Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM The Planning Board met with the Board of Selectmen last Monday to discuss a variety of issues that concerned both elected boards. The joint meeting served to appoint a new member to the Planning Board, cover the issue of easement for a local business looking to install a swimming pool and gather input on the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission's energy saving initiative.
Christopher Leisey resigned from his position as chair of the Planning Board on Jan. 9, so the board had to reorganize. Richard Butler was elected the new chair, Edward Stevenson became clerk, Patricia Ross remained as vice-chair and Frederic Fuller remained as a member.
Leisey's resignation left a hole on the five person board, however. As a position on the board is an elected one, the chosen candidate would only be appointed to the position until the May elections, when he or she would have to run for and gain votes to officially fill the seat. Two candidates interviewed with both the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen at their Feb. 11 meeting to fill the position.
Dean Stroshine, a retired 37-year resident of Wilbraham, interviewed first. He told both boards that what the Planning Board does interests him a great deal. He's served on committees for the American Red Cross and the United Way and worked with HAP Inc. in Springfield for four years.
"I have a sense for public service," Stroshine said.
He added that Wilbraham is a beautiful community and that its beauty can be attributed to the work done by the Planning Board.
Selectman Patrick Brady asked if Stroshine would be open to joining other committees if he were not selected for the Planning Board. Stroshine said he would be.
Board of Selectman Chair James Thompson said Stroshine was "the best kind of volunteer, with lots of experience for a variety of positions."
However, the open position on the Planning Board went to the other candidate, attorney Adam Basch, who has served as an associate member of the board for two years.
"I spent my first year doing more listening than talking," Basch explained. "I think I know a little bit more now." He continued by saying he didn't know how anyone could come onto the Planning Board without serving as an associate member first.
Butler said the Planning Board has not had a lawyer as a member for several years and that there are "certain things Adam is very good at," legally.
With a recommendation from the Planning Board, Basch was appointed to the full member position by unanimous vote.
"This is a great opportunity," Basch told Reminder Publications. He said he first moved to Wilbraham when he was eight years old and, after attending Union College and then Western New England College, he returned to the town in 2003. Upon his return, he met with the Board of Selectmen and was appointed to the Major Projects Review Committee from 2005 to 2006. Once his tenure ended there, an opening for an associate membership with the Planning Board opened and he saw it as "perfect timing."
Basch said he will be serving on the board more as a citizen of Wilbraham than as a lawyer, however. "Our Town Counsel, Michael Hassett, is very knowledgeable," he said. "I usually just say things off the cuff."
The Minnechaug graduate, with a wife who serves as the assistant town engineer, said if he wins the election in May, he'll be with the Planning Board for a long time. "As long as Wilbraham needs my services, I'll be happy to do it," Basch said.
His appointment to the board was immediate, and he entered into the discussion with the Board of Selectmen concerning Ken Goodrich's plans to install a 60' by 30' swimming pool at the U.S. Taekwondo Center at 28 Stony Hill Rd. The parcel the business is looking at is primarily zoned as business but also includes a residential portion.
"We're hoping to get on the agenda for the Town Meeting to get this approved," Goodrich said.
"The big issue is easement," Butler stated. Easement is a right to cross or otherwise use someone else's property for a specified purpose. "The issue ... is one we'd like to see resolved."
To achieve easement, Goodrich must get the approval of all the abutters, receive a zoning change for the property in question and earn town approval. Goodrich said the petition signed by the abutters shows their support.
He added the pool would be used for the center's afterschool program, which runs through the summer months, and would be open for public use as well.
With a few clarifications as to when the pool would be operated, what the public would be charged for pool use, etc., the boards saw no issue with request for easement. Goodrich's plan now has to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen also agreed to show support for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission's energy initiative, which Thompson said is "like Valley View with a twist." The initiative lists ways and plans for towns in the Connecticut River Valley to cut down on their heating, electric and water consumption.
"Some ideas work for some towns, but not for all," Butler said. "There are things we feel are collectively important to consider, however. I think the Board of Selectmen should sign off on it as a good idea."
Brady agreed, adding the town should appoint an energy committee to do an energy audit of all the town's buildings.