Groton Select board candidates discuss economic development and housing – Lowell Sun
GROTON – Three nominees vying for the board of Groton Select attended the annual nominees night on Tuesday May 4th.
Craig Bennett, Peter Cunningham and Vikram Narayan are all in the running to replace outgoing John Giger who is not seeking re-election.
Bennett is a 49 year old Groton resident who works in the culinary industry, Cunningham is a 42 year old resident who previously served on the board for 21 years and Narayan is a 10 year old resident who is a Doctor of Anesthesiology.
The election takes place on May 25. There are no other races contested,
All three candidates expressed concern about the tax burden on residents and expressed their desire to bring new sources of revenue to the city.
“We have become too dependent on property taxes and not enough on businesses. I have this vision of Groton being this very lovely place, which it already is, but fill it with restaurants and bring these chefs here, and make it a place where people watch and say, ‘I want to. go there, they have great restaurants, ”Narayan said.
Cunningham suggested the city re-explore recreational marijuana, saying Ayer made $ 500,000 in income from the Gage Cannabis Co. dispensary on RT. 110. Cunningham suggested using the 4 corners area for a dispensary, which the other applicants agreed to.
Bennett agreed with Narayan to make Groton more business friendly and with Cunningham to re-explore recreational marijuana. He also proposed to consider the future Indian Hill Music Center as an additional income opportunity.
“We should be looking at a ticket tax at Indian Hill. If the size of the building is a representation of what’s going to happen there, I think a ticket tax would be another revenue addition which I’m sure hasn’t been overlooked by many, ”he said. Bennett said.
Cunningham said much of the tax burden the city faces is the result of not addressing serious infrastructure issues sooner.
“Running a city government is a bit like running an ocean liner and you have to make big course corrections early on to make big changes on the road. It’s not that nimble, it takes a long time to get things done, ”Cunningham said.
With rising incomes, all three candidates also recognized the need for affordable housing in the city.
Cunningham said he supports the recent town hall article that will study city-owned plots for affordable housing. He also said he had read the Housing Production Plan and was familiar with it as a member of the Affordable Housing Partnership. He pointed to a development on Sandy Pond Road which is now owned by the Housing Authority as an example of the Affordable Workplace Housing Trust.
Narayan said he supports the construction of affordable housing, but wants it to be accessible to public transport so that they are better prepared for success. Bennett expanded on Narayn’s point by adding that housing should be in the center of town and conveniently located to shops, doctor’s offices, and the post office.
All three candidates expressed support for the Florence Roche Elementary School project when asked by a member of the public if they supported it knowing that it runs on natural gas with the known effects of climate change.
Bennett noted his support for the school’s little change since he was a student there. Narayan said he trusted the project engineers to carry out the cost-benefit analysis and Cunningham said the building was of primary design meaning it was designed for high efficiency.
Applicants differed when asked about their support for the Prescott School Community Center. Narayan expressed concern about the cost and how it aligned with the use of the center.
“I think in theory it would be great to keep such a historic building and be able to run business for the community, but we have to look at the finances behind it, especially when taxes go up every year. I don’t think it’s financially responsible, ”Narayan said. “I think we need to look at this. It depends on cost and use, but if you tell me there is a big benefit, and the city uses it, and it costs a little, then so be it.
Bennett said he visited the facility to learn more about the programs and also attended the school in the building and said it was a great asset to the community.
“It’s a great way to preserve this building. I attended sixth grade there and it’s a very familiar building from my childhood and I think the programs they offer there when it comes to guitar lessons, the Groton Herald is out of there , art classes and pottery classes are a great benefit not just for Groton but for the surrounding towns, ”Bennett said.
Cunningham said the city’s budget is unaffected by the center and also spoke about the benefits of the center.
“There is very little impact on the municipal budget. I think it worked out well and I think they deserve to be commended for the programming they put into it. In fact, over the past year during the pandemic, their programming was still going on and in fact provided respite for people who were sort of locked or locked in a sense in their daily lives, giving them an outlet, ” Cunningham said. “As long as this continues to be a benefit, I think it continues to be a benefit that we should continue to support.”
In addition, all three candidates have expressed a desire to improve the payment in lieu of tax process with the city’s nonprofits. All three would like to see organizations offering more for the community. Cunningham expressed his displeasure with the Groton School in particular, saying they abruptly stopped using their facilities, ending a swimming program for the elderly.
Bennett said he would like to see the process dealt with more on a case-by-case basis and Narayan agreed that just because an organization is a nonprofit doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have the money. Cunningham also acknowledged that the law tended to favor nonprofits in these cases.