Selectman Candidates Talk Economic Development and More

The two candidates for Tewksbury Board of Selectmen discuss economic development and more ahead of the April 5 town elections.

Tewksbury Board of Selectmen. Photo Credit: Chris Gambon.
Tewksbury Board of Selectmen. Photo Credit: Chris Gambon.

Nomination papers for the April 5 town election have been available at the Tewksbury Town Clerk's office for several weeks now, and two candidates have announced their candidacy for the selectman seat up for grabs in 2014. 

Three-term Selectman Doug Sears will be running for reelection against Foster Road resident Bruce Panilaitis, a vocal opponent of the slots casino proposed for Ames Pond over the summer.  

Panilaitis, a biomedical engineering professor at Tufts, said his involvement with the grassroots group "No Slots Tewksbury" served as his first involvement with a political campaign, and helped him decide to run for Board of Selectmen. 

"I was very involved with the slots issue this past summer, it was my first exposure to a real political campaign," Panilaitis said. "I decided it was time to stop reacting to what's going when something happens that I'm concerned about or interested in, and get out in front and look at how I'd like to help others push things forward."

Sears, who has also served on School Committee, said his decision to run for reelection came from a desire to continue the progress the current board has fostered.

"We have been conservative as far as running of the town, but we still provide the services residents expect with the taxes they pay," Sears said. "That's not easy in this economy."

Both candidates expressed hope that the 2014 selectman campaign will move past the slots issue that divided Tewksbury over the summer when Penn National Gaming proposed a slots casino at 300 Ames Pond Drive

"I would like it to move on past that issue, and I think Bruce would like to move on past it too," Sears said. "The current board united when the hard decisions came down and we're still united. Everything I've done as part of this past term has been part of what the board has done."

Panilaitis said that while the No Slots Tewksbury campaign helped him realize he wanted to pursue a campaign for selectman, he did not want to the slots issue to become a focal point of the 2014 campaign.

"That issue is done, it's over with. I'm not going to run from it, I'm very proud of the work we did as a group but at the same time my opposition to the slots is not a qualification for being a selectman," Panilaitis said. "It's an issue that got me more involved."

More than 2,500 voters turned out to an August Special Town Meeting to vote on a proposed slots parlor for Ames Pond, with 1,568 voting against the proposed slots casino and 995 in favor.

Town leaders supported the proposed slots parlor for the estimated $4 million in annual revenue the facility would have generated, while opponents argued that a casino could lead to increased crime rates as well as degraded property values.

Sears said the current Board of Selectmen has been working to find other potential business partners for the land at 300 Ames Pond, but it's a process in which any potential business partners are kept confidential.

"The Town Manager and Board of Selectmen are working hard to find a partner for that land, but it can't be a real public process because anyone that is thinking of coming to Tewksbury is thinking of leaving another town," Sears said.

Panilaitis said as a member of the Board of Selectmen, he would look to have a scaled approach to economic development, looking to fill vacancies along Route 38 as well as some of the town's larger parcels of land.

"It has to go from empty storefronts all the way to the large developments of Ames Pond or Woburn Street where we could have some larger industrial partners," Panilaitis said. "We have to approach it from an empty storefront up by Walmart to a big open development like up by Ames Pond."

The current board is looking to improve Tewksbury's permitting process by creating a more accessible interface on the town's website for potential business partners, according to Sears. 

"I hope to see a streamlining of the permitting process for building homes and businesses," Sears said. "I would love to see a homepage where you just put in what you want to do and it sends you information on the permits you need, how much it costs and gives you a number to talk to an ombudsman to help you."

Panilaitis said if elected, he would like to help improve the town's permitting and inspection process to make it less confrontational, creating a more friendly atmosphere for businesses looking to set up shop in town.

"I think we should consider more of a service-focused regulatory process as opposed to just a check box, confrontational 'you did it or you didn't do it' system," Panilaitis said.

Panilaitis said he believes changes to this process can serve to improve the relationship between the town and business owners looking to set up shop in Tewksbury. 

Tewksbury town officials facing expiring terms in 2014 include Sears, School Committee member Brian Dick, Library Trustees Robert Homeyer and Patrick J. Joyce, Board of Health member Charles J. Roux and Housing Authority member Louise A. Gearty.

Planning Board member Vincent Spada also faces an expiring term, but has announced he does not plan to seek reelection. 

Town Moderator Keith Rauseo also faces an expiring term in 2014,but announced at an October Special Town Meeting that he would not seek reelection

Stick with Tewksbury Patch for continuing coverage of the April 5 town election. Are you a candidate interested in being interviewed for a profile on Patch? Email christopher.gambon@patch.com.

Tewksbury2001 January 23, 2014 at 06:09 PM
The BOS did the right thing putting this forward. It was a $4m deal. They had not other choice but to move forward and let the town decide.
Tewksbury2001 January 23, 2014 at 06:10 PM
@Mary- It is basically volunteer. Nominal stipend. They get about $5 bucks an hour by the time they are done.
Shelly January 23, 2014 at 06:47 PM
The Selectmen should not be receiving health insurance. I was not aware that they were given benefits. A stipend, sure, it should be a compensated board, but not health insurance. They are not town employees, they are elected officials on a board. Ridiculous in my opinion.
Douglas Sears January 23, 2014 at 08:23 PM
Selectmen do not receive health insurance from the town. We receive $4500 per year stipend.
Mary January 23, 2014 at 08:37 PM
@Rob R, you stated that the members of the Board are volunteers, and thanked them for their service. I am correcting you by saying it is a part-time job. @Tewksbury 2001, taking home five dollars (after taxes) an hour is standard for a part-time job.
Tewksbury2001 January 23, 2014 at 08:42 PM
@ Mary- You are kidding right? $4,500 per year to put up with the crap they have to put up with? Nobody is doing this for the money.
Mary January 23, 2014 at 09:00 PM
@Tewksbury 2001: If as you say this does not feed their family, then why do they put up with the crap. If they are that dedicated to public service, then it should be the way it was when public service was something you did for no pay at all. If they can't handle the job, step aside and let someone else do it. No one is holding a gun their head.
Rob R January 23, 2014 at 09:13 PM
@Mary, $4500 a year, the responsibility that goes with it, and dealing with complainers like you.....a lot of people would consider that volunteering. So I guess you were being immature. Be productive rather than complain.....step away from your keyboard and run for a Selectman seat since you obviously think you can do better plus add a whopping $86 a week in your pocket.
Rob R January 23, 2014 at 09:25 PM
@Mary, Any reason why you don't follow your own advice that being fresh doesn't accomplish anyrhing?
Mary January 23, 2014 at 09:26 PM
I guess because this conversation has become a debate, maybe I would make a good candidate for the Board. This is exactly what I said originally, that is what a good Board member would do. Debate is healthy, and don't forget, there are bad sides to everything that has to be voted on. Not everyone immediately agreeing on everything, and rubber stamping that big "Yes approved" on everything that comes across the desk. Sorry Rob, I am not going to run, but that is what I am looking for in a good candidate.
Bruce Panilaitis January 24, 2014 at 07:30 AM
@Bob, I love the Ed Koch quote. If you want to see some of my ideas you can review a slideshow of my priorities here: http://www.panilaitis4selectman.com/issues
Bob January 24, 2014 at 10:55 AM
Bruce, I tried but the audio is very low. I will try on another device. Thanks for stepping up. Win or lose, you are putting yourself out there and trying. I appreciate that.
Tewksbury2001 January 24, 2014 at 03:19 PM
@Bruce- It is a nice website and presentation. Alot of good ideas.
Karyn January 24, 2014 at 06:56 PM
The website is nicely put together and the candidate is well spoken. 'Many' of the ideas on the slides are nothing 'new' to anyone who has been paying attention and have been thought of and brought up by others in other situations well before now....but there is usually a lack of communication and follow through by those in a position to do something. Case in point, the updating of the Town's Master Plan of 2003. Those types of issues fall under the jurisdiction of our Community Development Director via the direction of the Town Manager who technically reports to the BOS. Therefore, in my mind, all members of the sitting board should become well versed on the topic in order for it to trickle down and light the proverbial fire under the CDD getting paid big bucks to be working FOR the Town to prioritize, spearhead and follow these types of issues through in a much more timely manner. Whether Bruce will be more successful in implementing these ideas than some current and/or before him, remains to be seen and if so, more power to him. THAT is what I would like to see in a candidate to earn my vote.
Mary January 24, 2014 at 09:02 PM
Well said Karyn! It seems as though people have to be pushed a little to get them to do something. Getting new development going in this Town is very important in order to have money to pay for the things are presently in bad disrepair. You have the same thought process as I do. I hope that whomever gets voted into the new position on the BOS will be able to accomplish everything that you mentioned above. The person that I think that can accomplish this task would earn my vote too.
Donna Marie Robitaille January 25, 2014 at 08:35 AM
Indeed we should go back to the drawing board of our master zoning plan. NOW would be a good time to research and find ways to incorporate into the master zoning plan for Tewksbury additional means to get revenue besides just taxes from those wishing to come here. Whether it be biotech or any other market..TEWKSBURY will be among those places they will WANT to be. I am convinced it is time to balance our needs with development. Since we can not ask for more than just taxes at this time, I agree we should actively try to achieve supporting good proposals. I am equally sure we can partner with people without giving incentives. They will come here if they truly want to be among the best places in the Commonwealth, when overall compared to most cities and towns along 495 and 93.
Tewksbury2001 January 25, 2014 at 08:41 AM
@Donna- You continue to say we should "get more than taxes" and at one time referred to it as "legalized extortion". We continue to have many vacant buildings and lots that are not developed. Shugrue commons, Direct Auto parts, Funland, Old Rite Aid plaza..etc. If people are not coming now to fill those space what makes you think that we coould "get more than taxes" from them?
Donna Marie Robitaille January 25, 2014 at 09:41 AM
ok I understand your confusion. I never meant to portray it that way. I was explaining during a comment battle that IT IS AN IDEA.. and that we are unable to ask for more than taxes at this time because we have no avenue for that. It is of my belief that this town should examine ways to do so. They exist and can be implemented to benefit Tewksbury IF we choose to do so. Incorporating this ability for gain into our master zoning plan..MAKES IT LEGAL> So when I said as a member of Planning Board I would act within the law..i pointed out that I could not ASK for MORE at a permit process because that would be extortion.. And the words legalized extortion is a comment wrote back to emphasize the legal ramifications. Please trust I am not attacking a candidate, town officials or residents that want to offer incentives. I just disagree with that idea. In fact it is quite the opposite how I feel at this point in our growth. Again, may I assure you that as a planning board member I would act properly and respect the rules we have. However as a person concerned about this community, I will elected or not continue exclaiming my belief that the residents of TEWKSBURY DESERVE MORE THAN >>MORE DEVELOPMENT. As for the concept, it could allow for additional gains based on each plan. For instance, we wouldn't ask of a mom and pop store the same as we would for others. Whether BioTech or big business We are among the ultimate as for perfect location, services available, friendly Boards and committees filled with people willing to work with applicants. Also, we have in recent times Changed our rules for Planning Board to allow for easier permitting at that level. This action was based on a well thought out plan and the foundation itself is an incentive. I suggest we go from here and do the best we can to get a good proposals now in order to grow the tax base. At the same time..Move forward to find ways to benefit.Tewksbury through new rules. The way I feel now is..The only deal we should offer any one at this point in our growth IS the best deal of all..The Town of Tewksbury.
Donna Marie Robitaille January 25, 2014 at 10:22 AM
Also as for the empty smaller spaces ..my take on why they are not coming is because times are tough. Which drives home my point that when it comes to the areas of development for larger commercial property or certain businesses like Biotech..we should be in a position to prevail more than taxes. Main Street will fill in. The economy is still a dark scary forest for many and the only thing anyone knows for sure IS ..It will get better.That in itself will bring business to town. To lure them onto Main Street is not needed with inentives. We can advertise ourselves for what we are..and when the time comes for better economical days for business..large and small..they will be here. Hopefully sooner than later.
Rob R January 25, 2014 at 10:55 AM
@Donna, Can you elaborate on your comments that we are unable to ask for more than taxes at this time because we have no avenue for that and that they exist and can be implemented to benefit Tewksbury if we choose to do so. What is the "more" a business would find attractive to give to us so they choose to grow roots in Tewksbury? I'm a business owner who would be favorable to deals that would financially help my company out, not a deal that takes more from it. Please explain what I might be misunderstanding. I think I'm sharing the same confusion as Tewksbury2001. On a side not I might of missed or forgot reading.....have you owned or managed a business before? I'm looking for a candidate that is knowledgeable in this area. It's not enough to just possess the vision to achieve a goal, you also need the knowledge to do so. Good intentions are noble but I'd like to hear more clear specifics on how you would go about attracting businesses to Tewksbury.
Donna Marie Robitaille January 25, 2014 at 12:20 PM
Thanks Rob for trying to walk me through comments so you can better understand and hopefully whether or not you agree tosupport researching this concept or not vote for me, you will realize the benefits for a community to do so. The idea is usually used in cities and towns that want to preserve a certain character and have parts of their master zoning plan which Allows communities to ask for more during the permitting approvals process. It is as if they believe They are worth it. The town can ask for a museum if they wanted it. I would think in our case it is wise to put in place due to the present capacity of impacts and if we were able to demand more than just tax revenue from the larger developments during our future growth..I think it could be used to ask for monies to make improvements,maintain services or re open the teen center forever fund,give money back to residents holding the ball on an awesome water and sewer plan or for any other specific gift we ask for. I personally believe extra money from large development to secure First Response..should be the first gift we ask for. It is well worth believing in the possibilities. They are realistic visions for a place that deserves the stability of a good future..AND We are worth it!! As for me, I have not owned a business. I know and care about many business owners in our town that deserve respect. It is just that at this point larger projects could be made to give more. I do have the experience needed to understand the East Coast market for large business and the Corporate level knowledge of what they want and how to achieve the best outcome for the developer possible. I served during a time when there was an enormous amount of development and the only thing I had was my own two feet and a secretary to deal with some very large and intense plans. There was no town administrator for the Conservation Commission and there was no administrative hand from the planning director. All of our work was performed and then voted upon. I worked to understand it all. I researched whatever was put in front of me without prejudice. I listened to large Developers wanting to come into North Tewksbury telling me their hopes,needs and problems. I trusted our Planning Board and worked with them not against them as their efforts to get the best benefits for Tewksbury achieved. I would get a favorable mark as being willing to meet those hopes needs and problems with open arms and actions to help to provide for their coming here. To solve their problems was never easy. I used experts at the DEP and I got tender loving care learning how to help large developers prevail in their plans. Learned a lot because we were busy. My ideas are good intentions and hopefully town manager will begin to research such ways to bring gains to Tewksbury as we are faced with near certain further IMPACTS from any large developments. How would I go about attracting businesses to Tewksbury?? HOLD AN OPEN HOUSE!!
mike monahan January 25, 2014 at 04:39 PM
@Donna, what type of business do you want to attract to Tewkesbury? Retail? What type of retail? Office? Light industrial?
Donna Marie Robitaille January 25, 2014 at 05:27 PM
I believe we should do exactly as we always have. All of the above. Large developments and BioTech are going to want to come here. I am not anti development. I do believe we are already at capacity for traffic and wetlands impacts. Also I believe we would be an asset to any company or developer. Therefore, my caution is warranted and if I am correct..they will bang down the door to come in. Lets not sell ourselves short. You may not want to look for ideas to get more but please do not put Incentives in place in order to fill store fronts or lure large developers. As the economy improves..everything will fall into place and I think Tewksbury will be among the first to stabilize it's future in a good economy. Afterall, Massachusetts will be among the first in the country to strengthen and Tewksbury is a strong community of this State. We do not have to give away our gold.
mike monahan January 25, 2014 at 09:25 PM
@donna i can't say that "doing exactly as we always have" has worked. We are going to have to draw those firms from the greater Boston Area
Donna Marie Robitaille January 26, 2014 at 07:13 AM
Mike..I am not sure what you mean. I thought we always do good when making a decision to allow a company or business. In a sinking economy it is difficult to have seen those firms with interest for Tewksbury. I agree if we still have to accept development we should be prepared as always to take in good proposals. Again, I believe BioTech especially and similar companies will want to be. I personally believe the Town has done a great job with the 30 acre parcel developed off the highway. We also did a fine job on Main Street as for the types of businesses and their looks. Our Planning Board has worked hard for many years to accomplish all the best for us. It seems to me that building to capacity for traffic creating DANGEROUS INTERSECTIONS is a problem. Also WE went shopping WITH NO MONEY to buy some really nice things. WE brought in an excellent sewer plan to this community that has to be paid for. WE bought start of the art water meters which cost a lot. Therefore OUR residents got bills too high to pay. Problem is not what we did wrong bringing in development ..our problem is what do we do from here on. Again, it is my hope that town officials will keep an open mind to research ways to bring in more than tax dollars. Let me assure you this town worked hard to bring in plans with a touch of class. Our planning board did not allow lousy plans to be approved. The one thing most difficult to accept for me is that we did not make allowances along the way to get more from developments when we realized the impacts of traffic was creating horrific conditions for residents at intersections. AND above all the fact that we DID NOT NOT PROVIDE ANY GROWTH FUNDING FOR THE FIRE DEPARTMENT SINCE THE SEVENTIES> which ultimately was the cause for a CLOSED SOUTH STATION . THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN> To blame is not my aim. To ensure us from ever having to face the disgusting thought of losing our first responders again..is. We did right with buying the best Police Station, Library,New Schools, Sewer Plan, Water Meters, and those coming here at this point in our growth get a nice looking town with all the best services. AND I maintain my position that large projects should help us pay. PS perhaps we could change a rule or two to include additional fees. I am sure BioTech companies coming from the greater Boston area will gladly pay to be here. When this economy strengthens so will they. No way should we be scared any longer that our first responders are shut down. Everything I speak of goes hand and hand. I have felt this way for some time. This is not just about a campaign. To me it is about my family my friends and my community. The people that i love and care about. So if I seem overbearing, I am sorry but backing down and closing my eyes to my knowledge and beliefs is not happening. I appreciate being able to try and explain this ,here on Patch. from Donna
Tewksbury2001 January 26, 2014 at 10:32 AM
@donna- The biotech market is already strong. There are numerous new and growing companies in Cambridge and Waltham. They don't need to wait for the economy to improve. In many businesses eyes the economy is just fine now. Interest rates are low, rents are low but rising. Venture capital money continues to flow and initial public offerings are almost at a historical high. So, if biotech is going to come, now is the time.
Donna Marie Robitaille January 26, 2014 at 04:05 PM
Dear 2001 ..I understand the biotech companies are already strong. That is my point. Let them get Deals elsewhere and when they are able to step it up to a better overall deal which can be best defined as LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION they can come here. Let others make public offers, we do not have to. If we were in a position to get more when WalMart and HomeDepot came in..they would have paid. and OUR rents for BioTech Should be getting higher, as you said..things are going good for them..and as I said and surely you must agree..Things will get better. If now is the time for them to come..I am not saying do not let them in. I am saying We should not offer incentives or deals. Tewksbury is different than Waltham and Cambridge. Two major Cities and a little suburban Town just north of Boston. We have a lot to offer and it was not easy to get it so picture perfect. There were many well thought out plans and any business coming here gets a touch of class AND out of the city. Problem is now we have over built and due to our shopping habits we have to bring in more to pay our bills. Above All. Please tell me why you can not see the need to keep as much as possible for us rather than give breaks by incentives or deals. ARE NEW companies ect.. GOING TO CARE ABOUT OUR RESIDENTS OR THE CLOSING OF A FIRE STATION when the economy shoves money in THEIR POCKETS FROM PROFITS> No they will be here alive and well and will care the less about our problems. You stated they doing fine now..SO WHY GIVE THEM DEALS? Think about us, the Town of Tewksbury. Perhaps if we should concentrate on this community and our welfare of our residents as hard as we are for businessmen we yet to meet.
Bob January 27, 2014 at 08:35 AM
Donna, it is simple economics. If I have a business in Marlboro and Tewksbury wants me to move here, they have to give incentive to do so. You believing Tewksbury is the best is not enough. There are moving costs, potential employee relocation costs, access to infrastructure etc. that must be addressed and frankly a town asking for more than is fair is not going to get the job done. Read the article on 495. The most expensive rental areas around Natick and Framingham have remained strong while areas with better rates have seen the largest vacancies. There are reasons for this and if a town attempts to hold a company up for more, legal or otherwise, the company will simply choose to stay where they are. Tewksbury's commercial real estate is not full so like it or not, we are not in the strong position you believe. If you attempt to extort more out of a company, they will simply locate else where. That is a fact!
Donna Marie Robitaille January 27, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Bob I understand and we differ in the belief they would not want Tewksbury. As their for employees relocating here, they may have to do what many have to that wish to live here..settle somewhere else because it is costly to live here. But wherever one lives in greater Massachusetts..driving to work in Tewksbury is Highway accessible. Also and perhaps most important to those companies is the awesome access from Logan airport to OUR Hotels for Their out of State and out of Country customers and employees. to the immediate area of where their companies could be. I can not say those other communities are not good place for them , I am just saying we are a better choice. Therefore, why not sell ourselves as so. if we not interested in new rules to gain more, at least we should Not offer incentives which take away from what we could get and sell what we have to offer AS IS> The Planning Board in recent years changed rules to be Friendly during permit process of approvals. This was done to lure BioTech and other companies known to be already strong markets. And again,if they are doing good and growing stronger Why should we gift our town out. I think you have smart thoughts with good intentions and it is proof how much we think alike for the benefit of Tewksbury, we just do not agree on how we may get there with the best gains for residents. Also, please keep in mind the gauge of development and what has already been built here. Some future large developments should be expected to chip in beyond taxes to secure our services and pay bills. we let it all in and it is time to relieve residents of impacts not further them.
Donna Marie Robitaille January 27, 2014 at 09:44 AM
PS Tewksbury offers a mini resort of Hotels and places to eat outside the door of those that come here to operate their company. Not too shabby a deal for them now is it? They are in this for Big bucks and to Not give incentives will not hurt them. Also when they are alive and kicking in cash..they will not be making a deposit from profits into residents bank accounts or the town of Tewksbury's


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