The Daily Item – Survey: Saugus Town Meeting process slows development efforts – 12/13/13

By Kait Taylor

SAUGUS — Town officials and business owners counted the pace of Town Meeting process as a weakness in attracting and retaining economic development in Saugus.

The discussion came during a presentation by Barry Bluestone, director of Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, who is directing the town’s effort to stabilize the economy through driving economic development. On Wednesday, during Bluestone’s survey to uncover what were the aids and roadblocks for Saugus development, real estate agent Mike Procopio said the Town Meeting process “slows the process for sure,” especially for big projects.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said since he was hired into his position, he’s come across many people who have the perception that it’s difficult to get an issue through Saugus government because there are so many people involved. Often, said Crabtree, public hearings take so long that even if the issue is eventually approved by a board, it will have been “continued” several times.

Bluestone said a slow process was a quick way for developers to lose interest, leading to a missed opportunity for revenue and job creation. He suggested a solution starting at the top, with Crabtree and the Board of Selectmen working “more closely with town groups to see if they can mediate to speed up the process.”

Another weakness pointed out during Bluestone’s survey was the lack of empty property space for development, and as business owner Ernie Nickole said, the lack of available permits.

Strengths for Saugus were its proximity to an international airport and on-site parking, both big factors according to Bluestone’s location experts.

Bluestone will use the data from the survey to identify objectives for Saugus to incorporate into its economic development strategy. “My greatest joy is to come back to a community six months later and find they are actually doing these things,” said Bluestone.

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