WILMINGTON -- The town needed help quick.
"I can see the need for enacting an interim zoning administrator and someone with a little background," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy. "Anytime we have a question, it takes us quite some time. And we don’t have the authority to sign off on a permit."
On Wednesday, Selectboard member Diane Chapman volunteered to act as the interim zoning administrator. She had held the same position in Dover in previous years and agreed to be in the office for two days a week.
Alice Herrick’s last day was March 28. She was Wilmington’s zoning administrator for seven years.
With permit applications coming in and permits being issued on a regular basis, town officials worried about whether the lack of an administrator could hinder economic development efforts in the downtown.
Development Review Board Chairwoman Nicki Steel had mentioned that without someone filling in, the board may not be able to get its decisions out as quickly.
Time was of the essence when it came to Cliff Duncan’s building on West Main Street, which owners of Zoar Outdoors hope to purchase but first needed local approval. The decision was made and a permit was issued.
Chapman expressed concern that the public may consider her membership on the Selectboard a conflict of interest.
Murphy pointed out that so far, all applicants did not have any background or experience with the position. He said they would be "learning it from scratch."
"No one in the past, in Wilmington or Dover, has had experience," said Selectboard member Susie Haughwout.
Chapman learned the job when she was appointed in Dover and received assistance from Town Clerk Andy McLean. Before that, she was a secretary to the Development Review Board, which had given her some zoning experience.
The town will continue seeking a permanent zoning administrator. There was no time limit attached to Chapman’s appointment.
At the meeting, the Selectboard appointed Andy Schindel as an alternate on the DRB although he sought reappointment for a regular seat. He had a telephone interview with the Selectboard on March 19 and another interview before the appointment.
When the decision was questioned, Selectboard member Tom Fitzgerald said it was his idea.
"If we had a person with nine years as an alternate, perhaps we could have someone new come on and he be a mentor and get younger blood on the board," he continued. "I don’t know Andy. All I know is he has nine years experience. We need to bring new people on board. That’s what I brought up. The board did follow through even though I was the new guy."
Fitzgerald was the only member to vote against the appointment and explained that he had wanted Schindel to be a full member but also suggested the idea of making him an alternate.
"My main concern is Andy’s gone three months out of the year. This year, they had to postpone meetings in order to have a quorum," said Chapman, mentioning that it is a crucial time for development in the downtown. "I have nothing against Andy Schindel. He did a very fine job."
Haughwout believed that by making Schindel an alternate, the town would have the best of both worlds: His expertise would be utilized without having a regular member being gone a quarter of the year.
Former Selectboard Chairwoman Meg Streeter was also appointed as an alternate member of the DRB at the meeting.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.