GROTON -- In the election for Planning Board, voters will see two candidates for two open seats, one with the experience of a veteran member and another with the enthusiasm of a newcomer.
This coming election day will see incumbent Scott Wilson, a marketing and graphic designer, run for re-election and rookie Michael Vega, who will be seeking his first position in public office.
In a local landscape that continues to change from mounting commercial activity on Main Street and an increased pace of development to Hindu temples and rezoning issues, the plates of the town's land-use committees are full and most of them usually end up passing beneath the gaze of the Planning Board.
A board that three-term member Wilson believes is up for the job of seeing that every project reviewed conforms not only to the town's zoning bylaws but with the kind of community residents want Groton to be.
"I really believe that we have a very, very good and talented board right now and so have an opportunity to really make some significant improvements in the way we manage growth in this town," said Wilson. "Second, there's a learning curve for the Planning Board that's fairly steep, and I think it's important that we try as a volunteer board to maximize the resources available to us. For that reason, I want to continue contributing my own experience."
Vega said that he felt compelled to seek office out of a sense of gratitude that living in Groton has given him.
"I thought that I could be of help to the town planning process and bring a unique perspective," said Vega, a real-estate capital planner for Boston Medical Center. "This town has done a tremendous amount for my family. All my mentors have always encouraged finding ways to give back to your community and get involved in volunteer opportunities.
"Groton, historically, was on the map as a farming community," continued Vega. "I'd like to see more community-supported agriculture. In the next several years how communities like Groton can plan ahead in a world faced with rapid development will allow for a thriving local economy."
"My fundamental goals are still the same," said Wilson. "To protect the rural quality of the town, protect its resources and manage growth in a responsible way."
One way that the board has chosen to meet the challenge of growth is to try and get ahead of it by refining the town's residential and commercial zones, making regulations more explicit in what is allowed in them and what is not.
Concentrating on "village centers," the rezoning plan identifies different parts of town and attempts to preserve their particular characteristics from indiscriminate development.
"One issue I see that the board has already started to work on is the redevelopment of our village centers," said Wilson of the rezoning plan. "We've got historic districts and lots of nonconforming uses. We have to try and protect those communities, including architecturally."
Noting businesses such as those located at 134 Main St. and a new Groton Inn, Wilson said the village center plan would not only give developers more options in what they could bring to local neighborhoods, but also help to preserve Groton's small town character
Keeping things balanced and protecting the quality of life in Groton, said Wilson, is central in a time of constant pressure toward continued growth.
"Having spent so much time in Groton, I can think of a couple of places that felt like villages to me," said Vega. "I believe they will need to be built well and in keeping with the public values and planned thoroughly to ensure their place in our town for the future generation. But everything changes through time and we will see how it all evolves.
"Since my family moved to Groton in 1990, the town's character remains," reflected Vega. "I believe the more we utilize our town centers for farmers markets and events that build community, we will have a community large enough to guide Groton to a good place in terms of development and the continued population growth we have seen."
Similarly, the Planning Board is also in the process of updating the town's master plan, a document that is intended as a tool to control and direct development in a direction that will be of benefit to Groton rather than a detriment.
Agreeing with the need for revisiting the master plan was necessary and useful, Wilson noted that the state recommended that it be updated every 10 years.
"It is imperative to keep an updated master plan especially when in a town like Groton there are many highly respected institutions doing the same things simultaneously," said Vega. "In my day job, we have just gone through the process to revamp and update the institutional master plan and I can say that in four years time, change is inevitable and therefore updating is necessary."
Town election is scheduled for May 20.