To the editor:
Joe Sousa says he will not vote for hiring a town planner because the town has not seen any commercial growth, but it is for this reason, among many others, that Tiverton should hire a town planner.
Mr. Sousa misrepresents and misunderstands the role of a town planner as one with a single purpose of immediate economic prosperity, putting Tiverton’s long-term economy, health, and quality of life at risk.
So what does a town planner do? Briefly, they plan for both the present and future needs of the town as a whole. They collect and analyze information such as demographics, history, land types and usability, utilitarian networks (such as power lines, roads, and water supplies), housing, the economy, water bodies, and open and recreational spaces. They understand that these features that make up a town are interconnected and contribute to the overall health and quality of life of the people that live there.
Towns are complex systems and planners help to find the balances between these systems for the benefit of the whole town, not just a single system or single property owner. That sort of single-mindedness results in the all-too-familiar strip malls and big box developments that may add short-term financial growth, but ultimately detracts from the scenic and social character of Tiverton, and adds to the needless degradation and destruction of important natural resources that keep the community safe and healthy as well as the loss of important social and historical connections, and increases demands on fire, police, and public works resources.
Good town planners suggest opportunities for commercial viability that are complementary to the town’s resources, quality of life, history, and long-term goals. They engage the community in a dialogue about the goals and issues of their town and make recommendations to build a framework to get to those goals. The barrage of inappropriate development proposals that disregard Tiverton’s basic qualities of size and assets of natural resources illustrate the necessity for the expertise of a town planner.
Joe Sousa’s parochial view of the role of a town planner is a threat to his own concerns for an economically healthy Tiverton. Decisions about commercial growth will have an effect on other features and systems of Tiverton, including those qualities that make Tiverton a desirable place to live. Joe Sousa lacks the foresight and vision of an economically successful town that does not abuse its natural, historic, and social resources in the process.
This is the justification for hiring a town planner, Mr. Sousa. Please respect the people who live here now and 30 years from now. Your concern should not be the hiring of a town planner, but the exemplary qualifications of a candidate that can guide Tiverton through this process with dignity and care for the beautiful people and place of Tiverton.
Sue Costa Paschke, MLA, ASLA associate