As I previously posted, Candidate’s Night wasn’t able to include a live Q&A for the Planning Board. So, I put together a written Q&A to help readers make their choice before voting this Tuesday, May 10th.
I gave readers a chance to participate, but it was short notice, so I supplemented with questions that I believed voters would care about.
Below are the responses from candidate Debbie Demuria:
Conflict of Interest
Mr. Belniak was asked about whether his job could pose a conflict of interest. Do you have any affiliations which you foresee could pose a conflict with Planning Board duties? If so, what are they and how would you handle the matter? – Beth Melo, Birchwood Drive, mysouthborough.com
My professional career is in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry and is completely independent of any work that I would do on any Board, including the Planning Board. I have no affiliation with any company that does work for the Town that could pose a conflict of interest.
As a citizen, it is possible that a matter may come before the Planning Board where I may need to consider recusing myself, such as one involving a direct abutter, or where there may be an appearance of a conflict of interest. In such a case, I would consult with the State Ethics Commission Attorney of the Day and follow their advice.
Another section of ethics law has to do with “divided loyalties,” where one’s loyalty to the Town conflicts with their job. Recusal or disclosure may not be used to address these conflicts. Someone with divided loyalties is simply prohibited from serving on the Planning Board while holding their job. I have no divided loyalties.
Please state one or two things that you would bring to the Planning Board that would make you stand out. – Claire Reynolds, Main Street
My qualifications for Planning Board includes my active work as the ZBA appointee to the 2021 Master Plan – the blueprint that provides the basis for future decision making for the next decade. I added numerous recommendations to the Master Plan pertaining to zoning and have current working knowledge of the Town’s vision. While on the Board I will commit to protecting Southborough’s gems – open space, waterways, natural resources, and outdoor recreation.
Some of my contributions to the 2021 Master Plan include proposals to form a Sustainability Committee, introduce electric and solar into design guidelines, develop a Climate Action Plan, hire a qualified Tree Warden to care for our trees, improve transparency of the boards and committees, and make town government more responsive to the residents. I believe that these contributions make me stand out, and I am qualified and ready to follow through on implementing some of these and other goals to ensure that our boards, committees, and departments follow the vision of the residents.
Through my 6 years on the ZBA I developed a firm grasp of zoning code and how it can be used safely and effectively. While on the ZBA I looked for flexibility while ensuring adherence to all bylaws. On the Planning Board, I will strive to make sure that any new zoning bylaws will protect the neighborhoods, as well as promote health, safety, convenience, and welfare of residents. I am approachable, accessible, and want the public’s voice to be heard, while working for a better Southborough.
Thoughts on Zoning
The questions below are all from Beth Melo for mysouthborough
One of the Planning Board’s responsibilities is reporting to Town Meeting on potential zoning changes.
- There was a lot of public debate over the recently passed Downtown Business District zoning, which passed after amendments made on the floor. Were you satisfied with the final version passed? If not, what revision(s) would you have advocated the Planning Board push for?
- Can you share your vision for an area of town, bylaw subject, or type of project that you would prioritize having the board address with future zoning changes?
I was generally in favor of the new Downtown District and view it as a positive first step towards revitalizing our historic downtown. However, the process was hard to follow for residents, especially those who would be most impacted. Moving forward, I would like to see increased cooperation among the relevant boards and committees and believe that the process for new zoning changes must be led solely by the Planning Board.
Under the Planning Board’s other duties Is there anything you would prioritize as an area that could be improved?
As a member of the Planning Board, I will advocate for Southborough to seek ways to become sustainable, such as adding electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, solar panels on public facilities, making it easier to get around without a car, connecting to the historic town Common, providing access to public resources and open space, implementing green buildings (LEED-certified), planting public shade trees, and improving water conservation and wastewater management. This would help better connect our town, foster a more desirable downtown atmosphere, and help the Town meet the State’s goal for carbon neutrality. A future Sustainability Committee, which I advocated for on the Master Plan Committee, should have an opportunity to contribute to zoning changes and suggest improvements to the new Downtown District.
Use the link’s below to find:
- Alan Belniak’s Q&A
- Debbie DeMuria’s initial Candidate’s Statement from April
- Other coverage related to this year’s election