Our current candidates for Town Council President answer a few questions regarding their thoughts on Easton’s current residential development policies.

Toggle on each question to see the candidates answer. 
We thank all of our elected officials and candidates for their thoughtful responses. Each candidate was emailed simultaneously with the other candidates with their official email on file at the town of Easton for their responses. At one candidate’s request, the deadline was extended through August 28 and all candidates were aware of the Aug 29 publishing deadline. Every effort has been made to allow time for candidates to respond in full. 

Bateman: No Response

Gunsallus: Addressing Easton’s need for attainable housing is essential. Given the high construction costs, multi-family housing—like apartments, duplexes, and townhouses—is our most viable option. Rather than waiting for developers to dictate our growth, we should proactively plan it ourselves. This means
thoroughly assessing our current infrastructure, identifying areas suitable for development, and considering buildings that can be converted for residential use. Once these sites are located, we should then evaluate the surrounding context to gauge appropriate density, while coordinating with schools and
the county for sustainable growth. This proactive, informed approach is what I call “Smart Growth” and it’s what I’ll prioritize if elected.

Silverstein: Declined to Comment

Willey: I read the questions and felt that I had seen some many times before. Housing is arguably in the top 2 or 3 concerns facing Easton today. For years, projects to fix the problem have fallen short of their goals. Temporary relief has been found, but the problem is still there. I think one way to answer your questions was to list efforts to correct the problems or at least to provide some next steps. One, the housing authority is tasked with efforts to address the housing crisis. It needs to include members for all four county municipalities. 

Bateman: No Response

Gunsallus: For Easton to achieve a balanced housing landscape, we must adopt a nuanced approach. Addressing the type of housing, adaptive reuse of existing buildings could introduce a variety of units, from lofts to studios, preserving Easton’s historic charm. In terms of size, reevaluating zoning restrictions can pave the way for diverse housing formats, from compact units ideal for singles to spacious family apartments. As for cost, partnering with developers and offering incentives can promote the inclusion of both market-rate and affordable units in new projects, ensuring housing that’s attainable for our workforce. Keeping these specifics in mind, through continuous community dialogue and flexible strategies, Easton can truly cater to everyone without losing its unique character.

Silverstein: Declined to comment

Willey: Only one major housing project for affordable unitis in on the books. It is for the renovation of Dover Brook’s units and to add 14 more units. 

Bateman: No response

Gunsallus: The evolution of housing development in Easton, marked by a transition since the 1970s from more compact forms to a predominant suburban style with detached homes, and the intentional setting of the 1% growth rate from the 2010 plan, prompts thoughtful contemplation in our revised Comprehensive Plan. The 1% growth rate, approached as a protective ceiling rather than an aspiration, helps safeguard against rapid, unchecked expansion. This measure, however, now provides us with an opportunity to put forth smart solutions that ensure a balance that caters to our housing needs and protects Easton’s charm. Price points should accommodate a range, with options that suit our workforce and more upscale offerings. In terms of development patterns, a harmonious mix of compact and suburban designs would both utilize our spaces efficiently and maintain our town’s unique aesthetic. A thoughtfully balanced approach ensures Easton’s growth remains controlled, reflective of its values, and anchored in its storied past.

Silverstein: Declined to Comment

Willey: The Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets the guidelines for rental assistance and salary guidelines. 

Bateman: No Comment

Gunsallus: These measures can compel or incentivize developers to incorporate attainable housing units within market-rate housing developments, whether they are for renting or homeownership. For us, the pressing question is whether this type of zoning resonates with our community’s vision for new developments and the revitalization of existing neighborhoods. This important decision hinges on a collective examination of Easton’s long-term goals, the intricacies of our housing market, and the potential impacts and benefits of IZ on our town’s character and demographics. I’m in favor of leading with incentivization measures such as: density bonuses, tax abatements or reductions, expedited permitting and approval (because time is money), fee waivers or reductions, grants and loans, land write-downs, and flexibility in design standards.

Silverstein: Declined to comment

Willey: A developer who wishes to build affordable units must consider the costs of land, utilities, building materials and roads. Very seldom do these costs go down. Also, identifying funding sources is vital. 

Bateman: No Response

Gunsallus: Impact Fees and APFOs both aim to address the infrastructure demands of new developments, but they function differently. An Impact Fee, like the one charged by Easton at $3,809 per single dwelling unit, directly levies a charge on new developments to cover the costs of the additional or expanded public facilities they necessitate. The money collected is directly allocated towards capital improvements and public amenities to support this new growth. On the other hand, an APFO doesn’t primarily impose a fee but instead operates as a regulatory tool. APFOs ensure that new development approvals are in pace with existing, or planned, public facilities. If the infrastructure, such as schools, roads, or water supply, isn’t adequate to handle the new development, the APFO can delay or even halt the development until the necessary facilities are in place or planned. It acts as a check to ensure infrastructure keeps up with growth. Although both instruments serve to harmonize growth with infrastructure, Impact Fees are more about financing the necessary changes, while APFOs revolve around coordinating the timing of development with the readiness of essential facilities

Silverstein: Declined to comment

Willey: I would rather see an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance than an increase in impact fees. Impact fees do not cover 100% of the cost of projects. 

Batemen: No Response

Gunsallus: The Talbot County Comprehensive Plan emphasizes development within the incorporated towns, underscoring the benefits of centralized growth. Easton, with its limited open spaces, is at a juncture where we must consider how to best utilize our available land. Rather than expanding outward, which could dilute our town’s character and strain our resources, it’s prudent to capitalize on opportunities within our existing boundaries. By focusing on smart, sustainable development inside Easton’s existing boundaries, we can meet housing needs while preserving our town’s unique identity and ensuring efficient use of infrastructure. This approach aligns with a vision of growth that is both responsible and respectful of Easton’s heritage and future.

Silverstein: Declined to comment

Willey: The Easton comprehensive plan calls for a 1% growth rate or about 170 people per year. There are 1200 dwelling units now under consideration or homes for approximately 2500 people. There does not appear to be a need for annexation of land for residential growth at this time. 

Bateman: No Response

Gunsallus: You better believe the escalating cost of housing in Easton deeply concerns me. It’s more than numbers; it’s about keeping the essence of our community intact. Working families, young graduates, and all the people who make Easton vibrant are finding it hard to stay. Firstly, I propose focusing on multi-family units like apartments and duplexes, which are generally more cost-efficient and therefore more affordable. Secondly, let’s explore tax incentives for developers who commit to creating attainable housing, making it financially appealing for them to contribute to the solution. Lastly, I advocate for converting underused or vacant buildings into residential spaces, which can quickly add attainable units to our housing pool without the need for extensive new construction. By combining these strategies with responsible planning, we can keep Easton the community we love while preparing for the future.

Silverstein: Declined to comment

Willey: No one should be forced to live in an area based on race, religion, or ethnic background. If this requires zoning changes, so be it. So, I feel to try and offer solutions to problems that have existed for years in only a few days is not doable. Maybe we need to change the marching orders of the housing authority. Their goals should be to determine where suitable land exists, income levels, types of housing and number of units. Require timely reports and provide for feedback. We need to put some teeth into what is needed and do it today. 

Make sure you check out these election-related events and debates!

Talbot Spy /Avalon will host a debate August 29 at 6:00 PM at the Avalon Theatre. Free admittance. The event will be recorded. 

Click here to see livestream! 

And vote on September 12