Those of you who are not new to this e-mail list have previously received the synopses of the recent major studies that show unequivocally that growth in today’s world has negative impact on every measure of economic and individual prosperity, not to mention quality of life issues. Personal income, tax rates, unemployment rates, municipal solvency, and a host of other indicators all show a negative correlation with growth – for every single region of the country.
What you may not be aware of is the fact that Chelmsford’s Community Development Director, Evan Belansky, has just as decisively and unequivocally rejected those findings. As a trained professional, Belansky should prefer research to conjecture, but he has himself complained in the past that researchers “try to present data as fact.” I’m not sure what else we should rely on because he doesn’t say, and he has never presented any objective evidence refuting these studies.
Mr. Belansky, hired by Paul Cohen as an “urban planner” shortly after his own appointment as town manager, maintains that he “does not make policy.” But on June 16 and 17 he has set up “Smart Growth Forums” to present information on “how to utilize smart growth to achieve fiscal and economic health for the community.” That’s a pretty definitive policy statement.
The preliminary materials for this seminar show a presentation that makes false claims about positive benefits of “smart growth” (which is nothing more than “still yet more growth”) including empty claims that “smart growth” will enhance economic prosperity and provide fiscal solvency. The studies – and our own personal experience with vacancy rates, taxes and quality of life issues – show otherwise.
Evan Belansky has been shilling for growth at various forums across the state for his entire tenure as Chelmsford’s Community Development Director. Many residents lobbied at the time of his hire to have the title and job description changed to include Sustainability Planning, but Paul Cohen at the time stated it wasn’t necessary and would just be “window dressing.” That has turned out to be just another prevarication, just as Matt Hanson’s statement last summer that it “goes without saying that a construction permit should not be issued” for the Eliopoulos Edifice, which permit was then shortly thereafter granted by our corrupt Building Inspector Scott Hammond – another direct report to Town Manager Cohen.
Belansky has said flat out that he agrees with the statement that “growth/development translates into fiscal and economic health.” He disagrees with the carefully researched reports that indicate otherwise, providing no particular reason. It’s just more B.S. (Bad Sociology) coming out of our Town Hall.
He claims that the “Smart Growth” forum on June 16 and 17 “is directly related to many of the recommendations in the Master Plan.” That’s not true. The Master Plan, for all its faults, does not recommend growth and in fact continues to warn, as it has for decades, that growth is a threat to the character of the community and quality of life for all of its residents.
So we are stuck with a forum that is set to sell our officials a bill of goods favoring development at our expense, and that will spew counterproductive propaganda for two days straight. All of this is officially sanctioned by our Town Manager and Community Development Director – both of whom will deny that they favor growth even as they work to implement growth and deny the validity of studies debunking the growthist mentality.
If you are as tired as I am of our supposedly “professional” personnel in town hall not only failing to protect our interests but actively working to undermine the future of our town, then vote to change the officials who sanction their activities, continue to protect them from formal investigation of corruption, and continue to give them raises even as a storm of controversy swirls around them.
We will have that opportunity on August 2. Please remember to vote.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew