Kupfer’s Dual Role Involves Planning and Zoning
Dec 31, 2015 06:00AM ● Published by Kenneth Hamwey
James Kupfer has been on the job as Bellingham’s Town Planner and Zoning Compliance Officer for three months, and he seems to have settled into the expanded role quite comfortably. The position previously was part-time and dealt strictly with planning, but the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Town Administrator opted to make the post full-time, with expanded duties that include zoning/code enforcement, development compliance and recommendations and support to the Zoning Board.
“In the expanded role, Jim is involved in enforcing town bylaws, like signage and fence height for example,” said Town Administrator Denis Fraine. “He’ll also review new structures, working with the building inspector to make sure there is compliance. He’ll also make recommendations to the Zoning Board on permits and variances, providing a summary of facts on applications. He’s basically an investigator for the zoning board.”
Fraine indicated that there was a substantial number of applicants when the position was advertised. “We narrowed the number down to applicants with municipal experience, then chose Jim,” Fraine noted. “We liked his experience and his education.”
A native of Quincy, the 32-year-old Kupfer (pictured above) earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in urban and regional planning and has a master’s degree from Suffolk University in public administration. He’s worked for an architectural firm in Virginia and a historical preservation company in Boston and served a variety of city and town planning offices (Martha’s Vineyard, Newton, Sudbury and Southern New Hampshire).
“The function and scope of my position is very similar to the job I had in Sudbury,” said Kupfer, who resides in Franklin with his wife, Jennifer, and two sons. “I’ll be involved in interpreting bylaws and providing guidance to applicants. Basically, I’ll strive to help those who need assistance in understanding bylaws, and that includes not only petitioners but also the public.”
Kupfer will be a direct link to upcoming projects slated for Bellingham and some that likely will aim to locate adjacent to Route 495. The projects will include industrial sites, sub-divisions and commercial development.
“What’s on tap currently is a distribution facility on Maple Street that’s now being reviewed by the Planning Board,” Kupfer noted. “There are about six sub-divisions where developers have prior approval, and I’m working with them to coordinate their projects’ final outcome. I’ll also work with existing businesses, especially along Pulaski Boulevard, to assist owners in beautifying their property.”
Kupfer also said that Bellingham is currently getting a lot of interest from solar developers looking to produce large-scale solar energy with the intent to connect to the utility grid as part of the state tax-credit program.
The Shoppes at Bellingham, a large-scale retail project that will also include restaurants, is not before any board now but no doubt will involve Kupfer’s input when it goes before a variety of committees.
Kupfer said that he and town officials can expect “more developers knocking on our doors in the next 5-10 years, especially along Route 495.” He’s confident that the team in place to scrutinize future development along Route 495 is an asset. “The Planning Board, the Selectmen, the Conservation Commission and the Department of Public Works are a strong team,” Kupfer said.
The re-design of the Route 495 bridge area, from the intersection of Hartford Avenue and North Main Street past Market Basket, is moving along, and Fraine offered an update on its status. He said that the project has been reviewed by the state and now is being mulled by the Federal Highway Administration. “The construction would provide more turning lanes and allow more volume to pass through the intersection of Hartford Avenue and North Main Street,” Fraine emphasized. “There eventually will be public hearings in Bellingham for residents to ask questions and offer opinions.”
Kupfer knows there’s a balance between quality of life issues and commercial and industrial development. He said he’s eager to keep development “appropriate” and be protective of the community’s quality of life. “I’ll get an opportunity to work with developers early on to make sure they’re aware of traffic issues, water resources, pedestrian connections, air quality and noise,” he said. “I understand that the tax base is a key component, but I’ll work to ensure that quality of life issues are protected.”
Kupfer, who reports to the Town Administrator, has an office at the Municipal Center and welcomes any questions from residents.
“I’m glad to be on board,” he said. “I believe we’re off to a good start and the team in Bellingham has been very supportive.”