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Local News

January 17, 2013

Board candidates moved forward

Salem: Full council has to approve mayor's picks for planning, zoning

SALEM — A City Council subcommittee agreed last night to send Mayor Kim Driscoll’s picks for the planning and zoning boards forward to the full council for final approval.

Councilors asked questions of the four candidates — Ben Anderson and Kirt Rieder for the Planning Board and Tom Watkins and David Eppley for the Zoning Board of Appeals — and aired a few grievances of their own at last night’s session.

Councilors had called a special meeting to vet the mayor’s candidates — a reaction to past development decisions made by city boards that some councilors have been unhappy with. Usually, the mayor’s appointees are confirmed by the council with little, if any, discussion.

“I don’t doubt that any of these people have good intentions,” Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski said. “... The problem is, if after we confirm them, they repeatedly violate the board’s mission, there’s no mechanism (to recall them).”

As each candidate came forward to introduce themselves and answer questions, Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey explained that he felt residents’ concerns and objections to recent development projects haven’t been taken into consideration by some members of city boards.

Several of the candidates said they would approach issues on a case-by-case basis and take resident sentiment into consideration. Eppley said his philosophy is that each project needs to be feasible, lawful and accepted by the community.

Weighing the concerns of all involved is a “tough responsibility,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Rieder have experience going before municipal boards for development projects in their professional lives. Anderson has two decades of experience in commercial and retail architecture; Rieder is a principal at a landscape architecture design firm.

Watkins recently left his job as purchasing agent for the city of Salem to become director of purchasing for the town of Andover. He started as an aide in the mayor’s office in 2006, was named purchasing agent in 2010 and left the post in August.

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