An open letter to the Milton Planning Board and Select Board regarding appointments to the Master Plan Implementation Committee

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An open letter to the Milton Planning Board and Select Board regarding appointments to the Master Plan Implementation Committee

An open letter to the Milton Town Planning Board (PB) and Milton Select Board (SB) regarding appointments to the Master Plan Implementation Committee (MPIC).

MPIC Background

In 2014, the MPIC was created to implement provisions of the Master Plan that was approved that year. The MPIC will sunset 10 years after its creation (2024). Based on the Article that established the MPIC (Article 13): The MPIC will review the implementation plan at least twice annually and recommend to the PB and SB the actions necessary to implement such plan, including timing, resources, and responsibilities.

Regarding committee selection, Article 13 states: Said Committee shall consist of five members to be appointed jointly by the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen for terms that are renewed annually. One member shall be a member of the Planning Board or its designee and a second member shall be a member of the Board of Selectmen or its designee. The other members shall have expertise in planning, architecture, economic development, landscape architecture, real estate, or other relevant fields.

Historic Membership

  • 2017- July 2020: members included Taber Keally, Cheryl Tougias, Katie Conlon, Richard Burke, and Elizabeth Miller.
  • September 2020-November 2021: members included Taber Keally, Cheryl Tougias, Arthur Doyle, Richard Burke, and Elizabeth Miller. (Doyle replaced Conlon as the SB representative)
  • In January 2022: Elaine Benson was unanimously elected to replace Liz Miller.
  • Currently: the MPIC consists of Cheryl Tougias, Richard S. Burke, Taber Keally, Elaine J. Benson, and Roxanne Musto. Musto filled Doyle’s spot as the SB representative.

Note that between 2017-2022, every board member was renewed every year, with the only turnover coming from changes to the Select Board or voluntary resignations.

Recent Developments

In June 2022, Town Meeting approved the MPIC’s request to increase its membership from five to seven for the final two years of the committee’s term.

At the August 11, 2022 meeting , Planning board members Meredith Hall and Maggie Oldfield recommended a new slate of members (a total of seven), which included

Four prior members:

  • Cheryl Tougias (current chair)
  • Roxanne Musto
  • Richard S. Burke
  • Taber Keally

Three potential new members:

  • Demetrios Davis
  • John Keohane
  • Dan Walsh

Notably, Elaine Benson, who had been elected unanimously in January 2022, was not included on this list.

Planning Board member Rich Boehler noted his discomfort with the process, notably that these three nominees were suggested without discussion by the entire planning board or select board input (the names came from a private conversation between two members of the PB).

As reported in the Milton Times, and recorded in the August 11 meeting, PB member Maggie Oldfield noted that her decision process on nominees included:

“…how long someone has lived in town with the longer being the better.”

She also stated that:

“I wanted to know what type of property or properties they owned. Was it single-family, multi-family, commercial properties? Do they own a business in town? Basically I wanted to know how much they are financially invested in the town because if you’re making zoning suggestions or zoning changes, you should have some skin in the game.”

She also noted:

“What’s the likelihood of them remaining in Milton for the long haul because zoning changes have a long time of being in effect… are they going to be the ones that are going to have to live with the changes along with us as residents?”

Oldfield said that other factors used in her criteria include how active they are in their neighborhoods and if they are willing to work with others who have differing opinions. She also said: “And lastly, what professional qualifications do they bring?”

Planning Board member Meredith Hall was quoted in the Milton Times as stating: that she does not want to have on the MPIC “anyone who comes with a hostile attitude” since the members will work closely with the Planning Board on upcoming items including a possible East Milton zoning overlay district. She stated that “I’m not going to go into detail but the March (Planning Board) meetings are public.”

It appears that these comments refer to public comments that Elaine Benson made regarding the controversy over Accessory Dwelling Units at a March 17, 2022 Planning Board meeting.

Notably, at this meeting Elaine Benson spoke in favor of ADUs, stating that family members’ clause is vague, and that rhetoric about “scary, hostile renters” is racist and classist and is considered exclusionary zoning. She said affordability in Milton is a huge problem and that precincts with multi-family housing are the most diverse. She said a great deal of misinformation and scare tactics had been spread amongst residents about ADUs.

The Milton Times reports that regarding Elaine Benson’s comments, Cheryl Tougias defended Benson and said that she has been a dedicated, committed, and valuable member of the MPIC. “She represents a demographic of a young family, a renter,” Tougias said. At Tougias’s request, Benson was invited to speak and said, “I apologize for anything that was offensive to any of the members. It’s the first I heard of it.”

Planning Board member Rich Boehler said that making recommendations by how long someone has been in town, whether they rent or own, and how much money they have invested in the town, is “a slippery slope.”

“We all get an equal vote in this town,” he said. “I’m not in favor of just kicking people out and starting over. It’s not what the town has ever done with these committees.”

Select Board Member Erin Bradley is quoted in the Milton Times article:

Erin Bradley, newly elected select board member, said that some of the checklist items were “very appalling” to her. “It’s not right that we place emphasis on people who own property in the town. If you have made a commitment to live in town, I believe you have skin in the game,” Bradley said. “I was really taken aback by what was said.”

Current status

At the Select Board meeting on Aug. 23, several board members called for a joint meeting with a review of all the candidates.

No vote has yet been taken on the new board members. The Select Board is likely to finalize a vote at their meeting during on September 27, 2022.

Our concerns as citizens:

The process by which MPIC members should be selected is clearly delineated in the 2014 document: The other members shall have expertise in planning, architecture, economic development, landscape architecture, real estate, or other relevant fields.

Nowhere in this document does it state that members must be long-time residents, homeowners or multiple property owners, small business owners, nor does it require any other criteria related to wealth or property ownership. To impose these criteria, as at least one member of the Planning Board appears to be attempting, is not supported by the initial document, nor the spirit of the Committee, which is tasked with implementation.

Nor are criteria related to wealth or property ownership, or longevity of residence, supported by the United States Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the laws to all persons in Milton. Criteria related to wealth or property ownership are reminiscent of repudiated 18th-century statutes restricting suffrage exclusively to property-owning men of European descent.

In our view, it is inappropriate that one Milton resident who wrote a letter to the Planning Board expressing support for the proposed exclusionary criteria—which the letter writer identified as being a position shared by three members of the Planning Board—explicitly equated Milton residents who rent their homes with noncitizens, stating: “for certain committees – and I would say especially Town Meeting Member – being a home owner should absolutely be a prerequisite.

“Perhaps it should be a prerequisite for all committees. I’m undecided. Yes, this is ‘exclusionary’. It should be exclusionary. Just as we do not allow immigrants to vote (legally) until they have spent the requisite seven years here and obtained citizenship, we should not allow someone who literally has no vested interest in the town to make decisions that affect the homes and livelihoods of residents who do.”

This exclusionary view, relegating citizens who rent their homes to second-class status, is repugnant on its face, and contrary to both American and Milton values.

Furthermore, to suggest that not appointing anyone to the Committee that has a “hostile attitude” also seems an inappropriate judgment call that is not supported by the initial MPIC selection process.

We are appalled that Elaine Benson, the only renter on the MPIC, who was unanimously elected in January 2022, was excluded from this initial nomination. Based on the 2022 minutes, Elaine attended all but one board meeting and has strong support of chair Cheryl Tougias. Since 2017, every board member has had their membership renewed each year. This is the first instance in this six-year period that an individual board member was not considered for renewal.

Moreover, Elaine Benson is superbly qualified to serve on the MPIC, with expertise in both specified and other relevant fields. Professionally, Elaine Benson has been employed in both project management and operations, and currently is employed in operations for a real estate company. She already serves as a board member of Sustainable Milton, and is certified as a TRUE Zero Waste Advisor (certifying her expertise in supporting and implementing zero waste programs and leading facilities through the certification process).

She also serves on the Milton Housing Coalition (a group of concerned residents and community leaders working to identify and advocate for affordable housing solutions in Milton, work supported by the Milton Office of Planning and Community Development and the Municipal Engagement Initiative of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA)).

Residents of East Milton know her as a volunteer on the East Milton Working Group that helped to steer the Barrett report on East Milton Square. In other volunteer activities, she was instrumental in advocating and successfully campaigning for passage of the Community Preservation Act in Milton. When hot button topics are discussed in public forums, she does not shy from participating in those discussions, but always as an effective voice of calm and reason, with respect for differing policy views.

In sum, Elaine Benson’s character, knowledge, and experience personify balancing development with preservation, connecting people to places, ensuring sustainability, and building community, all of which are core themes of the Master Plan, which the MPIC seeks to implement. Few citizens match Elaine Benson’s credentials to serve on the MPIC.

We invite all citizens of Milton, renters and owners alike, to attend the next Milton Planning Board and Milton Select Board meetings, and to speak out on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Nicole Boyson Rukstalis, Precinct 2

Liz Dunn Alvarez

Benny Applebee 

Cathy Arnold

Deborah Azerrad, Town Meeting Member Precinct 2

Kristan Bagley Jones

Ruth Baltopolous, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1

Heather Baker

Mike Baker

Carolyn Beato

Chris Benson, Precinct 7f

Lexie Bergeron, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Elsa Bourque

Joseph Bradley

Thomas Buchau, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

David Calef, MD

Eileen Callahan

Tom Callahan, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Margaret Carels, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Lizzy Carroll, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3, School Committee

Robert Chaban, 70 year Milton resident, former Town Meeting Member Precinct 4

Michael Chinman, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Elaine Craghead, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Winston Daley

Mary Ann Dakkak, MD

Rev. Shelly Davis, Precinct 8

Courtney Derwinski

Erin Donahue

Kevin P. Donahue

Deborah Felton, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Christine Fiske

Sarah Forte-Maki

Vanessa Foster, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 5

Barbara Fournier

George Fournier

Bryan Furze, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10

Karen Friedman-Hanna, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Liza M. Garcia, Precinct 2

Anders Geering

Ida Geering

Franc Graham

William Hanna, Precinct 2

Marian T. Hannan

Nora Harrington, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3

Chris Hart, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 5

Kristine Hodlin, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Paul Hodlin

Cedric Honigberg, Precinct 1

Zakia Jarrett, Precinct 4

Kim Johnson, Precinct 4

Larry Johnson, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Megan Kamm

Jen Kelly

Susan Koch-Weser, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Anita Lazar, Precinct 2

Christina Lilliehook

Zachary Lazar, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Andrés Lessing, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Jaime Levash, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10 

Robert Levash, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10

Christina Lilliehook

Andrea Litvak 

Joanne Lloyd

Jesse Lyons, Precinct 4

Carolynn MacKay, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Jaymee Mannix

LeeMichael MacLean, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10

Roger Marbury

Meg Matthews

Scott Matthews

Phil Mathews, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3

Jamie LePore McClutchy

Jessica McDaniel, Precinct 2

Lucy Meadows, Precinct 2

Jennifer Meyers

Kate Middleton

Patrick Middleton

Deborah Milbauer, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 4

Beth Molnar, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3

Hal Munger

Robert Murray, Precinct 2

Sarah Nethercote Hart

Kathleen O’Donnell, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 7

Joseph Patrick O’Malley, former Precinct 1 Town Meeting Member (20 years) and a resident of Milton since 1979

Jeff O’Neill

Adam Ochs

Linda Palmer

Luisa Peña Lyons, Precinct 4

Kathleen Potter, Precinct 4

Rachel Pozzar, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Sara Pourghasemi

Beverly Ross Denny, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2, School Committee

Jennifer Raymond, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 9

Zaidee Rose, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2

Robert Rosofsky, Precinct 2

Aoife Ruth

Patrick Ruth

Ingrid Shaffer

Adina Schecter

Molly Sherman

Kenneth Sherman

George Simon

Cory Simon

Jacqueline Slavik

Tucker Smith (she/her), Town Meeting Member, Precinct 5, since 1979

Matt Spinks

Jennifer Squiciarino

Hillary Stern

Ellen Stoddard, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 3

Stephanie O’Keefe, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 8

Kyan Thornton, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1

Jill Tufts

Bettina Urcuioli, Precinct 7

Mark Whipple

Betty White, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 2 & School Committee

Judy White Orlando, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 9

Brian Walsh, Town Meeting Member Precinct 8, Former Town Moderator

Rachel D. Woodhouse​

Michelle Wright

Ray Wright

Cecille Yang

Ben Zoll

Would you like to add your name to this letter?

Please comment below with your name (on the web story, not as a social media comment) and you will be added.


Attend the Sept. 27th meeting

A joint meeting of the Planning board and Select Board will take place on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. Click here for the agenda and Zoom details.

Milton MA Planning Board Members

NameTitle
Cheryl TougiasSecretary (2023)
Richard BoehlerMember (2023)
Meredith HallChair (2024)
Margaret OldfieldMember (2025)
Sean FahyMember (2025)

Milton MA Select Board Members

NameTitle

Chair (2023)

Vice-Chair (2024)

Secretary (2023)

Member (2025)

Member (2025)

5 Comments on "An open letter to the Milton Planning Board and Select Board regarding appointments to the Master Plan Implementation Committee"

  1. Adding my name:
    Liza M. Garcia, Precinct 2

  2. Matt Spinks, Precinct 2

  3. Adding my name

  4. Cecille Yang, precinct 1

  5. Cedric Honigberg, precinct 1

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