The Planning Board at its joint meeting with the Select Board Monday night voted 9-1 for Parker Happ to become its newest member.
Happ interviewed for the open seat along with Peter Thomas, who received a lone vote of support from Planning Board chair Gary Trendel. The third candidate, Karen Mulik, did not appear at the meeting but remained eligible for consideration.
“I think we all know how important volunteerism is in Hopkinton,” said Trendel. “The unfortunate part is I think we’ve got three good candidates, and we’ve only got one spot.”
The position, which became available after Navdeep Arora stepped down, will be on the ballot in next May’s Annual Town Election.
In his interview, Happ, who said he moved to town a few years before the pandemic, stressed his previous experience in Illinois state government as “a differentiator,” touting that he is the only candidate with political expertise. He is originally from Woodstock, Illinois, a town similar to Hopkinton in that it was small but on the cusp of growth, he said. But unlike Hopkinton, Happ said, that community remained stagnant because of “bad planning decisions.”
Thomas highlighted as advantages his connection to the community through his work as owner and publisher of the HopNews website and his communication skills. He also noted the impact on taxpayers of the declining commercial tax base on the town, coupled with inflation on a national scale. The state’s MBTA Communities Act, which if adopted by the town would require 750 additional housing units, would create a ripple effect impacting the schools, he said.
Added Thomas: “My background in leadership, marketing and more importantly in storytelling will be an asset to town government.”
Thomas stressed his reporting in town, including on the Planning Board, during his interview. However, neither Thomas nor any of the 10 people who voted brought up what would appear to be an obvious conflict of interest in having someone write or edit stories about a board on which he sits, or how potential conflicts would be addressed if he were selected.
At the end of the meeting, Trendel encouraged Thomas to “continue to be engaged,” adding, “I assure you that there will be more opportunities like this one.”
Release of Emerald Drive lots approved
The Planning Board voted 8-0 to endorse the release of two lots on Emerald Drive through acceptance of a Form K. They are part of the Connelly Farms open space and landscape preservation development (OSLPD). A paper bond has been submitted to the town by developer Ravenwood LLC.
St. John welcomed to Land Use Department
Laurie St. John was welcomed to the Land Use Department as its administrative assistant. She previously worked in the Finance Department for the past two years.
Planning Board will continue to meet virtually
Planning Board members decided they will continue to hold virtual meetings. Members agreed to gather informally twice a year to connect in person.