Town Election: Meet the Candidates video posted of statements and Q&A (Updated-Again)

by beth on April 30, 2021

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Above: Candidates for selectmen, plus some running unopposed for other seats, took part in the Library’s virtual Meet the Candidates event.

The Southborough Library recorded and released their virtual Meet the Candidates event. (As I previously shared, the community was invited to submit questions in advance. The session wasn’t streamed live.)

The full video has been posted to the Library’s YouTube page. The event was introduced Library Director Ryan Donovan, who turned it over to the MC, Chair of the Library Trustees Marguerite Landry.

Landry encouraged candidates to share why they are running, what they hope to bring to the position, and what their philosophy is of how the Town should be governed.

The zoom event began with statements from candidates running unopposed for seats. (Scroll down for those details.) It ended with a statement from Meme Lutrell running unopposed for the Planning Board. Lutrell also answered a question submitted from a voter.

In between, about 35 minutes of the event was dedicated to the race for the Board of Selectmen. Candidates Andrew Dennington and Michael Weishan introduced themselves, then answered questions.

Both candidates voiced appreciation for the other running.

Dennington said he was running because:

I believe that my background and my experience and my temperament is best suited for the position at this time.

He referred to his tenure as Chair during “a tumultuous time” on the Zoning Board of Appeals, saying he believed he helped guide it to be more respectful to all parties. He followed:

I learned from that experience that when you’re in these types of positions, you’re not going to be making decisions that make everyone happy. But if you’re guided by what you think is in the best interest of our town, I think that will serve everyone well.

He also referred to experience on the Advisory Committee where they need to consider how the Town will pay for expenses.

Weishan referenced successes as the 6 (non-consecutive) term Chair of the Historical Commission, including saving the historic barn being installed at Chestnut Hill Farm. He said he was running because:

I think there is a real opportunity here, post-covid, to do some original thinking about some of the issues that face us. . .

I have looked around Southborough a long time and wondered why we don’t have more proactive, creative thinking.

He referred to the need to link the north and south side of town through trails for biking and walking and the potential for a community center. Not surprisingly, he also expressed interest in preserving Southborough history.

Landry then shared questions from four voters. The topics and answers are linked below. (I rephrased the questions for brevity.) 

The first two focused on the controversial Park Central development:

Q: Do you think the development is a good project for Southborough and why? What role do you see selectmen playing in addressing concerns if the courts allow the project to go forward. 

A: Dennington and Weishan

Q: If the project proceeds, would you vote, as the Board of Selectmen did in 2016, to deny the development access to Flagg Road due to traffic safety concerns?

A: Dennington and Weishan

The second two voters asked about PILOT payments by non-profits in town:

Q: Do you think the large non-profit private schools should contribute a fair share to Town tax-burdens? Can you explain your strategy for increasing PILOT payments? Do you agree with MA Bill H.3080 that would require PILOT payments equal to 25% of the taxable amount of property owned by these schools?

A: Dennington and Weishan

A separate event is being organized for the candidates competing for seats on the Regional School Committee. To submit questions, click here. Questions must be submitted by noon on May 4th, as the session will be recorded that evening. (Stay tuned for that video later in the day or two following the event.)

Below is the list of unopposed candidates on the ballot with links to their recorded statements from Wednesday night’s event: 

Board of Trustees Southborough Library – 3 years (vote for two)
Kimberly L. Regan (incumbent)
David C. Ekberg (incumbent)

Moderator – 1 year
Paul M. Cimino (incumbent)

Board of Health – 3 years
Chelsea Malinowski

Southborough Housing Authority – 2 years
Robert John Braccio

Southborough School Committee – 3 years (vote for two)
Jennifer Primack (incumbent)
Kimberly A. Tolander (was unable to participate due to a conflict)

Planning Board – 5 years
Meme Luttrell (incumbent)

Lutrell was asked about and outdated right turn only sign at the intersection of Mt. Vickery Road* and Route 85. She responded that she believed that eliminating it would require a modification of conditions to the approved Site Plan for the Post Office. She followed that she would look into it though, since she is also annoyed by it.

Five additional candidates who will appear on the ballot didn’t participate in the event:

Board of Assessors – 3 years
Heath S. Widdiss

Board of Commissioners of Trust Funds – 3 years
Susan Delarda-Wood (incumbent)

*The question actually referenced “Vickery Hill Road” but was clearly referring to Mt. Vickery.

Updated (5/3/21 9:49 am): I mistakenly posted that Ekberg was appointed to fill a vacancy. He was actually elected last spring to complete the term of a vacant seat.

Updated (5/5/21 8:38 am): I had referred to this week’s separate session for the Regional School Committee as for the Northborough seats. It was actually for the seats for both towns. I’ll be sharing that video later this morning.

1 Andrew Dennington April 30, 2021 at 1:31 PM

Hi Beth: Thanks for posting about the Library’s recent Meet The Candidates event, and thanks to Ryan Donovan and the Library Board of Trustees for organizing.

For anyone who is interested in learning more about my background, experience, and why I am running, please visit http://www.denningtonforselectman.com.

Andrew

2 beth April 30, 2021 at 1:39 PM

Thank you for participating in it. You and Michael are invited to submit a Candidate’s statement to be posted on the blog for readers.

3 Michael Weishan April 30, 2021 at 4:25 PM

Hi Beth
I echo Andrew’s sentiments above. Voters can find out more about me at votemichaelweishan.com

4 Tim Martel April 30, 2021 at 8:23 PM

I would like to clarify that my question was specific to access to Flagg Road for Park Central traffic, and not an existential question about the Park Central project itself.

The case in court delves into the existential nature of the project (i.e. whether or not it may exist). Therefore, whatever decision the court makes is wholly independent from the BOS’s decision to close the side road.

Further, I will add that DHCD’s authority which derives from the 40B law does not empower the state to impinge upon the BOS’s sovereign authority to manage the town’s road system. These are separate powers.

I appreciated the 2016 board’s willingness to take a stand on behalf of the community, and I hope the new board is similarly courageous.

Thank you both for choosing to serve the town.

5 BOS Candidates May 3, 2021 at 2:42 PM

Isn’t it great that the town has two wonderful candidates for BOS. Unfortunately, the pandemic has halted the traditional candidates night where citizens are able to ask questions and learn more. As Mr. Dennington has experience on the Zoning Board of Appeals: Please explain what Residual Site Plan review is? Where is this found in terms of town bylaws and elsewhere? Thank you

6 Andrew Dennington May 3, 2021 at 4:11 PM

Major site plan review is governed by Section 174-10(2) of the Town’s Zoning Bylaw. Condition no. 13 of the Park Central use variance decision found at pages 16-17 of this document required “residual site plan review” for this project: https://www.southboroughtown.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif1231/f/uploads/use_variance_park_central_decision.pdf

7 Park Central May 3, 2021 at 8:50 PM

Andrew, Didn’t you say you voted against the use variance in your interview? The document you referenced says otherwise. It says the board voted unanimously for the use variance and your name is on it. Did you think it was good for the town to bypass the Planning Boards full review for a project of this magnitude? Why would anyone do that other than to insulate a developer?

8 beth May 4, 2021 at 7:48 AM

Dennington voted against approval of the Park Central Use Variance. Once the variance was approved by the majority of the board, he then voted with the board on the project’s conditions.

9 Park Central May 4, 2021 at 8:12 AM

Thanks Beth. So let me explained what happened. The night the use variance was approved it was voted on with the mention of an agreement with neighbors. Unbelievably at the meeting this agreement was nowhere to be found for anyone to review or read including the board and citizens. This is where Andrew deferred and I wouldn’t say he argued against it but it was even beyond his comfort level. The public hearing was then closed and use variance granted. This all happened at the direction of Bartolini and Aldo Cipriano.

The next meeting is where it gets worse. This so called agreement with neighbors turned into a extensive use variance document with all sorts of provisions around it that includes bypassing planning board and shepherds the project through without review. This was the output of the board including Andrew. This is an egregious project and result of poor oversight, regard for citizens concerns, safety or care for the town period. The citizens were silenced that night on top of it due to closing the public hearing. In my opinion this was a set up of the biggest proportion and the people involved should not be entrusted in our town government again. This was just the start and there were plenty of opportunities for Andrew to right the ship, but he continued down the path of least resistance for the developer and their attorney.

A vote for Andrew is a vote for Park Central!

10 BOS Candidate Questions May 4, 2021 at 4:17 PM

https://www.southboroughtown.com/zoning-board-appeals/pages/2017-zba-decisions

Above is the link to May 2017 ZBA Decision – “Appeal of Planning Board’s Decision” signed by Andrew Dennington.

Andrew, thank you for the above post. However, the question does not ask about “Major Site Plan Review,” which is notably front and center in the plain language of town bylaw. The question relates to the “idea” of “Residual Site Plan” review. What is it and where exactly in the law is it? How did it end up in the Use Variance?

Also, see the following article which explains Planning Board’s position is diametrically legally opposed to your legal position:

https://www.telegram.com/news/20160720/southboro-town-counsel-releases-5-page-document-on-park-central-project

“Planning Board Chairman Don Morris has said the board believes the ZBA overreached its authority in granting waivers specific to site plan review, and other aspects of the townhouse project in granting a variance. The variance calls for a “residual site plan review” by the Planning Board. He said he has never heard of a residual site plan review in his 35 years on the board and the board should have sole authority with site plan review.”

Importantly, there is no provision for “Residual Site Plan” review in the town bylaws. There is only “Major Site Plan” review in the town subdivision bylaws. The term “Residual Site Plan” review has no basis in the law, local or state. Notably, no other town or city has employed same. Most importantly, the ZBA has no legal authority over the Market Rate portion (40A) of the proposed Park Central project. The ZBA only has legal authority over the 40B. Regardless, the ZBA cannot legally “condition” the 40B with the 40A. The ZBA cannot make a condition (Use Variance, Condition 13) like they did, as the ZBA has no legal authority to do so.

In May 2015, the ZBA approved an “empty” Use Variance. Shockingly, in a major move in the developer’s favor, this apparently was a 4-1 vote to approve the empty use variance with no language, no conditions. The use variance itself was approved “empty” without any conditions, with then chair, Leo Bartolini stating they could fill in the blanks later. It is important to note that the conditions were later devised out of public eye and without allowance for public comment.

In May 2017, the ZBA remand decision above to Planning Board allowed and agreed with the Condition #13 (Dennington signed, see link to the decision above).

Regardless, the ZBA cannot legally “condition” the 40B with the 40A. The ZBA cannot make a condition (UV, Condition 13) like they did, as the ZBA has no legal authority to do so.

The ZBA cannot “condition away” or give away something that does not legally exist: “Residual Site Plan” review. There is no such thing. The 40A / Market Rate development is a major development, subject to Major Site Plan review, which is the legal authority of Planning Board.

If “Residual Site Plan” review is in the plain language of the law, where is it? Thank you.

11 BOS Candidate Questions May 6, 2021 at 3:27 PM

Voice of Reason is right on point below. Also, could not agree more also with Side Show Bob below. The town residents are left wondering what is Mr. Dennington’s response to the above question: where is “residual site plan” review in the local bylaw and in State law? Or elsewhere? Please provide citations to it.

This is of critical life altering importance to residents and the safety of those residents, as well as from the Town government perspective as well. If there is no basis in the law, why is this concept perpetuated in your May 2017 ZBA Decision?
Link:
https://www.southboroughtown.com/zoning-board-appeals/pages/2017-zba-decisions

At any point during the Park Central process, you could have pointed the legal cite references out to all as a clarification due to the fact that you are an attorney, correct? So where in the law does one find the term “residual site plan” review? The town residents that you are asking for votes deserve an answer. Thank you.

12 Voice of Reason May 7, 2021 at 3:08 PM

If I was Mr.Dennington,which I’m not I would write a response to all the concerns posted by people in this blog. Since he is an attorney he should have a response. If he doesn’t; well he has given everyone the answers they are complaining about.

13 Park Central May 3, 2021 at 8:45 PM

I have had the unfortunate front row seat for Park Central since the beginning. Andrew should not be portraying that he had nothing to do with the project, the decision or support of the project. Quite simply a vote for Dennington is a vote for Park Central. This should be posted our town and citizens deserve facts and need to make an informed decision.

14 northsider May 4, 2021 at 4:56 PM

Agree! If you care about Park Central and understand the immense negative impact it will have, you will NOT vote for Dennington.

15 Al Hamilton May 4, 2021 at 11:38 AM

While I support Mr. Dennington I think it is important to note that both candidates have staked out positions relative to the operation of the schools. The Selectmen, whom they wish to join, have no formal authority with respect to the schools. That is the role of the elected school committees.

Candidates should focus on the job they are applying for.

16 Frank Crowell May 5, 2021 at 10:01 AM

Mr. Hamilton, this sentence needs correction: “That is the role of the elected school committees.” The sentence would be more accurate with “is” replaced with “should be.” There is no evidence that the School Committees exert any authority over the superintendent’s office or the Teacher’s Union. It simply does not matter who is elected to the committee. We need to get the Teacher’s Union out of our kid’s lives.

17 Al Hamilton May 7, 2021 at 11:24 AM

Good luck with the teachers union. The teachers union makes the Teamsters look like girl scouts.

18 Petunia May 4, 2021 at 4:47 PM

It’s inconsistent thinking on the town’s part to be pursuing a formal PILOT program for NON-profits, and also be against a dual tax rate that effects FOR-profits.
I have not seen a fair assessment of the actual cost the three main targeted schools put on the town. One that includes jobs created, Southborough residents attending the schools who are paying taxes yet not utilizing the public school system, actual number of emergency calls.
Quoting the tuition collected by the schools as has been done in the past, with out showing operating expenses is a number that really has no relevance.

19 Interested May 5, 2021 at 8:36 AM

I can agree with your statement but would also add to your list; number of residential properties that are owned by the three main private schools that have been taken off the tax roll and the number of school aged childern who live in them and attend Southborough’s public schools.

20 Petunia May 5, 2021 at 11:53 AM

Not intended to be an inclusive list. I was trying to say that the things you mention are often the only points that are made.

21 Interested May 6, 2021 at 9:14 AM

I guess what we really need to see is how all the factors off set each other.

22 Side Show Bob May 4, 2021 at 8:01 PM

Denningtons answers on Park Central make no sense. He talks like he’s part of Team Park Central. Like the town is just going to have to eat this….because it’s 40B law. Utter nonsense. This is a most disingenuous answer. This is NOT about 40B, this is about a massive commercial development (tacked onto a 40B) that is in the wrong place, a dangerous place for residents. This is about a midnight process run by 3 rogue ZBA members that had wanted for whatever reason to grant the Developer some massive concessions in a comprehensive permit and use variance, and found crazy ways to disintermediate other town boards and committees, (possibly with guidance from town’s legal advisor). He doesn’t speak to this set of issues at all, hand-waves to the side show. I’ll never vote for such.

23 Voice of reason May 5, 2021 at 3:44 PM

We agree with you Side Show Bob: Problem is there’s a syndicate in town and they’re throwing their net out over all these attorneys so there is a conflict of interest.
Mr.Dennington by signing off on the project you cannot represent people of Southborough in a fair and balanced manner.
We need someone with a clear head and not self serving to special interests.

I never would of thought my town would turn into East Providence.

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