For selectman, we endorse incumbent Carl Thibodeau. Nothing more needs to be said other than he is a practical, clear-thinking conservative who brings to the board an important Conway Village perspective.
There isn’t a compelling reason to support his challenger, Nicholas Mercauto, though he does represent a younger generation with fresh ideas on modernizing town government.
Back in the early ’90s, when Walmart announced its intention of locating here, Bob Bumstead, a former selectman, warned of a “catastrophe” without a townwide fire department. Then-selectman Ray Leavitt responded, “You have my assurance that we will continue to work towards it.”
Well, that was 25 years ago, and today, townwide fire is still a pipe dream.
While we do appreciate that the board is being proactive by tinkering with the special events permitting process, time is ticking for our baby boomer selectmen, and we encourage them to continue working on other projects, like a townwide fire department, and give the next generation of leaders a head start. This election may not be Mercauto’s generation’s time, but it is coming.
New direction for planners: For the two open seats on the planning board, we endorse Realtors Greydon Turner and Bill Barbin. Both will be more developer-friendly than incumbents Michael Fougere and Sarah Verney.
The planning board has historically swung between pro- and anti-development. In 2006, for example, two anti-big-box-store candidates were voted in during the construction of Home Depot and Lowe’s, and right at the end of a boom in commercial development.
Of late, with neither a building boom nor recession to contend with, the planning board has been neutral, and, to the community’s detriment, not using its time to deal with today’s challenges, like the critical housing shortage and the proliferation of short-term rentals.
Builders chronically complain that a big reason they don’t build anything but expensive homes is because the regulatory process is too onerous and expensive. For instance, they cite the regulation requiring granite curbing for subdivisions even in low-cost areas like East Conway.
As Realtors, Barbin and Turner, of course, have an interest in making it easier for developers to build more houses.
Having a pro-development planning board has its downside, too. But for now, that’s what we need.