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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.


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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