Opinion: Tabor needs to find five electric charging stations

Mar 4, 2021

Editor’s note: This piece is in response to Marion Selectman John Waterman’s recent opinion letter on The Marion Planning Board’s handling of a proposed Tabor Academy Student Center. 

To the editor,

In his opinion piece, Mr. Waterman, vice chairman of the Select Board, alleged that he has followed the Tabor Academy hearings of the Hayden Library and new Campus Center. He singled out “certain Planning Board members” for criticism because they had “ chosen to make an issue out of Tabor parking” and they “insist on a number of places for electric car charges.”

Mr. Waterman, I take my Planning Board responsibilities seriously and protect and act in the best interests of the Town, as do my Planning Board colleagues. And like my colleagues, I have attended many continuation education forums, meetings, conferences, and study groups on a variety of topics from zoning, housing, transportation, economic development, land use, natural resources, telecommunication, photovoltaics on landfills, climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategies. We attend meetings on our own time. 

In the aggregate, what I learn provides me with the guidance and tools to make effective and judicious Planning Board decisions.

For example, the major cause of climate change is burning fossil fuels, resulting in droughts, increased heat, violent storms, wildfires, and decreased crop yields. After reading that Volvo car manufacturer one-upped larger rivals and would convert its entire lineup to battery power by 2030, and Ford motor company committed itself to selling only battery-powered cars in Europe starting in 2030. I took that information, and the 2019 global average atmospheric carbon dioxide level of nearly 410 parts per million, a level higher than at any point in 800,000 years, and applied the information when advocating for five spaces with electric charging stations. 

Common sense and good judgment tell me that the U.S. auto industry, which has been moving toward electrification for years, will, like the Swedish auto industry, break with its fossil fuel past adding a new urgency to fight climate change.  

When thinking about the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and its effects, one would expect a presumably prudent and well managed preparatory school, known for its marine science courses to be forward thinking and promptly grasp the anthropogenic effects caused by tailpipe emissions and its devastating impact on life. But I am having doubts.

Hopefully, the catastrophic events caused by climate change in Texas, the prolific amounts of snow, the hundreds of thousands residents without heat and water for weeks after the storm, did not skip Tabor Academy’s conscientiousness. On the off chance that Tabor Academy and John Waterman missed it, Texans were burning their furniture for warmth, people were standing in long lines for water and food, and people were melting snow to flush toilets. Yet, the Tabor Academy administration bulked when asked to pitch-in and install five electric charging stations to help mitigate climate change. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small ask that somehow ballooned into a big brouhaha when the Tabor administration dug in its heels over a few thousand dollars on a multimillion dollar project.

John Waterman came to Tabor Academy’s rescue saying I was “effectively requiring Tabor to have five such spaces even though Town bylaws do not require it.” Incredible! What thinking! Tabor Academy sits on Buzzards Bay, the area is experiencing sea level rise, Front Street will most likely be underwater in thirty years taking Tabor property with it, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active and the fifth costliest Atlantic Hurricane season on record, of the thirty named storms, thirteen went on to become hurricanes and we went through the English and Greek alphabets. Since some in leadership show a profound lack foresight, in that, “Town bylaws do not require it.” It is fortunate that I am a member of the Planning Board’s Codification Committee, the committee can write a bylaw that will protect Town residents from “leaders” lacking foresight and commonsense.

“... Tabor didn’t need the special permit. Under exemption provided by the Dover Amendment ...” according to Mr. Waterman, who went on to say, “[Tabor] came to the Planning Board as a courtesy ...” Frankly, I find that hard to believe. Tabor has tried using the Dover Amendment with the Planning Board in the past and the tactic failed miserably every time. And it would have failed again.

Mr. Waterman went on, “Actions like last night only provide evidence to Tabor executives” that “they can expect to continue to be treated poorly. This is a negative incentive to Tabor and its Board of Trustees to provide the Town any financial support in the future.”

Unlike Mr. Waterman, I do not point fingers at others when a plan crashes. I actively seek effective solutions to problems and dilemmas that confront the Town, and more importantly, I represent and respect all Town residents, and not just a tiny segment of an elite population that might provide “financial support in the future.” Do not hold your breath Mr. Waterman. If Tabor’s administration cannot finance five electric charging stations for the common good, especially with Marion being a seaside and ‘green community,’ then, it is just not going to happen.

Finally, Mr. Waterman, misuse of one’s position is expressly prohibited in the Massachusetts General Laws. No unwarranted privileges should be sought or accepted, and this includes preferable treatment as in your last sentence, “This is a negative incentive to Tabor and its Board of Trustees to provide the Town any financial support in the future.” It appears a quid pro quo was or is underway.

Eileen J. Marum

Marion, Planning Board