This Week: Two Ways to push for Accountability, Expertise on Planning Board

Summary: with two open slots on Planning Board, Belmont’s Selectmen have the chance to appoint a planning professional. Join me in writing to encourage them to appoint Ed Sanderson (email addresses provided at bottom of post). Also: a Planning Board meeting Tuesday evening Sept. 5th is another chance to measure the progress of the unloved Library-in-the-Carwash proposal. 

As you know, this blog has been following the Planning Board’s proposal to relocate the Public Library. I wrote last week about the meeting with the Library Trustees last week during which Planning Board Chairwoman Liz Allison provided details about the plan – such as it is.

One of the frustrations I have is that the proposal by Planning Board is a patently bad idea for a lot of reasons, both practical and financial. But – as bad as it is – it keeps stumbling forward, zombie like, through our town government consuming both time and resources and creating a lot of needless uncertainty and anxiety.

Maybe we, as a community, can learn from this misadventure. One thing the loopy library proposal has underscored is the need for oversight of the Planning Board – one of our town’s most complained-about bodies. You can do that by turning out tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 5) at the Planning Board’s meeting in the Board of Selectmen’s Hearing Room at Town Hall. The meeting starts at 7:00 PM but the discussion of the Library plan is scheduled for later in the session, so maybe arrive by 8:00 PM. The agenda is viewable as a PDF here. I encourage you to attend not just to keep tabs on this item as it moves through Planning Board, and to follow other important issues before the Board. 

The second point is that our town has desperate need for planning professionals to staff the Planning Board. You might think that’s obvious, but our current Planning Board does not have any planning professionals sitting on it. That needs to change. Fortunately, there are two open spots that need filling on the Board right now and at least one resident with professional planning experience who is interested in lending his expertise to the town: Edward Sanderson, a Belmont resident and Lead Urban and Transportation Planner at the firm WSP USA with years of experience.

Recent meetings suggest that Mr. Sanderson has the support of Selectman Dash, but it is also clear that Selectman Paolillo supports a different candidate: Steve Pinkerton, who does not have a planning background. Selectman Williams has been non-committal but has spoken admiringly of Mr. Pinkerton’s work on past committees, which might suggest he is leaning away from Mr. Sanderson. It is also possible that both Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Pinkerton could be appointed to fill the two open spots. That’s not an unrealistic compromise, especially given that Mr. Manjikian’s fingerprints are all over the despised Library relocation plan.

Please join me in writing to our Selectmen and urging them to appoint Edward Sanderson, a planning professional, to the Planning Board. For them to do otherwise would send a terrible message about our political leadership’s commitment to professionalism on a very important appointed body.

The emails for our three Selectmen are: