Zoning Board of Appeals Candidates

meet your candidates!

Benjamin Christensen

Why are you running?
I’m running because while I’m an environmentalist and conservationist at heart, I recognize that development is a necessary path for growth in communities. Tolland is in an incredible spot where we have numerous open space conservation properties that residents have vocally supported. In order to foster these spaces, we need people that will enjoy them. In order to bring in new people, we need to develop the community, whether through housing or commercial means. This isn’t a bad thing, it just needs to be done the right way. I’d like to be elected to the ZBA to  help maintain a balance between development and conservation. I was always told that if you don’t have time to do something right, you don’t have time to do it twice, and I want to see Tolland engage in development and conservation in the right ways. My bullet point for messaging would be something around – striking a balance between development and conservation.

Previous service to the community:
Volunteer Firefighter/EMT, Tolland Charter Revision Commission, Tolland Conservation Commission

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Zoning Board of Appeals? 
My personal and professional lives have often intertwined in the method of working with both large groups of stakeholders from across socioeconomic backgrounds, to small focused groups with a pointed interest. This has allowed me to develop and grow relationships across various institutions such as local hospitals and the University of Connecticut, while working to advance administrative and operational functions within different departments, such as clinical spaces and background support areas. Taking the skills I’ve learned and honed in these professional capacities, I’ve shifted my personal focus to roles and subject areas that are close to me. This evolved from an alternate position on the Tolland Conservation Commission to my currently held role as Vice Chair. I think that my professional skills and personal interests and experiences can go hand-in-hand in a way that will prove valuable to the land use boards in Tolland.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
My vision for Tolland is a sustainable, cohesive community that efficiently balances the need for development and the need for conservation. These issues are both important, and both are vital to a community, however they are often seen as two competing sides to the same coin. There is no reason that if done well, the community of Tolland could not balance the coin on edge and give equal face time to both sides.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Tolland is #worthit to me because it is in the unique position of having the opportunity, if taken, to create a vibrant downtown area while maintaining the rural and environmental aesthetic that we all enjoy and respect.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
An avid hiker, I enjoy time in the woods with my partner and two dogs. I love to read and travel. And still have yet to grow out of playing video games.

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
I once went to Dublin on a whim for St. Patrick’s Day; I once got licked on the cheek by a wolf.

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
“Life will find a way.” – Jurassic Park

Ben Chevalier

Why are you running?
I am running for the Zoning Board of Appeals because I believe that we need to find the balance between promoting development and preserving Tolland’s open space and  New England town charm.

Previous service to the community:
I am currently serving my second 2-year term as Zoning Board of Appeals Alternate. I served as a buddy for the Tolland Soccer Club’s TOPSoccer program from 2009-2014.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Zoning Board of Appeals? 
I was born and raised in Tolland so I understand that we need to preserve our town’s historical characteristics while also creating community-based zoning regulations to ensure sustainable development in our town. I am currently employed in the Food Service and Hospitably Industry. This experience has allowed me to see how local zoning regulations and community-focus development affects both local business and residents. My time in this industry also helped me develop valuable team-building skills that I will use to work with the other members of the Board to ensure we make positive decisions for the community.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
My vision for the future of our town is one where we balance the need for reasonable and sustainable commercial development with preserving our New England town charm. This includes creating effective zoning regulations while allowing our residents and business owners to use their property to its full potential. An initiative I hope to focus on while serving is creating a streamlined process to help residents who have non-conforming lots be able to use their lands effectively. This would help to remove unnecessary and time-consuming steps for these residents during the approval process, and allow for the full use of their property.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Tolland is #worthit to me because I believe we need to preserve our conservation lands, trails, and historical properties while ensuring that we promote responsible development that meets the needs of our community. One way we accomplish this is making sure  that our zoning regulations allow for the effective use of commercial and residential lands in Tolland

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
One of my main hobbies is taking our dog Sofe to visit different dog-friendly trails and parks around the state. I also spend my free time reading about current events and world history, along with writing about historical events.

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
I am avid soccer fan and a fan of American and world history trivia

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
One of my favorite quotes is one by Former South African President Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Christopher Scheidel

Why are you running?
Tolland has a natural beauty of preserved areas within town. However, I think that needs to be balanced with smart decision-making on growth opportunities that contribute to all the residents of Tolland. We CAN have both. It is my hope that by serving on the ZBA I can help planning and zoning along with residents, and consider projects that are requesting variances to make smart decisions that benefit all.

Previous service to the community:
I’ve served on the Birch Grove Building committee for the past 2 years, helping to make decisions to ensure that we complete the school on time, on budget, and provide a safe learning environment for our young citizens of Tolland. I’ve also worked with various non-profits and leadership development groups to help give back to the community.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Zoning Board of Appeals? 
I was born and raised in Connecticut and have spent the last 20+ years in technology leadership for Fortune 100 financial services companies. In 2020, I left a large company to build my own company in the market intelligence space. These experiences have allowed me to travel the world and live in other countries, but I’ve always come back to Connecticut, and back to Tolland where we founded our home in 2012. 

During this time I’ve made it a priority to continue my education and to give back whenever I can. I spent three years in an international MBA program that gave me the opportunity to see the world from numerous perspectives which has been invaluable to me as I often encounter various perspectives, ways of thinking, and concerns from the people I mentor, speak to in various leadership topics, or learn from in various volunteer opportunities.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
The challenges we face today are multi-dimensional, and there is never one right answer. The type of leadership we need today is one that is able to listen first, then act decisively and compassionately second – all while finding a path that maximizes the value to all residents using sound decisioning, logic, and science as our guides. If elected to ZBA, I hope to assist Tolland in making good decisions for its future growth.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think that my fellow residents are worth extra time from me. I’ve seen what this community can accomplish as evidenced by the Birch Grove project and it has filled me with a sense of hope and optimism that I am planning to harness in my role on ZBA, if elected.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I enjoy the intersection of art and science. I am an avid musician and can often be found playing shows around the eastern CT area with other Tolland dads. I also enjoy creating hardware and finding unique solutions to automating things.

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
(1) I can speak Japanese, though there are not many Japanese speakers in our area. (2) I co-wrote and published a song with my favorite rock-star from my teenage days, basically completing my rock star dream before settling into a career.

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it.” – Simon Sinek