LYNNFIELD — Board of Selectmen candidates Chris Barrett and Katy Shea sparred over a variety of different municipal issues at Lynnfield Business Coalition’s Candidates’ Night at the Al Merritt Media and Cultural Center on Tuesday, March 31.

The forum gave Shea and Barrett an opportunity to answer a series of questions from moderator Pat Tracy-Callahan as well as questions from the audience. The two candidates also gave a prepared statement at the end of the forum.

The two candidates weighed in on a number of different municipal issues such as issues impacting the town, Centre Farm, schools, the future of the library, new development and a proposed rail trail.

Town issues

The candidates were asked to identify and comment on the biggest issues the town is facing over the next couple of years.

Barrett said he believes “Lynnfield is moving in a positive direction right now,” but he said there is a group in town consisting of Shea, former Selectman Dave Miller and former Selectman Harry Le Cours who want to “move Lynnfield in the wrong direction.” He said Shea does not want to reinvest in the community.

“If you compare our tax rate to other communities, we are about the same if not lower than North Reading or other communities,” said Barrett. “We need to keep our town headed in the right direction by reinvesting in our community but following the policies of Katy Shea will move us in the wrong direction.”

Shea accused Barrett of not being an expert on her polices because she has “never sat down and discussed them” with him. She said the town needs to take a closer look at “where we are spending our money,” and said her background as a business owner gives her a keen understanding for how businesses operate. She said the town needs to use a “bottom-up” approach in order to develop an assessment plan outlining the town’s needs and create a “financial report card” to determine which direction the town heads in.

“I believe we can do better,” said Shea. “I believe we can run our government more efficiently and I think we can stretch our tax dollars longer.”

Centre Farm

The two candidates were asked what should happen with Centre Farm.

Shea said she voted to purchase Centre Farm at the Special Town Meeting last June because the historic property is “the centerpiece of our town.” However, she does not believe “the town is in the real estate business.” She said it’s up to Town Meeting to decide the future of Centre Farm but she supports reselling the property with deed restrictions “at market value.” She also said the town could potentially keep some of the land in the back of the property.

Barrett said he voted to save Centre Farm last June because “it is the jewel of this community.” He also echoed Shea’s sentiment that the future of Centre Farm should be decided by Town Meeting and expressed his support of selling the property with deed restrictions to “make sure the history of the center of Lynnfield is protected.” He also expressed concerns about a number of historic properties being torn down by developers in town and said it’s important to preserve historic homes for future generations.

The two candidates were also asked if they were open to the idea of declaring Centre Farm a historic property. Both candidates said they were open to the proposal.


Barrett and Shea sparred over the direction of the town’s schools.

Shea said the school department needs to improve because the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education classifies the school system as a level 2 district due to its accountability rankings, which she attributed to Lynnfield Middle School. She said she wrote a white paper to Lynnfield Middle School officials in 2008 to raise concerns about students’ math struggles.

Barrett said the school system is in a “far better” situation today than it was three years ago when he first joined the School Committee. He said he urged LMS officials to add teachers to help students improve academically, particularly on the MCAS exam. He also said the district’s special education programs are headed in a positive direction.

Editor’s note: All Massachusetts schools and districts with sufficient data are classified into one of five accountability and assistance levels, with the highest performing in level 1 and lowest performing in level 5. A district is classified into the level of its lowest performing school. LMS is the only level 2 school in the district, while the three other schools are level 1 schools.


The two candidates were asked if they support building a new library and where it should be located.

Barrett said the Capital Facilities Advisory Committee, local officials and the community need to have a discussion at a future Town Meeting about either building a new library, including finding a new location, or renovating the existing building. In addition to the library, Barrett said CFAC, the selectmen and the community need to discus other capital projects and it’s up to townspeople to decide each project’s fate.

Shea said there are grant monies available to help fund a new library but she noted there are not enough parking spaces at the library’s existing location to build a new facility at the site. She said the town needs to develop a long-range plan in order to provide information about the town’s capital needs so residents can decide what happens in the future.

New development

The two candidates were asked how it’s possible to “reconcile” recent developments in town such as MarketStreet and the proposed new CVS at the existing Bridgewell site with the developments’ impact on abutting residential neighborhoods.

Shea said local officials need to engage in an “open dialogue” with both abutting residents and the companies who want to come into Lynnfield. She also said “people being affected by these developments feel like they are not being heard and they feel they have been sold a bill of goods.” She said the selectmen need to work to regain peoples’ trust by addressing the issues impacting South Lynnfield neighborhoods, particularly in and around MarketStreet.

In regards to the CVS proposal, Shea said an abutter of the property informed her the intersection located near the property received an F rating and said residents should have ample time to weigh-in on the project. She also noted people in the area are upset with the new digital billboard in Peabody.

Barrett said he understands the issues impacting South Lynnfield because he is “the only candidate who lives in South Lynnfield,” residing behind the old Perley Burrill service station. He said a number of his neighbors approached him about Perley Burrill’s deteriorating condition, which prompted him to urge the selectmen to address the issue last summer. He said cleaning up Perley Burrill will be a top priority of his if he is elected to the Board of Selectmen.

Additionally, Barrett said he can see the controversial digital billboard from his home and understands peoples’ concerns about it. He also said he pushed CVS officials to delay submitting a warrant article for April Town Meeting in order to “give the community and the neighborhood an opportunity to talk about the problems in the area.”

Rail trail

The two candidates were asked if they are in favor of the rail trail project.

Barrett said the town needs to “pause” on the rail trail project because, “I don’t think we are ready to take on the rail trail just yet.” He said local officials need to do a better job reaching out to the project’s abutters and said abutters should have “a seat at the table because it’s a very important project for the town of Lynnfield.”

Shea agreed with Barrett the town is “not ready” for the rail trail. She said local officials need to gather more information from the school department and the Bethlehem School to see if they are in favor of the project due to the rail trail’s close proximity to schools in town. She also said the project’s environmental impact, particularly with Reedy Meadow, needs to be studied further. She said local officials need to make sure abutters’ concerns are addressed.