Candidates Mike Summersgill and Frank McGehee squared off in the final forum on the campaign season with a Maplewood Township Committee Candidates Forum hosted by Maplewood Senior Share at Les Saisons Bed & Breakfast on Saturday, October 15.
Ed Brisbon, a local resident and presenter on long-term health planning, facilitated the forum. Audience members provided questions.
Each candidate started with a 6-8 minute presentation, during which each candidate spent considerable time talking about their backgrounds.
The event was not limited to senior issues.
Brisbon asked each candidate for his 30-second elevator speech. McGehee wanted to point out that despite being a Democrat, “I have a unique voice” to bring to the governing body. He also noted that Mayor Vic DeLuca and former Mayor Fred Profeta, who don’t agree on much, agreed in endorsing him. Summersgill stated, “I’m an ops guy,” and said he wanted “to put the systems in place that allows us to get the results we’re looking for.”
There were moments of levity as when Summersgill nominated McGehee for a committee that he wanted to reactivate. McGehee followed by noting that he and Summersgill had sat down for coffee a few months back and called Summersgill “dynamic” with “great expertise.” McGehee said that after the election (which he intends to win), he and Summersgill would sit down and discuss “what Mike wants to do, and I’ll support this.”
Local resident John Harvey asked about the development process, particularly related to the post office development.
McGehee said it was no secret that he was against the post office development project as a member of Village Keepers. With the current issue of creating an dumpster for a proposed restaurant at the development, McGehee said, “that bothered me as well.” McGehee said he did not support placing the dumpster outside the building. Summersgill said he did not support the legal action taken last year regarding the project by Village Keepers. Regarding the dumpster, Summersgill noted that the decision had been pushed to the November Planning Board meeting. He said that the proposal for the dumpster is “all legal” but that the developer is “the one benefiting from it” and residents who were againsted it “need to speak up.”
One questioner asked about the town’s “trend toward density.” Summersgill said it was time to look at the Master Plan (last updated in 2011) again. He said that he was not interested in preserving the town as is necessarily but was interested in examining how it served existing residents. McGehee noted that there are 420 units total going up at present, concentrated at the Avalon Bay 235-unit development at the pool. He did not seem to voice a preference for or against development but said he was concerned about looking holistically at impacts — for example, at the impact on Seth Boyden School and on the jitney as related to the Avalon Bay project.
With respect to development in Maplewood Village, Summersgill did not propose any new ordinances but supported Lembrich’s formula-based business ordinance proposal — that was not “personal and emotion but practical” so that “we are not litigating each issue.” McGehee said, “I think it’s time to make the village an historic district” making it impossible to demolish anything without approval. Summersgill felt that such a designation could put onerous restrictions on businesses, but McGehee countered that there were already many “benchmarks” required for businesses to to the special improvement district.
The election takes place on November 8.