Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now, The Rest Of The Story

The following is by Selectman Tom Creamer in response to the posting I made on December 28 regarding the property on Main Street beside the Playa Del Carmen restaurant.  

As always, I am glad Tom wrote to set the record straight.  Seems that none of the print media has followed up to get  the "rest of the story", but then again, it wasn't offered up either, until now.

I appreciate Tom taking the time to explain what wasn't explained in the newspaper.  Keep in mind, I write this blog as an "everyman".  I am not an investigative journalist, but I, like many others react to what they see and read.

That is my sole purpose.  To think on what I see and read, and to share those thoughts with you.  In the process, an exchange is initiated, and, at times, more information is offered up.

It is a very simple, and effective process.

That process worked again this week, and we now know more than we did two days ago.

I hope that Tom will also address the issue in the Town Common newspaper, as well.  That paper has many more readers that would appreciate knowing more about the issue.

The following was submitted by Selectman Tom Creamer.

Wally, I thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the issue
outlined in your post - Common Sense goes on vacation. Certainly, you raise
some issues worthy of consideration by all and I am grateful that you chose
to raise them; I do hope however that you will take no offense as I
(responding solely as an individual member of the Board) take an opportunity
to share some thoughts based upon facts, as opposed to speculation. I do
recognize the limitations that must exist when one hasn't had the
opportunity to attend a public meeting specific to a particular subject
matter, nor watch it via cable access, as that can certainly serve to limits
one's perspective of the overall issue. Far too many of us are limited in
our ability to become more informed via active participation and are thus
forced to rely upon the limitations inherent in press reports. Competing
demands upon our time as well as family obligations and responsibilities
challenge our ability to access information with which to make more informed
determinations. Rather than struggle with the word count limitations
inherent with comment blocks, which might restrict the ability to fully
address your concerns, (not dissimilar to the challenge faced by reporters
who are restricted with space limitations) I have chosen instead to
construct this correspondence - sharing directly with you - a more complete
fact-based perspective. It is my hope that it may help you to better
understand the issue you have raised, while simultaneously addressing the
concerns you maintain.

First and foremost, your suggestion that “both pieces of information” are
not being, nor have been examined is inconsistent with the facts. Sturbridge
Town Counsel has reviewed the notification process, as well as the existence
of the parcel in relation to the Sewer Service Bylaws and has twice opined
that the posting of the meeting, the Town’s position, and the final
determination were/are consistent with the law. That said, I specifically
conveyed to those in attendance before the Board that evening that
additional review would be conducted, Town Counsel would again be queried,
and said information would then be shared with all involved, at which time,
other avenues – if appropriate – could be then considered. Additionally, one
might consider that this particular project received full vetting from both
the Planning Board during a significant number of Public Hearings and
meetings, as well as the Conservation Commission, which equally addressed
concerns/challenges specific to their jurisdiction. This project proposal
did not occur in a vacuum, nor was it in any way deficient of public
scrutiny as it consumed over 12 months of public review by a number of
Boards/Committees and Town departments.

In terms of Parliamentary Procedure, one must bear in mind that adherence to
Protocols, Process, and Procedure is important if one is to ensure effective
and credible governance. To depart from such, would, in many respects,
paralyze any effective decision-making process, along with overall progress,
as every decision unfavorable to one side or the other, would potentially
result in constant reconsiderations, were it not for the "ground rules"
attendant to the Process. At some point, one would be compelled to determine
some arbitrary line in the sand in an effort to move forward; resulting
still yet, in a level of disenfranchisement by one side. Noteworthy is the
fact that during the meeting at issue, only one of five members of the Board
raised any questions about the Process in terms of Parliamentary Procedure,
and that challenge had more to do with the Process pertaining to the
previous vote (March 2010), which due to new information from Town Counsel
resulted in a different determination by the majority of those present. No
Board member argued against the merits or importance of maintaining
Parliamentary Procedure, despite the fact that there existed disagreement in
terms of support for a service station. Perhaps, (and I speculate here for a
moment), such stems from the fact that a reasonable and objective approach
to governance, recognizes the value of maintaining Principles over
Personalities; our country was after all founded upon Principles.

Equally, adherence to Process and Procedure ensures continuity in the
decision-making process and prevents public officials from circumventing
and/or manipulating the process to their liking, which would surely be a
dangerous and irresponsible course. Process ensures that we all “play by the
rules” so to speak and that “do overs” (your reference) are based on facts,
not whims, or personal proclivities. When new information is in fact entered
into the equation, it, in-and-of itself, provides the sound basis for
reconsidering a previous vote. Such has yet to be sufficiently provided to

process was legally and appropriately addressed. To chart another course
without sufficient standing, would serve only to increase the chance of
successful litigation against the Town (by the proponent), resulting in an
irresponsible expenditure of tax-payer dollars because of the Board's
failure to adhere to the Laws and Bylaws of the Town of Sturbridge.

Bear in mind as well that because no new information had been provided to
the Board in requesting an appearance, there was no obligation to revisit
this issue, In fact, a request for same dating back to July went unanswered
- perhaps for that very reason, though I cannot attest with any certainty.
However, in November, when a request was directed to me (now in my role as
the Chairman of the Board), I immediately scheduled Mr. Decoulous and those
he represents for an appearance before the Board so that they would have an
opportunity to share their concerns and present anything not previously
provided to Town Counsel. That said, there was nothing new presented upon
which to alter the previous determination.

In terms of your concerns about what is and what is not an appropriate use
of land, that is not a decision for the Board of Selectmen, as zoning issues
are determined by a 2/3rds majority at Town Meeting. To that end, the voters
have overwhelmingly determined that a service station is an appropriate use
of the land in question; thus, there is no amount of discussion that can
change that fact short of 2/3rds majority vote at Town Meeting. The
appropriate venue to alter or restrict the legal use of land is via Town
Meeting, as that is where the legislative branch of our government resides -
with the voting residents of our community. The Town Charter is quite clear
on this matter and specifically states that - "The legislative powers of the
Town shall continue to be exercised by a town meeting open to all voters".

The decision for me personally to refrain from reconsidering a previous
vote, has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is embarrassing or not;
such speculation is completely inconsistent with my decision-making tenure
on the Board. In fact, I have publicly reversed my position on a number of
issues when sufficient evidence was presented dictating such a course was
appropriate. It is never embarrassing to change one’s mind; it is in fact,
part of one’s responsibility as a public official, provided of course that
good logic and facts guide such a reversal. One might argue instead that it
would be embarrassing for a public official to modify one's position based
upon what appears to be politically expedient, as opposed to what is
politically and legally the right thing to do.

I am no fan of service stations, nor am I against same; I am in effect -
service station neutral, as the authority for what is allowed and what is
not, rests where it should - with the residents of Sturbridge through Town
Meeting, not with the Board of Selectmen. To that end, I am zoning neutral.
My role as an elected member of the Board (per the Town Charter) is to
“…cause the laws and orders for the government of the Town to be enforced…”
, not to determine which ones are popular and which ones are less so, nor
which ones are favorable to me and those that are not.

Finally, to your point about ensuring that all are provided with an equal
opportunity to make their case, one can rest assured that such has been, and
continues to be the case. Despite the lack of any new and/or valid
information being offered to date, time was provided for the airing of
grievances so as to ensure that all involved would better understand the
challenges inherent with this particular situation. Should new, valid, or
relevant information be introduced, then certainly additional considerations
could be provided, as that is the very foundation of appropriate
Parliamentary Procedure relative to reconsidering previous determinations.

Additionally, the suggestion or reference to any concerns of a “wink and a
nod” approach by enforcing adherence to Parliamentary Procedure is again
inconsistent with the facts. The original vote on this issue was 4 – 1
(against the request for additional gallons) with me voting in the minority
- arguing that failure to grant the additional gallonage request was
inconsistent with two other votes taken that evening granting additional
gallonage. Equally, I argued that the decision was inconsistent with allowed
uses under the Sturbridge Zoning Bylaws, as well as our role under the Sewer
Service Bylaws.

Subsequent to that vote, Town Counsel opined that the Board’s original
decision on this issue was inconsistent with the Town's Bylaws, resulting in
a reversal by one selectmen, and an abstention by another, culminating in a
2 -1 -1 vote in favor of granting the additional gallonage. Thus, the
ultimate decision was dictated by Process, which was dictated by the Laws
and Bylaws of the Town of Sturbridge, supported by an opinion from Town
Counsel. To suggest otherwise is simply inconsistent with history and the

In terms of your reference to credibility, I would submit that one’s
credibility is best maintained by adhering to one’s oath of office in a
manner void of personal proclivities and consistent with one’s
responsibility to those whom one serves, not as one might suggest, by
reversing decisions that are consistent with our Laws and Bylaws that are in
effect - the manifest will of the people; unless of course the facts dictate
such a course is prudent and legal.

It is my hope that a closer look at the facts attending this issue will
provide you with a more informed understanding of the challenges faced by
all concerned - whether supportive or otherwise of service stations (or any
other legally zoned enterprise for that matter). If, as you suggest, common
sense has in fact taken a vacation, such stems not from the reliance upon,
and adherence to Protocol, Process, Procedure, and Principle, but rather any
departure from same for the sake of appeasement that lacks legal standing.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may
have relative to this or any other matter.



Thomas R. Creamer - Board of Selectman
Town of Sturbridge
359 Leadmine Road
Fiskdale, MA 01518


  1. I wonder if the reason that some (family and/or friends of the 26 people who showed up at the BOS meeting) are so opposed to the future gas station has anything to do with the (false?) claim that Playa Del Carmen was abandoned? In other words, does someone have after-thoughts and other plans related to getting their hands on the building and land parcels in that area?
    My personal thoughts are that the gas station should be allowed the approved sewage request.

    Having said that, I must still question a couple of things in Mr. Creamer’s post. He wrote:
    “…adherence to Process and Procedure ensures continuity in the
    decision-making process and prevents public officials from circumventing
    and/or manipulating the process to their liking, which would surely be a
    dangerous and irresponsible course.”
    And he spoke about being mindful of:
    … “irresponsible expenditure of tax-payer dollars…”

    These important subjects (process(es) and procedure(s), without the capital “p’s”) seem to have had less importance put on them than they should have in the recent past, and many of us still worry about “irresponsible expenditures of tax-payer dollars.”

    I appreciate Tom’s hard work and willingness to debate, but do disagree with some of the methods used by our officials in some circumstances (such as funding for the brick sidewalks), and decisions (such as not making the front doors of public buildings ADA compliant because of the “look” of ramps, etc.), and, rather than working to change the law, going back to enforcing an ill-advised by-law requiring the public to shovel the sidewalks on Main Street, which didn’t work out the last time it was “enforced.” I would expect that if there was a law suit because of an injury related to a snow and ice covered sidewalk the town would still be responsible, because they the town is the “party” responsible for enforcing the law.

    So, in closing, may I say, “Good Work, Walley, for asking questions, and Good Work, Tom, for trying to keep things in proper balance, and admitting it when things aren’t quite right, or slip through the cracks. Oh, and Tom, please feel free to write and speak in a plainer, simpler language, comfortable to all of us.

  2. I also thank TC for posting his side of the issue. I also agree with John Q Public that TC could speak/write in a plainer, simpler language for us common folk. I once worked for a Professor who believed that it was better to use a "5 cent word" than a $$ word whenever possible. TC has worked hard for the Town but short and sweet, plain and simple, don't believe we'll ever see that from TC

  3. I thank both John Q and Simple Folk for sharing their honest concerns/thoughts, and as it appears a response is expected, I should take a moment to oblige. I will first somewhat apologize that my choice of words and sentence structure are not fully embraced by all. Having said that I am burdened with being me and must therefore convey my thoughts in a format most comfortable. I dare not have the Sisters of Saint Joseph come beckoning at my door after years of Catholic education because I failed to utilize the tools that were pounded into…err…I mean instilled in me.

    In terms of the brick sidewalks, rest assured that Process and Protocol were properly adhered to as the funds for same were never intended to (and will not) come at the expense of residential taxpayers. The funds for such come from state allocated money distributed annually to each community, which are themselves governed by the local elective body. True enough, those funds (Chapter 90) come from state and federal taxes/fees but they constitute an annual allotment conveyed whether we use them or not. To that point, we have amassed in excess of $1 million in Chapter 90 funds as we have not initiated any Chapter 90 projects over the last two years, and had not expended all of the funds we had prior to that. Thus, the funds were there and the Process allowed the BOS latitude to leverage them for a project it deemed worthwhile. Three members of the Board deemed this project worthwhile. We don’t set the rules on the Process of using State funds - the state does. We merely worked within the framework they established.

    As for the ADA access, I’ll not comment on where the ball was dropped, but I will say that the decision for such did not come from this Board of Selectmen. It was not a determination that was discussed or debated by us, nor was it one – I believe – we were really knowledgeable of. That said, we are now the ones solely responsible for the outcome as we are the leadership of the community and I am one who firmly believes that everything rests with us. As I have publicly stated on several occasions shame on ME for not being more informed and more involved in the process. I have been a selectman for 21 months and I should have been more up to speed on this project. In that respect I failed.

    In terms of the snow-clearing of the Route 20/131 sidewalks, I have previously voted against modifying the policy, but this year did support the initial vote to move away from a previous 15 year practice. Upon further consideration and review, I publicly stated that I no longer supported the change in policy as I believed it to be somewhat ill-advised, but, that I would stand by the Board’s wishes in terms of their final position. As 4 members of the Board still believe it to be the appropriate course of action, I stand by their determination and will work collectively with them on transitioning towards enforcement - as I have an obligation to recognize the importance and sanctity of majority rule.

    That is getting pretty close to as simple as I can be. I hope it helps somewhat.

  4. Mr. Creamer, thank you for your kind response. Of course, on some matters we agree and on some matters we disagree. I have long understood your reasoning regarding the BOS's choice to go ahead and use our Chapter 90 funds for the brick sidewalks - I simply disagree with it.
    As far as the proposed gas station, it does seem to me that they should get the sewer "gallonage" they've requested.
    Regarding the good Sisters' teaching methods, there are plenty of older folks in these parts who had certain methods, processes and procedures knocked - er - instilled in them also - and not even one of them writes with their left hand. ;-)

  5. A short hand version of Mr. Creamer's response from my point of view:
    Thanks for the comments, thought I'd give my side. I know that a times I get a little wordy and repeat myself but in my defense I went to a Catholic School....enough said, don't like it, sorry!
    Brick sidewalks.the process was legal, the BOS used Chapter 90 monies which usually fund road projects but the DPW hasn't use those funds for 2 years, rather than let the money, more than $l million, just sit and get interest 3 out of the 5 Selectmen voted for brick sidewalks...all perfectly legal. It isn't taxpayers money, it comes from the, uh, well from the other pocket of taxpayers.
    As for the ADA access, someone goofed, it wasn't this current Board but it is now our responsibility, as the old saying goes "the buck stops here". We're working on it.
    The sidewalks clearing on Rt, 20/131, first I was against changing the policy, let the town clear the sidewalks but then I flip flopped and wanted the property owners to clear, then I flip flopped again and thought the Town should clear but the other Selectmen thought differently, it isn't my fault, I'm have to follow the majority.
    That's it folks.


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