Monday, August 31, 2015

Dawson Launches His Campaign For Cheshire Town Council

It's pretty hard to go some place in Cheshire and not run into S. "Woody" Dawson (shown at left).

Visit the One Stop, a convenience store in the town's South End, and it's a good bet that you will find Woody discussing the affairs of the day with anyone who comes through the door. And every September, when the Cheshire's Fall Festival rolls around, there's a pretty good chance that you will find him giving somebody a warm greeting and slap on the back.

 I mention this, not as an endorsement of his candidacy, just as an illustration that Woody is old school and very well know in the community. And following Friday's announcement that First District Councilman David Schrumm was not going to seek re-election, Dawson is now looking to play a much bigger role in town government by taking his fellow Republican's place on the ballot.
Dawson will face former Councilman Michael Ecke in the First District race.  Like Dawson, Ecke  (who is shown at right) has the name recognition having served on six terms on council.

Dawson has already spent more than 20 years on the Cheshire's Planning & Zoning Commission. And on Monday, his campaign, managed by former Cheshire resident Thomas Pinkham, sent out its first press release. 

The release said all the right things, mentioning how Dawson has lived in Cheshire for his entire life and how much he cares for the community. In addition to serving on the PZC, he has also served on the town's beautification committee, its zoning board of appeals and the economic development.

 "I have always loved Cheshire, and promise to do everything in my power as Councilor to protect Cheshire and nourish it," Dawson said is statement that was part of the press release.

The odd thing about the release is that it is everything that Dawson isn't. He's not much much on artifice and smooth edges. 

Listening to Woody speak at PZC meetings is an adventure because I'm never quite sure what he is going to say.

 Most people filter what they say when they speak in public. That's not Dawson's style and depending on how you like your politicians, he can he either seen as breath of fresh air or someone who needs to be a little less blunt.

And it is that last perception of Dawson that could get him into trouble in the campaign.

Municipal elections don't usually tend to be decided on what those running for office say, unlike state and national campaigns. But this race could be different and should be close.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Apparently There Is A Market For Outlet Shopping, Just Not In Cheshire

If I was a Cheshire public official, I'd be banging my head against a wall in frustration after hearing Tuesday's news that the owner of  the Clinton Crossing outlet center, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, plans to build a similar retail center in Windsor Locks.

Simon's announced Tuesday that it has submitted an application for rezoning land near near the intersection of Route 20 and Interstate 91on Old Country Road in Windsor Locks.

 Simon's announcement comes nearly a month after another retail developer, Massachusetts-base W/S Development, told Cheshire officials they were abandoning plans for a 470,000 square foot outlet center near the intersection of Route 10 and Interstate 691.

The Windsor Locks retail center, which will be called  Hartford Premium Outlets, will consist of 350,000 square feet of retail space, a Market Hall complete with a variety of dining options, and two restaurants on the property's perimeter. Construction of the retail center is expected to start next fall, with the stores scheduled to open late in 2017.

"We are tremendously excited to bring the world's most recognized and popular brand of upscale outlet shopping to the Hartford area," Mark Silvestri, chief operating officer of Simon Premium Outlets, said in a statement. "We are off to a solid start – the Town of Windsor Locks has been very supportive and welcoming. This will be a great development."

All of which begs the question: What has Windsor Locks got that Cheshire doesn't?

The media never got an answer from W/S Development as to why it was abandoning the Outlets at Cheshire. We were told by Cheshire officials that W.S Development executives cited the state of the economy and a difficulty in attracting tenants to the retail center as a reason for their decision.

But now you have to wonder if W/S Development officials were being totally honest with Cheshire officials in the reasons that they gave.

Is the economy that much better in Windsor Locks than in Cheshire? Probably not.

So why was W/S Development having trouble attracting tenants? Was there something about the company or its approach to the Cheshire project that was driving potential tenants away?

We'll probably never know the answer to those questions and even if we did, it wouldn't change the final outcome. But know the answers might give Cheshire officials a better idea going forward of how to market the 104 acre property that W/S Development wanted to build on.

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