The importance of having an attorney on the Planning Board was central in the candidates’ debate for incumbent Alexander Whiteside’s seat.
Whiteside faced challenger Todd John Hamilton for the Planning Board seat at a candidates’ night at Milton Public Access TV’s studios on Tuesday.
“It is important for at least one Planning Board member to be a lawyer to have thorough acquaintance with the law and to have a thorough expertise with laws,” Whiteside said. “Without that, the board will get into trouble.”
Hamilton, a contractor, argued that it was more important for a Planning Board member to be out in the field. The board consults town counsel in all legal matters anyway, so having a lawyer on the board is irrelevant, he said.
Hamilton spoke against a Brush Hill Road project proposed under the state’s 40B law to bring a 276-unit development near the Fuller Village retirement community.
“If the town of Milton had a housing plan put together before, we wouldn’t get bombarded by 40B’s,” he said.
Whiteside doubted the plan would move forward as proposed, and said the neighborhood had not been behind the proposal.
Regarding traffic, Whiteside said the heavy traffic the town experiences on side roads during rush hour might be mitigated through a number of traffic calming devices, but that a traffic engineer should look at the problem.
Hamilton thought that banning traffic on certain side streets on certain hours could be a solution.
In response to a question about what could be built on a Granite Avenue site the town is considering purchasing, Whiteside said he supported the idea of a hotel or another commercial development in that spot. Hamilton said he had not thought about what could be put there, and would want to review the property further.
Both candidates said the town planner worked very hard on many projects. Whiteside said an assistant planner should be hired, but that it was a question of money.
“The town planner is currently doing too much and he really needs time to focus on certain issues and not have to focus on all issues,” Whiteside said.
In closing, Whiteside said he considered being a lawyer an asset, and added that he had drafted all zoning rules established for development and most of the planning laws.
Hamilton said he had done development all over the state, taking projects from start to finish. He said he didn’t have a law degree, but he did have experience bringing developers and neighbors together.
“I’ve been through a bunch of different towns with different zoning, and on a lot of the planning boards and zoning boards that don’t have attorneys on the board, things get done faster,” Hamilton said. “They’re not discussing the word ‘is’ for two-and-a-half days.”