Downtown Wilmington. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
Downtown Wilmington. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

WILMINGTON -- Controversy is swirling around the town's Development Review Board after three members, including the board chairwoman, resigned earlier this month.

DRB Chairwoman Nicki Steel, as well as DRB members Sherry Brissette and Sheila Osler, sent notices of resignation to Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy.

"Most of them did not put a reason in," said Murphy.

However, he said he believes it had to do with the Selectboard's decision to appoint Andy Schindel as an alternate member of the DRB during the April 2 meeting.

At the meeting, Selectboard members defended their position but did not acknowledge that Schindel did not want to be an alternate. After serving as vice chairman of the DRB, he was seeking reappointment as a regular member and it was going to be his fourth three-year term.

Schindel's being away for several months during the winter was cited as a reason for not making him a regular member. Having Schindel serve as a mentor to someone new on the board was also mentioned.

Schindel had sent Murphy an e-mail stating that he had told Selectboard members in a telephone interview that he would not accept an alternate position.

"As I told Selectboard Chair(man) Jim Burke and member Tom Fitzgerald in a recent interview initiated by them, I would not accept an alternate position but only a regular position," stated Schindel's e-mail. "In fact, I told them several times. I have also been informed that at the Selectboard meeting, my refusal to accept the alternate position was not mentioned by Burke or others."

On April 7, the DRB had quorum to hold a scheduled hearing. The members who were resigning had said they would render and write the decision regarding that hearing.

"I've worked with Andy (Schindel) for more than nine years," said Steel. "He is an invaluable member. How could I, as a board member with him, not be supportive of what I see as a kind of slap in the face?"

She mentioned Schindel having all the talents that DRB needs for its duties.

Brissette cited the treatment of Schindel for why she was leaving. In an e-mail to Murphy, Osler said she was resigning from the DRB in support of her colleagues.

Attending his first meeting as a member of the DRB, Peter Wallace told the Reformer that he was neutral but concerned about how he'd learn expected duties without the experienced members.

In a letter to the Selectboard, Steel pointed out qualities that a good DRB should have, which included professionalism, dedication, knowledge and the willingness to continue to learn, respect for others on the board and for those who appear before them, attention to detail, due process and the legal ramifications for the town, the ability to balance reasonableness and the law (and) willingness to give countless hours.

"These are some of the qualities of a good (DRB), all of which I believe the Wilmington DRB has had in abundance. Apparently, these are not qualities that the Selectboard values -- although I am hard-pressed to know why," the letter stated. "It is with deep sadness and frustration that I resign from the DRB, a position that I have held for 22 years."

Murphy told the Reformer that the Selectboard has briefly discussed the situation.

"Nothing solid was determined yet," he said. "I don't know where we're going to go from here at the moment.

A joint meeting between the Selectboard, Planning Commission and the DRB is scheduled for April 23. Murphy believes it will be helpful.

"I think it will help streamline some things. It will help the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is really looking forward to it," he said. "It will give the Selectboard thoughts on how it wants to reorganize (the DRB) if it chooses to do so. I think the goal is to get everyone on the same page, fill in the seats and get this thing going."

Speculating on the topic, Murphy mentioned that the Selectboard may have thought the DRB process had become onerous.

"I think they had a different process in mind that is more easily understood by the public," he said.

There is no hearing scheduled for the second meeting time in April. The next hearing is scheduled for May 12.

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