Thursday, December 9, 2021
HomeNewsHaddam Town Government2021 Candidates: Haddam Planning & Zoning

2021 Candidates: Haddam Planning & Zoning

We reached out to both the Haddam Republican Town Committee and the Haddam Democrat Town Committee and asked candidates to respond to a set of questions; if a candidate did not respond, their name is listed, so that you know who is running for each office.

Updates from all candidates are welcome and will be published as Letters to the Editor. The questions posed to the candidates were:

  • Tell us a little about yourself.
  • Why are you running for the position?
  • What do you see as the important issues facing your town and how would you address them in your role?
  • What are the key things you love about this town and its people?
  • Additional thoughts to leave voters with?

Gina Block (D):  I was born and raised in New England and has lived in Higganum with my husband for the past 11 years. We are excited to introduce our two young children to this vibrant community and all that Haddam has to offer. As a resident, homeowner, and mother in town, I have a vested interested in helping Haddam fulfill its true potential.

From an early age, I grew up with a deep understanding of the importance of spaces and placemaking. The built environment has a tremendous impact on wellbeing, economic vitality, and has the power to foster pride of place. Conversely, it can drive a negative economic outlook, result in car-centric downtowns, and inadvertently impede community interaction. Additionally, an enormous part of what makes neighborhoods unique are the historic homes and buildings. When these are razed in the name of “progress,” we erase our history and part of our identity along with it. As someone who fiercely championed historic preservation and adaptive reuse when The Shailer-Banning House (current site of the Dollar General in Tylerville) was torn down, I have worked diligently – and will continue to work – to preserve the architectural assets that make Haddam unique. While P&Z has strengthened protection for vulnerable sites during my tenure, I would like to continue to build on that foundation. Commercial development and preservation of our town character need not be mutually exclusive.

In addition to our significant stock of antique buildings, Haddam is lucky to have myriad natural resources at our fingertips. From hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming, the great outdoors is a core component of Haddam’s character and one that is not championed nearly enough. Vision for the town cannot consist solely of zoning, and in Haddam’s case we must work to capitalize on our vast land holdings and outdoor recreational opportunities as we solidify our collective ideas for the coming years. The Plan of Conservation and Development (PoCD) was developed in conjunction with citizens of Haddam through surveys and charettes, and should always guide decisions made by P&Z.

As part of this vision, we will be welcoming our first true apartment complex to Tylerville in the near future. We must continue to create diverse housing stock and provide opportunities to those who wish to live in Haddam but cannot, or do not want, to live in a single-family home. By creating multiple housing options, we welcome residents of all ages. Through the juxtaposition of built and natural environments, we can help to create communal social hubs while simultaneously providing the space and opportunity to explore our idyllic landscape. As a commission, Planning and Zoning must not be simply reactive, but proactive, in manifesting the vision set forth in the PoCD. 

My love affair with Haddam began when I and my husband drove through in 2008 en route to an afternoon of mountain biking. We found ourselves charmed by the town green, the small-scale downtown, and, of course, the plentiful antique homes. The rolling hills and proximity to the Connecticut River create a feeling that is unique to the valley towns in our area. A labor of love, we bought our 1780 home in 2009 and continue to work on it slowly but surely. In that time, I have met so many in town who restore my faith in humanity – kind, patient, humble, intelligent, and hard-working people. I am proud to share a community with them. It is my duty and honor as an elected representative and neighbor to act in their best interest through the lens of P&Z.

With a longstanding and deep-rooted love of design and architecture and a 20-year career in design, I am passionate about the built environment and placemaking. Planning and Zoning is actively working to make our town more walkable and vibrant, and we must maintain these efforts. I will continue to work to welcome business while preserving the character that makes Haddam uniquely Haddam. It has been a pleasure to serve as a commissioner over the past four years on Planning and Zoning, and I would be honored to do so again. There is so much work to do, and we’re just getting started.

Wayne LePard (R): Wayne  has served for eight years on the Planning & Zoning Board and is eager to continue to serve for another four if elected. His experience on this board, as well as service on the regional school board, Inland Wetlands/Conservation Commission, Cemetery Association and other boards, brings both the experience and insight needed to be a solid member of Planning & Zoning.

Planning & Zoning needs to work within the new POCD that will be finished this year while providing fair and equitable treatment of all parties in zoning issues. This has been the record of the present board and it should continue into the future. The board needs to be proactive rather than reactive regarding future needs of our town.

If re-elected as Zoning Commissioner, Wayne is confident that any and all of the challenges that surface will be handled promptly, fairly, and equitbly. He asks for your support on Nov. 7th.

David Carini (D): David is Haddam born & raised. He has resided at the Undina Farmhouse on High Street with his wife and children for the last 22 years, renovating the historic house along the way. All three of his children graduated from the Haddam-Killingworth school system. David has a great appreciation for small-town life and all that it has to offer.

Passionate about giving back, David has been involved with many community organizations: CT River Conservation District, Habitat for Humanity, Hartford Marathon, Blue Star Family, and Mentor RI.

David leads a Market for Starbucks Coffee that includes Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Edward Wallor (R): Ed has been a resident of Haddam for almost 50 years, living here with his wife, Shannon, and two children.

Ed has been self-employed for over 20 years and understands what it takes to make a small business successful. He has served on the Planning & Zoning Commission for the past six years and for the last two he has been the secretary.

Ed looks forward, with your support on Nov. 7th, to continue bringing his common sense and experience to serving the Town of Haddam for another four years.

Mike Farina (D):  First, I would like to express my thanks to the voters of Haddam for the privilege of serving on the Planning & Zoning Commission this past term. Prior to retiring, I was director of studio operations, east and west coast for ABC-TV/Walt Disney. I currently serve on the Haddam PZC, as well as the Economic Development Commission, and as Town Representative to the Connecticut River Gateway Commission. I am an active member of St. Peter Church, its Parish Council, and the Knights of Columbus. Part of my family has roots in Tylerville going back to the 1800’s. Before moving to Higganum, I served on similar boards and commissions in both the towns of Coventry and Willington.

Our town is at a turning point for new and exciting development. The unique small town quaintness of Haddam with its two village centers, beautiful land formation and river access should be celebrated. We should build upon what we have and can offer. Create a town that is unique to the region and not spend time envying our surrounding neighbor town. It is essential to strike a balance between reasonable ideas and development, our historical attributes, and the environment, as well as help and encourage business to prosper. This will only help us to do the same. We have a blueprint in the voted-on and approved Plan of Conservation and Development. Common sense, being open to new projects and business, but always being aware and accepting of the desires of the people must be applied in all decisions the Commission makes. I have tried to follow these principles in the past and hope I can continue to help create a viable, transformable economic business environment as well as a community the people of Haddam will be proud to call home. I would be honored again should you have the confidence to reelect me to another term on the planning and zoning commission.

Mike Karam (D): Vision with purpose can change the world. This belief is what guides me throughout my professional journey, and it’s what will guide me throughout my role on Haddam Planning & Zoning if given the opportunity to serve. My partner and I moved to Haddam in 2016 and have lovingly cared for an antique home that has proudly stood in this community since 1720. To us, there is no other place we would want to call home. As a member of the Haddam Historical Society, and a lifetime member of the Haddam Land Trust, I appreciate the idea of “sense of place” and respecting the natural character of our beautiful Connecticut River Valley town.

Professionally, I have over two decades of experience working with large global organizations in business strategy, planning, and creative development. Defining a strategic vision and creative story for brands such as Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Nestle, Tiffany & Co., Google, and Levi’s. I’ve also consulted with nonprofit organizations such as Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and Feeding America.

I’m running for P&Z because I want to bring back a sense of place to Haddam and help shape our strategic vision and story. Respecting our past, while looking towards our future. Building on our local assets of outdoor recreation and unique New England character, while strengthening our local economy by attracting investments that align with our purpose and vision. A vision that helps us achieve our goals for growth and development, while maintaining the soul of who we are.

My experience collaborating with and respecting people and diverse perspectives to build something truly special is what I look forward to bringing to Haddam P&Z. We are at a critical inflection point with many important issues facing our town. From septic in Higganum Center, the Rossi property, Scovil buildings, town garage and HES, to affordable housing, and vacant retail. The choices we make today will shape the future of our community. I want to work together with our Town Planner and all members of P&Z to define and execute a vision with purpose that moves us forward. I want to listen to all perspectives and voices and offer a strategic point of view when weighing in on the important decisions that we face.

I’m inspired by our five villages and all those who call Haddam home. We are a truly unique community with passionate people who all want the best for our town. I’m enamored with our connection to the land and our place in the Connecticut River Valley. I seek to protect Haddam’s distinct character as we look towards the future and provide all Haddam residents with a town vision they deserve.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to working with and for you. Please Vote Mike Karam for Haddam Planning & Zoning. 

Dylan Kessler (D, P&Z Alternate): I’m Dylan Kessler and my wife Anaga and I moved to Haddam in July of 2020. I am originally from Bolton, CT, a town with many parallels to Haddam. However, I’ve lived all around the country before returning to live here in Higganum.

When looking to return to Connecticut we immediately fell in love with Haddam for its amazing schools and ample outdoor opportunities. We have 2 dogs and spend a lot of time walking them around Haddam Meadows, the Cove, and Higganum Reservoir.

I am a full time paramedic and business owner, and also volunteer for the fire department during some of my free time. I am running for the position of Planning and Zoning Alternate because I love to give back and serve the community which I am part of. Being an alternate in Planning and Zoning will give me plenty of opportunity to learn from those already serving on the board, while also striving to achieve the goals set by the Plan of Conservation and Development for the Town of Haddam in 2018.

Larry Maggi (R, P&Z Alternate): As a previous Selectman and Planning & Zoning Alternate, Larry has the experience and knowledge to be well-qualified to serve as an Alternate on the Planning & Zoning Commission. He is the owner and operator of Fireworks Hearth and Home and All Equipment & Party Rental on Bridge Street in the Tylerville section of Haddam. He has been a successful business owner for over 25 years.

Larry believes that he can contribute positive growth for Haddam, while keeping in mind the values and atmosphere of our quaint town. He loves living near the CT River and the fact that when someone is in trouble our town rallies together to help. He would like to continue with the progress we’ve made and asks for your vote in November.

Tim Teran (D, P&Z Alternate):  My family and I have been part of the Haddam community for 70 years. My grandparents (Mr. & Mrs. Cecil M. Moore) moved to Higganum Landing in 1951.

I grew up spending summers & holidays on the Landing, moving here full time in 2014 because I just had to be “back on the river.” My wife and I are active supporters of our volunteer fire and ambulance teams as well as the Haddam Historical Society and The Haddam Scholarship Fund. Today I sit on The Haddam Board of Finance, The Board of The Haddam Historical Society and am a member of the newly formed Friends of The Higganum Cove Town Committee.

Haddam is a remarkable town with a rich past and a promising future. Its natural beauty is beyond compare and its school system top notch. As a result, we continue to attract more young families to our town. Our challenge is to maintain the rural charm of our special town while we continue to find new ways to grow – attracting new residents, businesses and tourists. “Thoughtful growth” — growth that preserves the best of the past and marries that with the best of what could be — is a challenge. I would like to be involved in embracing that challenge.

As I said above, the biggest issue facing us is encouraging economic growth and development while maintaining the character of our town with the most opportune areas for growth being Higganum Center, Higganum Cove and Tylerville. That requires a great infrastructure and a commitment from all of us.

Higganum needs a community septic system to handle more business; with the grants that have been approved it will have septic plans in place to demonstrate its “readiness” to welcome more business when new businesses want to locate here. Tylerville needs better traffic control; with the new roundabouts planned Tylerville will get that. Higganum Cove needs an action plan to carefully develop it into a sought-after destination; with the new Higganum Cove Committee it will get one. So, I believe we are poised to begin a new era in Haddam.

As a passionate believer in Haddam’s possibilities as well as my track record — rebuilding an older home in town to more fully resemble the look of the 18th century house it once was, and my more recent ideas about how Higganum Cove could be a powerful attraction for Haddam (published in The Haddam Bulletin earlier this year) — I believe I have the passion, commitment and ideas to be a force for thoughtful growth that benefits all.

Haddam is one of a kind with a rich past and one of the most beautiful sites in New England — from Higganum Cove to Haddam Meadows; from the Beaver lodges to Swan Hill; from the swing bridge to The Thankful Arnold House and from Higganum Landing to Rock Landing– we live in a very special place graced by a wide variety of wildlife and greenery.

Haddam residents are one of a kind. While we don’t always agree on the right path forward, we all deeply care about our town and its future – and we are not shy about having our opinions heard!

Given the strength of conviction we all feel for our town and what our town experience has to offer I believe Haddam can grow in ways that benefit us all – in ways that maintain the character of our town while creating economic growth.

 

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