Solar, seniors, regionalization: Rochester candidates speak out
With just a couple weeks to go until Rochester’s town election, residents got the chance to hear candidates speak on solar installations, senior housing, and regionalizing services at Candidates Night on Tuesday.
Three of the four candidates vying for two Planning Board seats made their pitches, as did both selectmen candidates running for the single seat left open by outgoing selectman Naida Parker.
Incumbent Ben Bailey and newcomers David Shaw and Bill Milka each shared a little about themselves and why they want to be on the Planning Board, and answered questions from residents. Incumbent John DiMaggio was unable to attend.
Would it make sense to have a senior housing board in town?
Bailey: It’d be great to have a senior planning board in town. We have a lot of seniors in town, and they often represent families who have lived here a very long time. They’re not people we want to lose. We need to come up with ways to configure zoning so things can be constructed for seniors. They don’t need 4,000 square feet or two acres.
Shaw: It’s hard for the Planning Board to concentrate on just one thing, so it would be good to have a separate board to concentrate on that.
Milka: Experience carries knowledge, and getting that experience from seniors would be a good thing.
We don't have enough places zoned for solar installations. How can we rectify that problem?
Shaw: You’ve got to realize where you could make commercial zones without affecting the residential zone. It’s hard when you have a lot of residential areas and then try to put solar right in the middle.
Milka: We need to make sure applicants design these things so they’re shielded and don’t affect people around them. I think they’re ugly, but as long as they’re shielded it’s better to have that than filling the town with subdivisions. I don’t know if you can really create specific zones.
Bailey: Over 90 percent of Rochester is zoned residential or agricultural, so you can’t ban solar from those zones…Your point is a very good one. We don’t have a designated place for this. It’s an industrial activity but solar is protected…An alternative would be to have a larger industrial area. The problem is quite true, we don’t really have a place that we can designate solely for solar.
What can be done to make Rochester more accessible to lower-income families?
Milka and Shaw did not answer.
Bailey: You have to balance the cost of educating children with the taxes people pay…It could make a zoning bylaw difficult, but I do think there ought to be a place for young families in Rochester.
The two selectmen candidates, David Arancio and Paul Ciaburri, answered questions about housing, regionalization and meeting schedules.
Arancio is on the Zoning Board of Appeals and is a member of the Finance Committee, while Ciaburri is a longtime firefighter and is the Emergency Management Director.
Should the Board of Selectmen meet every Monday night or continue meeting every other Monday?
Ciaburri: I’ve always been a fan of more communication rather than less, so I would think that the selectmen meeting every Monday night would be a good thing.
Arancio: Whatever the Board of Selectmen selects as a schedule I would adhere to. If the town requires and needs us to meet every week, then I would have no problem with that. The one thing I do think should be added to the agenda is public input. That should be an open agenda item every time.
Will you continue serving in other capacities in town?
Ciaburri: As for Emergency Management, I can continue that when I’m elected. It’s an unpaid position, and no conflict of interest. If there was a vote by selectmen for anything to do with it, I’d have to recuse myself. I’m talking to the [State Ethics Commission] about what I’d have to do about the Fire Department. I’d have to recuse myself from votes or discussions about it, but I’m waiting to see what [the state] says.
Arancio: I have not spoken to [the town’s attorney]. I have heard that I would have to resign from the ZBA immediately. Finance Committee is a grey area. If I can finish up the budget cycle that would be ideal, but I’m not sure. I’ll do whatever I have to.
How do you feel about regionalizing services with other towns?
Ciaburri: I’ve never been a big fan of regionalization. It’s a very grey area. It’s hard when you get different towns together to make a cohesive decision that’s good for all of them. For some things it works very well, but for others not so much. You lose some autonomy when you regionalize. I would have to take a hard look at whatever regionalization is being considered.
Arancio: There’s nothing in front of us now that is looking to regionalize, but I know that there have been discussions from the superintendent about the regionalization of elementary schools, and I’m not in favor of that. Other than that, I’m a big believer that you need to listen to everything. We’ve been given two eyes, two ears and we need to use them. I’m open to anything, but if it’s going to affect the fabric of the town and the townspeople, then I’m certainly going to listen to them on that.