politest people I have ever met. But those qualifications are not what I am looking for in a Planning Board member. I am looking for someone who is going to represent my interests, the interests of my neighbors, the interests of my neighborhood, the interests of my precinct and the interests of my town. That person in this race at this time is Elizabeth (“Liz”) Gaffey.

Let me bring to your attention a paragraph from recent Planning Board minutes: “An opinion dated March 18, 2015 as submitted by (an) attorney. . . from . . . Boston: In his letter, the attorney stated ‘The Planning Board has previously granted similar waivers to other landowners in Walpole, allowing larger projects with greater impacts to proceed.’. . .” In other words, this attorney was requesting from our current Planning Board the same waivers that have been routinely granted in the past to other people. Liz Gaffey said at the League of Women Voters’ debate that waivers should be granted when someone has a substantiated hardship not on a routine basis. Waivers are for hardships not for friendships. Otherwise, why have rules; why have Zoning Bylaws?

Moreover, I am very concerned that current members of the Planning Board see their role as judicial in nature. They rarely if ever submit articles to Town Meeting with amendments or changes to the Zoning Bylaws. They are not judges. They administer the Zoning Bylaws and if and when they see loop holes or abuses, they should move to close them expeditiously. In fact, I saw such an abuse in my own neighborhood and drafted a bylaw change requiring a limited site plan review for Dover Amendment uses which I presented to the Planning Board members at one of their meetings last year, only to see it not acted upon after it had been well-received. Liz Gaffey said at the debates that she would work on bylaw changes and amendments and close loop holes and stop abuses. She would follow Section 1 (General Provisions), Item 5 (Amendments), of the Walpole Zoning Bylaws which specifically allows for amendments by the Planning Board. She would follow our Town Charter which specifically indicates that “the Planning Board shall make recommendations on all matters concerning the physical, economic and environmental development of the Town.”

My neighborhood has been battling what I believe to be an outrageous Open Space Residential Development (OSRD) plan submitted by a limited liability company for Sunny Rock Farm. I believe the plans to be outrageous because the developers have what I believe to be an exaggerated interpretation of Section 10-D of our Zoning Bylaws, especially in terms of the number of houses they believe they can build. I have informed some of my neighbors that I am considering submitting a zoning article at the Fall Annual Town Meeting in October, 2015 to remove “cluster zoning” from the bylaws either permanently or until we see “procedural clarity” which seems to be severely lacking in the bylaws. We have lots more undeveloped land in Walpole and in North Walpole which is being targeted for development and may be specifically targeted for cluster zoning proposals. These proposals may change the rural characteristics we currently enjoy if the current OSRD section of the bylaws are allowed to continue as written. Liz Gaffey is in favor of making these changes and not letting our neighborhoods, our precincts, our town change to our detriment before our very eyes.

If you don’t agree with me, that’s OK. I remain your neighbor and respect your opinion. But at least vote at the Town Election on Saturday, June 6. The polls are open from 8 AM to 8 PM. If you do decide to support Liz Gaffey for Planning Board, feel free to let others know that she deserves their consideration. Planning Board is just too important for us to ignore.

Thank you very much.

— Joe Moraski

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