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ELECTION: Candidates Play Musical Chairs in Westford

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Selectman Chairman Kelly Ross (left) has taken the heat for the controversial settlement between the town and Newport Materials. On right is Planning Board Chairman Dennis Galvin who was one of two Planning Board members not to sign the settlement. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE
Selectman Chairman Kelly Ross (left) has taken the heat for the controversial settlement between the town and Newport Materials. On right is Planning Board Chairman Dennis Galvin who was one of two Planning Board members not to sign the settlement. FILE PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

 

The Board of Selectmen and the Planning Board are guaranteed to change this spring.

Two enduring members on each board are seeking election to other posts.

Dennis Galvin has resigned from the Planning Board and is seeking a seat on the Board of Selectmen, and Selectman Kelly Ross wants to be town moderator.

“Twelve years is a long time,” said Galvin who pointed to a controversial asphalt plant settlement that convinced him to leave his term with three years remaining. Galvin said he’s resigning in the hope that the seat could be included in the town-wide election on May 2.

Like a Rubik’s Cube, the politics and posturing in the post-asphalt plant culture of Westford has just gotten complicated.

“The thing that made my decision was the situation with the asphalt plant,” Galvin said. “I thought the Board of Selectmen during the process became a little aloof, maybe too secretive.”

Galvin said he had fought the plant for almost seven years. The level of concern among those that live in the northern half of town was “significant” and “unprecedented,” he said.

In October selectmen announced a settlement with a Nashua businessman seeking to build an asphalt plant at 540 Groton Road. The news stunned residents who had fought for six years to keep the plant from winning the necessary permits. The Planning Board twice denied the project, but Richard DeFelice of Newport Materials appealed both decisions in Land Court where the presiding judge indicated he would rule in favor of the plant. Saying their backs were against the wall, town officials ironed out an agreement with DeFelice that won the town $8.5 million in concessions over 20 years. The announcement led to demonstrations in the street, letters of complaint, and calls for the resignations of selectmen. The agreement had been signed by all five selectmen, but that wasn’t the case with the Planning Board members. Only three of five signed the settlement. Galvin and fellow member Michael Green did not sign, winning favor with members of the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition, a group of Westford and Chelmsford residents opposed to the asphalt plant.

Meanwhile, Kelly Ross is completing his third three-year term as a selectman and will not return to the board. Prior to being a selectman, he served on the Finance Committee for six years.

As chairman of the Board of Selectmen when the asphalt plant settlement was announced, Ross became the face of the controversy and absorbed most of the rancor and hostility. The bitterness persists. In postings on a Facebook page for asphalt plant protesters, Ross is weathering renewed criticism from residents who do not want to see him win the moderator’s seat.

But Ross’s campaign page stresses his attributes.

“I am running for Westford Town Moderator because I believe I have the knowledge, experience, and demeanor to moderate a fair and effective Town Meeting,” Ross stated.

Selectman Don Siriani, completing his first term on the board, is gathering signatures for moderator. Resident Susan Spuhler is a certified candidate for moderator.

School Committee member Tom Clay is also a certified candidate for selectman, and Agricultural Commissioner Elizabeth Almeida is gathering signatures for the seat, as well.