Wednesday January 30, 2013

WILMINGTON -- The zoning administrator’s three-year term is about to expire, but she hopes to be re-appointed soon.
"I like meeting different people and hearing different projects," said Wilmington Zoning Administrator Alice Herrick. "I know that zoning can be a very difficult subject to understand and I like helping people kind of get through that difficulty and make that process easier for them."

Early in February, the term for the position as zoning administrator will be up, so the Selectboard will be making the final decision on whether or not Herrick gets re-appointed. This position is always done in a three-year term, which is regulated by state law.

At the Selectboard meeting on Jan. 16, board member Meg Streeter said there had been three terms for this position in Wilmington.

This last run had been Herrick’s second term. There had been one other zoning administrator who served one term in Wilmington before Herrick took the position.

"Previous to that, the zoning bylaw was administered as a part-time function by someone else in the office," said Herrick.

Streeter also mentioned that zoning applications have decreased and the state handles some of the permitting now.

Streeter said she had no opinion on the matter, but there may not be a need for a full-time position anymore. Her point had been for the board to look into what necessary action to take in regards to potentially making the job a part-time position.

Herrick has been the zoning administrator in Wilmington for six years and worked in Brattleboro, doing the same job, for seven-and-a-half years.

"I’ve always been in town government, one way or another," Herrick said. "It’s kind of a family tradition. My father was on cemetery and sewer commission. I’d follow him around as a kid and watch people dig holes in the ground."

In Wilmington, she has helped decrease the time frame that it takes for a person to get a routine permit.

"The zoning administrator has 30 days to deal with any permit or any application that comes on my desk," said Herrick, adding, "85 percent of all the permits that I can approve are done in 24 hours."

In 2012, the Wilmington Development Review Board had some interesting cases that Herrick played a role in assisting the board with. This past summer had been particularly busy for Herrick and the DRB alike.

A proposal from Haystack came in and received a favorable decision on some construction on July 26, 2012.

"They (Haystack) kind of did an overview for a lot of the changes they were making to previous approvals," said Herrick. "So the board went through and they approved all these changes. Some of the components of that, they (the DRB) said that I could issue permits for separately, like construction of a building. Then I would wait until they (Haystack) had final plans and paid the fees for that. Then I’d issue those permits separately."

Once Haystack owner Jim Barnes and his team had the final plans for the 90,000-square-foot lodge, they came back to the board and received final approval on Oct. 24.

The Cold Brook Fire District came to the DRB with three different proposals that had been applied for in an attempt to upgrade its water and sewer systems. Herrick said it was "mostly to support the Haystack development."

The first proposal came in Aug. 23 and the others followed on Sept. 4. Not all the cases waiting to be heard can fit into a scheduled hearing.

"We have a limit for the number of cases that can go before the DRB in one meeting night," Herrick said. "We had enough time for one of the Cold Brook items. The next two had to wait for the next meeting."

Herrick mentioned that there have been "very complicated" cases, over the past year, especially with "post-flood things," which have proved to be difficult.

"There’s so many different components," she said. "Especially if it’s in the downtown Historic Review District. Dot’s is a good example and we’re in the middle of the Coleman hearing."

Dot’s Restaurant had gone before the board with two different sets of findings. At first, its owners applied their findings for the flood hazard review. Those findings for that were signed and approved on June 11, 2012.

Then the owners submitted findings that had to do with variances and conditional use permits. That decision was approved on July 3, 2012.

The Ann Coleman Gallery, which had been destroyed in Tropical Storm Irene, has had three hearings already. The DRB had its last hearing on the Coleman Gallery on Jan. 7. The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 4.

In Brattleboro, Herrick began working as a deputy zoning administrator first, then became the zoning administrator.

"In Brattleboro, the planning director was also the zoning administrator," said Herrick. "The deputy zoning administrator is what we’d call the assistant zoning administrator but functioned as the zoning administrator. They would do all the basic issuing of permits and scheduling."

The planning director would help Herrick in the beginning, when she was new. Then, the two jobs were split apart. That’s when Herrick became the zoning administrator in Brattleboro.

Herrick told the Reformer that Brattleboro had "a little bit more bigger projects, but zoning is pretty much the same in all the towns."

Herrick has also been working part-time as a lister, or otherwise known as property tax assessor, in Marlboro for the past 15 to 20 years, she said. Herrick serves on a three-person committee that makes a list of the property that is taxable in the town.

The Selectboard will talk about re-appointing Herrick at the next regular Selectboard meeting on Feb. 6.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.