Candidate Opinions

A few weeks ago we contacted all of the candidates who are currently on the ballot for the Barnstable Town Council. We asked them to reply to 2 questions that may come before the Town Council during their tenure should they be elected next month.

Below are the responses we received.  

Gordon Starr, Incumbent

1. I have followed this project through the Cape Cod Commission hearings, I have asked many questions and I have made numerous comments to improve this project for the people of Barnstable and the residents who might live there.  This project will be changed for the better as it progresses through regulatory boards.  I can not say how I would vote on it because there is no final proposal before the Town Council.

2. I voted to keep the 2/3 vote required to approve a regulatory agreement, and I would do so again.

Paul Gage, Candidate – No R

Eric R. Steinhilber, Incumbent

1. 35 Scudder is privately owned impacted land. It is not conservation or open space. The owner, who is a housing developer himself and helped draft 40B affordable housing laws, entered a real estate transaction with Linnear to develop housing on the parcel. After lengthy public comments and review by MA DEP and approval by the Cape Cod Commission, the group Save Twin Brooks decided to appeal the approval in court. This decision by Save Twin Brooks blocked Council review of the proposal and possible negotiations for a smaller development, designating most of the parcel as conservation land, and funds for updates to the West EndRotary, sidewalk access to Main St, and a playground expansion in Hyannis. In addition, their decision allowed the current owner to reconsider his plans. In July, the town was notified that the months-long process of preparing a filing with the state for a 400-unit 40B development had begun. The 40B process does not include the Town Council or any of the above items to be negotiated.

2. The new state Housing Choice law requires that housing proposals only require a majority vote. Any older local vote thresholds are now out of compliance with state law.

Dr. Kristin Terkelsen, Candidate

1. As proposed, I am not in favor of this project. One reason for spurring my run for town council was learning about this large development on this piece of land and the power the Town Council holds.

2. My answer above is the reason why we should maintain a 2/3rds majority. The majority rule allows Town Council to make the greatest impact on day-to-day life of the greatest portion of residents. In a simple majority, 49% of resident voices can be negated—a simple majority group shouldn’t have the right to oppress others by removing their voice. If the Town Council wants to make such impactful changes now and for the future of how Town Council conducts business, this should be done with thoughtful consideration. That would require informing residents with ample time for debate and maximum participation. This guarantees voices for and against these changes to be able to be expressed, considered and voting to occur thereafter and only then.

Betty Ludtke, Incumbent

1. I would vote against this project as proposed for many and varied reasons. I attended every meeting that the Cape Cod Commission held to discuss this project so I am very familiar with every detail of it.  Because of my familiarity, I am not convinced that this project will benefit the Town. Yes, it would provide housing in the generic sense of the word, but at what cost?  The property at thirty-five Scudder is significant in that it is the last swath of absorptive open space, complete with mature trees, ponds, and former cranberry bogs in the middle of a complex water ecosystem, near the downtown Hyannis area.  It is unique and as such, development of it merits careful scrutiny.  Is it owned by someone?   Of course, it is, and the owner has rights, but everyone else has rights too.  Thirty-five Scudder is zoned for single-family housing; what gives the developer the right to cover it with the acres and acres of buildings and parking lots proposed?  The answer is that the developer entered into a Development Agreement with the Cape Cod Commission to do just that.  The developer and the Commission decided amongst themselves that the proposed development is acceptable; and that building housing here overrides all other concerns.  But the Town has a say too.  The project must come before the Town Council as a Regulatory Agreement between the developer and the Town. The Town has recently rezoned downtown Hyannis and the Cape Cod Mall to accommodate large-scale housing production and several significant housing projects have already been given the go-ahead.  Thirty-five Scudder has not been rezoned to encourage large-scale development.  If the Town’s Regulatory Agreement looks anything like the Cape Cod Commission’s Development Agreement with this developer, then I am voting, “No.”

2. Regulatory agreements, while designed to produce unique and worthy projects that could not be accommodated within existing zoning regulations, often result in overreach by developers.  The overreach is considered “okay” as long as the Town gets something in return, even cash is just fine.  In my opinion, none of it is fine.  It is a process that encourages deals that should never have been considered in the first place.  The process can bring out the worst on both sides of the deal, mostly greed.  If the price is right, does that make it okay to ignore other negative impacts?  Town RegulatoryAgreements are based on the Development  Agreement model that the Cape Cod Commission uses. Reducing the approval threshold required by the Town Council to less than a two-thirds majority should never be considered.  If the Town retains the Regulatory Agreement process then it must maintain the two-thirds approval threshold for all Regulatory  Agreements, including the one, should it occur, for the thirty-five Scudder project.

Craig Tamash, Candidate

1. I would vote against the Twin Brooks project as proposed.  Placing a 312-unit project on this site is insane. I would oppose it on several counts.  Taking this land in the Stewarts Creek Estuary and developing it to this level is not good stewardship of the land.  Traffic issues, particularly in the summer would be a nightmare.  There are several apartment and or condo projects in the works in the Hyannis area that will put a decided strain on our infrastructure and potentially result in a glut of apartments the vast majority of which are market rate. Further, it appears the developers, once the project is built, are not great corporate neighbors.

2. Changes in zoning affect the town and particularly our neighborhoods forever. These decisions should not be made lightly.  I am definitely in favor of retaining a 2/3 majority to change zoning.

John Crow, Candidate

1. At the highest level, I believe we need to proactively solve for our housing challenges to meet the community’s needs, including those of our young families, workers, and our seniors.  I believe we can do that in a way that preserves and protects environmentally fragile land. We do not need to choose between housing and environmental protection, and I look forward to being part of the solution discussion.

2. Based on law as I understand it today, I would vote against proposals to reduce the votes needed to approve a regulatory agreement such as this. I believe reducing required votes in this way lessens the voice of the people, and I believe in giving all people their full voice. If I am elected, I will seek out public views, listen to them, and represent those views.

Paul Cusack, Incumbent

1. No. I would vote against the approval of the project as currently approved by the Cape Cod Commission, if it comes to the Town Council.  I assume that is what you refer to as the “proposed project.” I would be remiss if I did not mention that it is highly likely that whatever happens at Twin Brooks will require more than Town Council action.

2. In addition, we must acknowledge that the critical need for housing options should be part of our conversation as we move forward. I am an active proponent for protecting green space.  But the work goes best when it is coupled with realistic thought on the housing front.  I would like to work with you on that aspect of the Twin Brooks problem.

2. No. I would vote against reducing the vote to approve a regulatory agreement for this project from 2/3 to a simple majority. In July of this year the Council considered abroad proposal to allow a simple majority of the Council to approve certain zoning exceptions in all relevant cases.  I was opposed to the simple majority plan then, as I am now.
I wanted a final vote that night to keep the 2/3 rule in place. Instead, the Council voted to withdraw the motion from consideration.  So now we will have to revisit it. Zoning exceptions should be made with utmost care, especially in times like these. The harder the problems, the more crucial the process.

Paul Neary, Incumbent

1. Like most of the folks I know, have difficulty understanding how traffic will be addressed from a project of that size. I walked (and played golf) at the property. 
Then met with the proponent Dan the developers project manager at the location. We reviewed the building layouts and positions and discussed keeping as much green space as possible.
Ultimately, this project is about private property. This ownership comes with rights. I had hoped we as a town could come together to have a conversation and input as to what we could all live with at 35 Scudder.

2. As you know, this project is now in the hands of the legal process. The developer has since presented a 40B project that will dwarf the original. I suspect it will have a much different appearance.  I hope that some form of coming together in the middle can still occur. Time will tell.

Paul Phalan, Write-In Candidate

1. I promise to stand with the STB group 100% in their goals to stop this project from moving forward. It does not fit in with the character of this area 1 mile from Nantucket Sound. It will negatively affect our fragile ecosystem and put a strain on the resources we are already struggling with — the main one being water, affecting the increase in school enrollment and traffic gridlock.  It does not address the need for low-income housing. I do not support this project.

2. I am strongly opposed to weakening any zoning vote with this or any project. It would negatively affect our neighborhoods and the Town.

Seth Burdick, Candidate – No Response

Jeff Mendes, Incumbent

1. I can’t answer this question until the final project is in front of me.
2. I’d vote against this question.

Charlie Bloom, Candidate

1. I would vote against the 312-unit project.  There are too many issues that have not been thoroughly addressed.
2. I would never vote, for any reason whatsoever, to reduce the vote for a regulatory agreement to a simple majority.

Michael Mecenas, Candidate – No Response

Matthew Levesque, Incumbent

1. As of today, based on the size, scope and design I would not be in favor of the project.  However, I understand the need for housing and would hope that a conversation and compromise could be attained.  The owner of the property has stated that he has plans to build a 40B project with over 400 units if the current project does not work out and that is almost 100 more units than what is currently projected with the current project. 

The question as it is stated is not factual to what type of property 35 Scudder is.  It’s not open space.  I’ve repeatedly stated this for several years at Town Council meetings, public forums and conversations with leaders of the Save Twin Brooks organization.  Twin Brooks Golf course is developed, private property under every land use definition. 

2. Another fact is the Cape Cod Commission’s initial guidance when The Town of Barnstable Regulatory Agreement Regulations were established was that the quantum of vote would match the state statute which at the time was a two thirds majority vote for both residential and commercial agreements.  The state statute changed to a simple majority vote for residential zoning changes as part of the Housing Choice Legislation in 2020 in Chapter 358.   Please refer to the following link for this fact and more facts about this change in legislation.  I would be in favor of matching the original intent of the quantum of vote of the agreement with the Cape Cod Commission and therefore matching Commonwealth of MA State Law. 

Kris Clark, Incumbent

1. Given that this proposed project has yet to be fully vetted and presented to the Town Council, I am watching the process play out before I commit to a future vote on this (or any) proposed project.  As the town council liaison to the Town’s Open Space Committee, I understand the importance of open space in the town, and should the proposal come before the town council, I will review it carefully.

2. I have already voted against reducing the number of votes required to change zoning. I would also not support changing the number of votes to approve a regulatory agreement.

Toby Leary, Candidate – No Response

Paula Schnepp, Incumbent

1. As with most issues/proposals that come before the Town Council, the devil is in the details. Although the proposed development at 35 Scudder Avenue has received CapeCod Commission approval that decision is now under appeal.  Depending on the outcome of those legal proceedings, the proposed development may or may not be significantly changed.  If, and when, the development moves to the Town of Barnstable, it will need to be brought before the PlanningBoard to negotiate a regulatory agreement. If an agreement is approved by the majority of the Planning Board, only then will the proposed development come to the Town Council.  With all the possible variables that may impact this project, it is not possible for me to cast a vote for or against it at this time.  

2. At this point in time, I would not change the number of votes required to approve a regulatory agreement for any projects that are proposed in the Growth Incentive Zone and/or bordering areas that are covered by our regulatory agreement ordinance.  

Kyle Condinho, Candidate

1. If elected to town council, I will do my part in protecting our wetlands and sanctuaries- and preserve the natural beauty of Cape Cod. I know that there is a big push for housing on Cape Cod, but it should be approached in a way that fits the character of our individual villages and our environment. Twin Brooks is in my opinion an area worth preserving, and I would vote against any development there.

2. I would vote against changing the vote from a 2/3 majority. Thank you for your efforts to preserve Twin Brooks.

Felicia Penn, Candidate

1. No, never in favor as proposed.  I believe this land is so important to the village of Hyannis that the Town should buy it, put about 50 units of workforce housing on it, and sell the remaining acreage to a conservancy for them to restore and manage. This would become a public space, open to all to enjoy…forever. That’s my vision for this land.
2. I would never vote to change from 2/3 to a simple majority. Regulatory Agreements are only used to waive zoning, which must require a super majority …thus a 2/3 vote.

If you do not know what precinct you are in, please click here to see the precinct map.