Cliftondale Revitalization draws heavy discussion during Precinct 2 forum
The five Town Meeting members who represent Precinct 2 cited a number of issues of concern to their neighborhood, but Cliftondale Revitalization drew more discussion than the rest of them did collectively. Cliftondale Revitalization clearly dominated the 50-minute forum – “Saugus Over Coffee” – held in the Community Room of the Saugus Public Library last week (Feb. 13). This was the second in a series of 10 monthly programs filmed by Saugus TV that will air now through October.
“We do have a unique position that we are less than a mile from places like Overlook Ridge and some of the other big developments and big developments that are coming,” veteran Town Meeting Member Peter A. Rossetti, Jr. said.
“At some point, Caddy Farm will be developed. When that gets developed, there’s going to be a lot of apartments. Right now, Overlook Ridge has approximately 3,000 apartments. Granada Highlands has a number of apartments,” he said.
“For those people, it’s actually easier to come to Cliftondale than it is to go to the North Shore Shopping Center or some of the other stores that are local. The traffic is just horrendous for them, especially around dinnertime. So, we have some unique opportunities,” he said.
Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta praised Precinct 2’s Town Meeting members for their active involvement with issues that affect the precinct and the town. “Clearly, all five of you are incredibly passionate not just about your precinct and the people who live in your precinct, but about the whole town and how Precinct 2 fits into our town,” Panetta told the Town Meeting members.
“All of you spoke eloquently tonight,” she said.
But as active as this group of Town Meeting members has been, some of the members noted the citizen apathy and lack of participation in their precinct.
The Town Meeting members from Precinct 2 outnumbered the Precinct 2 citizens 5-2, and most of the dozen people in the audience were from other precincts. Precinct 1 Town Meeting Member Sue Palomba and Precinct 9 Town Meeting Member Judith Worthley attended the forum.
“All of us here were elected by default,” Town Meeting Member Joe Vecchione said, noting that there were only five candidates running for the five Town Meeting seats in the town elections two years ago. In four of the precincts (1, 2, 6 and 7), only five Town Meeting candidates ran for office.
“There wasn’t a lot of competition. I like competition. My first term in 2019, eight people were running for five spots,” he said.
Town Meeting Member Robert J. Camuso, Jr. chided the public for not getting more involved with their town government. “A lot of people like to complain about how things are done in this town,” Camuso said.
“Instead of complaining on Facebook, get involved. That’s the biggest problem in this community. It’s easy to be a keyboard warrior. Go to the meetings and get involved. The more people involved, the better this community is going to be,” he said.
Panetta credited Camuso with being at “the forefront” of the Caddy Farm issue for more than a decade.
While noting that Cliftondale Revitalization is an important issue for the precinct, Town Meeting Member Christine M. Moreschi said, “I am against more housing in Cliftondale. I think we have enough down there.”
“I just think we need to think of the older generation where they can walk there rather than drive down to Route 1,” she said.
Town Meeting Member Christopher P. Riley said traffic is a big concern. The town needs to make the streets and sidewalks safer.
He said that improvements at the Anna Parker Playground are needed and also agreed that Caddy Farm is a big issue.
Vecchione said he would like to see efforts to incentivize property owners in Cliftondale Square to invest. He also noted that there are “plenty of code issues in Cliftondale related to the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
“ADA is a huge problem in Cliftondale Square,” he said.
Selectman Corinne Riley, a Precinct 2 resident, shared an observation she’s made since childhood days. “When I was a kid, there were five houses on the street and there were six cars,” she said.
“Now, there are 11 houses on the street and 11 cars. It’s all about people having multiple automobiles where they live,” she said.
Cliftondale Revitalization, neighborhood concerns about public safety, traffic congestion, need for playground upgrades, making sure the Caddy Farm development in Revere is monitored so that traffic doesn’t cut through local streets, lack of interest in candidates running for Town Meeting.