Planning Board Candidate George Ferdinand: Economic Growth Needed But 'I Won't Be A Rubber Stamp'
Ferdinand graduated from Wilmington High in 1980 and lived locally through 1991. But then head headed to Detroit to attend Wayne State University. He settled in the area, working in the auto industry, before moving back to the Merrimack Valley and settling in Tewksbury last year.
He says that while living in Michigan, occasional visits home gave him a chance to observe the change, or lack of change, to the Route 38 corridor over time. Ferdinand says he wants to be a part of the process to bring positive economic growth to the area.
"I was driving down Route 38 in November and I was thinking, this doesn't look like it's changed that much," he said.
What Ferdinand saw was vacant store fronts, undeveloped parcels and eyesores like the former Funland property.
"I looked into the old Master Plan and realized it was from 2003. That was the problem,"he said. And I've looked into the new Master Plan they are working on. I decided that was something I wanted to be a part of."
That was enough to convince Ferdinand to run for a five-year seat on the Planning Board even before he knew that Chairman Dave Plunkett had opted not to seek re-election.
For a time, it appeared Ferdinand might run unopposed but Keith Anderson jumped into the race at the last minute. Neither man has held elected office in Tewksbury before.
Ferdinand says he has a vision for development in Tewksbury and recognizes the need for economic growth to stabilize property taxes. However, he says he refuses to be a "rubber stamp" for every commercial development plan that comes before the Planning Board.
"One thing I would like to see less of in Tewksbury is strip malls," he said. "Once you OK those plans, developers can charge any type of rent or lease.
"I've talked people and people have told me what they don't want is more buildings that will wind up vacant."
Ferdinand is a fan of the Master Plan being put together for the town center district and the plans to improve Route 38 over the next decade. He says he believes the key to positive long-term development is improved infrastructure.
One thing he would like to see immediately is a traffic light at the strip mall housing Papa Gino's and Ocean State Job Lots. He would also like to see a third land, or turn lane, added as part of a widening of Route 38.
As for how to pay for it, Ferdinand is thinking out of the box. He feels that if Boston is successful in its Olympics bid, the City of Lowell be used to athletic venues. With state money being funneled in that direction for infrastructure work, Ferdinand thinks Tewksbury could tap into the same funding stream to pay for Route 38 enhancements.
Ferdinand has some specific ideas for businesses he would like to see lured to Tewksbury. Among them are Brigham's, Chuck E. Cheese , Chik-fil-et and Whole Foods.
"I'd like to see some competition for Demoulas," said Ferdinand. "I love Demoulas but I think it should have some competition."
Ferdinand said he would also like to see an independent review of all the town's zoning bylaws and planning regulations to make sure they are up to date and practical.
While Ferdinand has not run for elected office in a community, he is not a complete stranger to politics. He has help multiple elected positions with the United Auto Workers Union both here and during his time living in Michigan.
Ferdinand lives on Pratt Road with his fiancee and her children.
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