Misinformation Matters


On Tuesday, May 16, Manchester voters will be asked to cast votes for Select Board and Planning Board members. This year, the election of local officials is especially important considering many fundamental issues facing the town. These issues require leadership that not only has the relevant background and qualifications, but also has the temperament and emotional intelligence to foster collaboration in the face of ongoing anti-change campaigns of misinformation and reflexive outrage that have purposefully spread alarm and confusion in the community.

Of note, prior to the special Town Meeting last Fall, a group called “Manchester Matters” launched a disingenuous campaign, distributing material nearly exactly mimicking the look of official town communications, including their unauthorized (and likely illegal) use of the Town Seal. An article in the Manchester Cricket of November 3, 2022, clearly demonstrated the intent to confuse. It was a purposeful attempt to influence your vote through an anonymous and deceptive campaign and included numerous misrepresentations and outright falsehoods about the issues being put to the voters.

Here are just a few examples from the materials produced and distributed by Manchester Matters:

  • “Single Resident Districts are eliminated.”
  • “Commercial facilities will be permissible in every district.”

û  FALSE: No change is now or has ever been proposed that would eliminate single family zoning in Manchester. Accessory uses that are currently allowed, such as home businesses, will remain an option; proposed zoning changes would only allow additional accessory uses related to serving senior housing.

  • “Every district would be zoned multi-family.”
  • “The ADU proposal “Encourages Airbnbs.”

û  FALSE: The accessory dwelling unit proposal would allow a limited number of additional dwelling units but only as an accessory to a primary residence. Manchester already has regulations in place to limit and regulate short-term rentals in town. The proposed ADU zoning includes provisions to require owner-occupancy and a minimum one-year lease.

  • “What open space remains in Manchester will be more vulnerable to cluster development.”
  • “Cluster development is encouraged due to drastic reduction if not elimination of current requirements concerning lot size, lot coverage, frontage, setbacks, etc.”

û  FALSE: Cluster development does not reduce any current requirements regarding minimum lot size or setbacks, rather it encourages the preservation of open space and natural resources by allowing thoughtful, site-specific arrangements of where buildings may be built, encouraging the “clustering” of already allowable units closer together, in order to preserve open space and natural resources. An example of where this could have been beneficial to the community is in East Manchester, where the new King’s Way development could have benefited from this well-tested planning strategy; this development saw over 10 acres of previously undisturbed habitat substantially cleared to make way for ONLY three to four new housing units.

I realize that the call for the voice of the “common person” resonates strongly with some in the community; however, the problems we face require real expertise that cannot be adequately addressed by a “just do it” attitude, and certainly not with leadership that believes that having even less expertise and experience in our town government will benefit our community. Leadership that is anti-change, anti-growth, and anti-expert will only exacerbate the problems we have, and we will be forced to reckon with outside solutions forced upon us, which is exactly how we got to where we are today with the SLV development project.


I urge you to watch the 1623 Studios recording of the Candidate Forums on YouTube to see for yourself what the candidates are saying and which will be committed to rational analysis and reasonable solutions.


I urge you to

  • Be well-informed (not just the Facebook echo chamber).
  • Scrutinize the candidate statements.
  • Read the various letters in the Cricket.
  • Reject the unsustainable “No to change” approach.
  • Reject misinformation.
  • Always consider the source because that’s just common sense.


Join me in voting for candidates who: 

  • Understand the job and roles and responsibilities of the Boards, AND the legal requirements and limitations of the regulatory framework. 
  • Have the relevant education, experience, and skills necessary for understanding and writing regulations.
  • Are committed to listening to and learning from subject matter experts, whether they be fellow board members, local professionals, or outside consultants. 
  • Have the emotional intelligence to foster building consensus, rather than relying on bullying consensus. 
  • Are committed to transparency and ethics…and will prove it in words and action!


Gary L Russell, AICP

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