DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

March 14, 2013

Officials question Planning Board hopefuls

By Julie Huss
jhuss@derrynews.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Two residents hope to earn a spot on the Planning Board, but councilors are questioning one candidate’s ability to remain impartial.

Ann Chiampa and Al Sypek both want to fill a vacancy on the Planning Board and came before councilors at a meeting March 4 to be interviewed for the position.

Councilors gave both candidates a chance to speak, but questioned Chiampa’s previous statements about the proposed Woodmont Commons project. They were concerned whether she could keep an open mind when serving on the board.

Chiampa has been outspoken at past meetings about the proposed 600-acre, billion-dollar Woodmont Commons project.

That could keep her off the Planning Board, officials said, as they wondered whether she could vote on projects coming before the town in an impartial manner.

Councilors asked Chiampa if she would recuse herself from Woodmont votes if she has such a strong opinion, but Chiampa said that would not be necessary.

She said she is not a direct abutter to the Woodmont property, but lives nearby.

Town Councilor Tom Freda said putting Chiampa on the board might not be a good decision.

“It’s coming in with a preconceived opinion,” he said. “Wouldn’t you want a fair and impartial hearing?”

Chiampa told councilors she thinks Woodmont would most likely benefit the town, and promoting growth was a positive decision officials should make.

Council Chairman John Farrell said Chiampa has been very outspoken in the past about Woodmont and those involved in the process.

“You’ve made statements about Woodmont and other people that have not been fair,” Farrell told Chiampa. “No one here thinks you don’t care about Londonderry, but I hope you can see our position and our point of view as well.”

Sypek, a former fire chief, said he had no preconceived notions about Woodmont.

He is a longtime volunteer and has lived in town more than 30 years. He said he would bring a wealth of experience to the Planning Board and was a former member.

Councilors decided to continue the Planning Board discussion at a meeting March 18. Farrell said Chiampa and Sypek could both offer more insight at that time as to why they would make the best choice to fill the seat.