Carleton “Toby” Burr Jr. and Dr. Ed Hoffer did not have a lot to argue about when they met on May 6 at the Music Hall to participate in a candidates’ event organized by The Wanderer, but their conversation with Marion voters did bring out a distinct difference between them.
Both are recently retired, Burr a longtime businessman in Marion with significant experience on the applicant’s side of the permitting table and a physician experienced in the running of the Board of Health and associated projects. Burr is recently retired from Burr Brothers Boats, Inc., and his son (and Planning Board candidate) Tucker Burr now runs that business.
So while both are looking for votes in the race for John Waterman’s Select Board seat and both share Waterman’s urgency to generate ratepayers to share some of the financial burden that Marion faces as it plans major infrastructural upgrades, they bring different perspectives.
Burr used his opening statement in part to address the departure of Lockheed Martin, noting that the 400 jobs on the site drew little in the way of attention or tax-supported services. “And it brought a lot of wonderful families to our town. It did not create a lot of traffic on Route 6, and it was easy to take it all for granted, but we will feel its loss,” he said. “What happens to that land is very crucial to our future. I would like to see it replaced with an industrial park.”
While the town has hired a consultant to draw up a large residential plan for the purposes of helping Lockheed Martin move the property in accordance with purposes town officials find desirable, Burr envisions the Mattapoisett Industrial Park that was successfully built out over time. He thinks it’s premature to commit to a residence concept at the site.
“We need to talk about it. It is the one area in town that is zoned industrial,” he said. “I will share what I know because I believe we our stronger together. Great ideas matter, and they can come at any time from anyone. I will listen, and you will be heard.”
In opening, Hoffer summarized his work on the Board of Health spearheading Marion’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the testing and vaccination clinics that have been held under his watch, along with his work on the Emergency Management Committee. He also recently served on the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
Citing high taxes and high water and sewer bills, Hoffer made a plea for citizens to participate in town affairs. Hinged upon that was his enthusiastic recommendation of the zoning change that will allow Matt Zuker to seek permitting for The Cottages project off Route 6 near the Wareham town line.
Hoffer thinks the town should hire a part-time grants writer to maximize opportunities to gain financial assistance.
Burr believes the site-plan-and-review bylaw discourages small business in Marion. “In the cases of large businesses, it is certainly necessary as is; in the cases of very small businesses, it has really … limited and discourages people from even starting small businesses here in Marion. If it could be put into an expedited process that wasn’t so burdensome, we might have a larger business tax base,” he said.
Both candidates have been impressed with new Tabor Head of School Tony Jaccaci and share an optimism about the town’s relationship with the local prep school.
When the floor was opened to voters, resident Judy Taylor asked the candidates how they differ. Burr, a member of the Marine Resources Commission, pointed to his perspective of an applicant, while Hoffer pointed to his broad experience with the Council on Aging, the Friends thereof and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Steve Kokkins asked about people having an easier way of finding out what is going to happen at public meetings.
Burr said the town website could be improved, and more effort could be put into public-meeting agendas to include the consequences of what will be discussed. “That would be very difficult, but I think it’s worth the effort,” he said.
Hoffer said the town website “is sadly lacking” in terms of Zoom meeting access. He suggested one click to get into a meeting and anything less is “embarrassing.”
At the onset of the pandemic, internet security was a concern for the town officials.
Resident Michael Sudofsky asked about the recent Board of Health meeting that was canceled amidst concerns over a potential violation of state Open Meeting Law. The subject at hand was the vetting of new dumpster regulations that would be quickly aborted amidst passionate protest from business owners attending the subsequent meeting.
“They got an earful from the small businesses, and they didn’t have a great deal of response,” said Burr, who was displeased with the governance of the meeting. “This struck us – and me – as being inappropriate. The purpose of a public hearing … you do not have a public hearing and tell people to be quiet and sit down. And that’s what happened so that was getting off on the wrong foot.”
Being on the spot, Hoffer recounted how he stepped into a volatile situation. “The chair who succeeded me on the Board of Health (Dot Brown) I think may have been not running the meeting as I would have requested. I would suggest that my style of working came through, and I suggested that the business owners who had a complaint meet unofficially with me off site so I could get their input,” he said. “I showed up with a piece of white paper and said that was where I was starting.
“I listened to them and decided that this was in fact a problem that was primarily at two residential communities in town, not the business community, and suggested that this be refocused to deal with the real problem that existed and not overly broadened, and that is where things stand.”
Nancy McFadden asked the candidates to comment on the harbormaster’s facility.
“It is certainly needed compared to what they are working in now,” said Burr, who said the state and federal governments have leveraged much of the costs. “If the state grants don’t come through, the building will not be built. It’s really that simple.”
Hoffer was enthusiastic, declaring the new Department of Public Works operations building a “need” but the proposed Marine Center a “want.” But he did say, so long as the burden does not fall on the taxpayers, then he supports the project.
As was the case in the Select Board contest, so it is with the Planning Board that the future of the Lockheed Martin property is being carefully considered by candidates and voters.
Three of the four Planning Board candidates chasing two open seats were on hand last Friday, Tucker Burr, Andrew Daniel and W. Dale Jones. Barrett Levenson was unavailable for the time slot. The four are vying to replace two Planning Board members not running for reelection, Joe Rocha and former Chairman Will Saltonstall.
Daniel, who served on the Planning Board but lost his seat in last year’s election, emphasized his commitment to look after all Marion residents and not just a particular demographic.
Jones, a self-described private-sector person, said he has worked with volunteers. He said the good thing about Planning Board is its recommendations still come before Town Meeting to be vetted by the citizens. He strongly supported an all-hands-on-deck effort to replace Lockheed Martin with a likeminded business.
Burr told his story of growing up in Marion and despite his job working in the family boatyard along with experience as a mechanic and in sales, keyed on the economic challenge of making ends meet in Marion. He now serves on the ZBA. He talked of his mathematics studies and his ongoing appetite to learn the town’s rules and regulations.
Asked how to make the Planning Board more business-friendly, Daniel said he went out of his way to meet privately with applicants for permits to discuss their projects and help close the gap between their projects and Planning Board approval.
Jones talked about his service to the state on the Designer Selection Board. “That was a wonderful experience, and my background in engineering would help to do this sort of thing. We’ve got to find a way to bring business into town.”
Burr put his attention on which projects merit site-plan review, calling it “something that should be looked at. … Running a business, I know how tough it is.”
Resident Alan Minard alluded to a conversation with a business owner who wouldn’t consider Marion “because the Planning Board there is too hard to work with.” Acknowledging it as a perception, Minard asked the candidates how to deal with the perception.
“The more we can do to elect people who are clearly and ostensibly from the outside, businesspeople, the better that perception’s going to be,” said Burr.
“We change the perception by being better at it,” said Daniel. “Just because you have power and authority to make things more difficult for these applicants doesn’t mean you have to.”
The Marion election is scheduled for Friday, May 13, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, at the Cushing Community Center.
By Mick Colageo