Windham Regional Commission Senior Planner John Bennett, right, fields questions from new Development Review Board members. (Chris Mays/Reformer)
Windham Regional Commission Senior Planner John Bennett, right, fields questions from new Development Review Board members. (Chris Mays/Reformer)

WILMINGTON -- Peter Wallace was elected chairman of the Development Review Board shortly after it was pointed out that with one prior meeting under his belt, he was the most senior member of the new group.

"We're off and running," said Wallace. "We have a lot of newbies."

On May 5, the DRB had a reorganization and work session with Windham Regional Commission Senior Planner John Bennett, who has experience assisting the town's Planning Commission through municipal planning grants. His service to the DRB will come with a charge to the town.

With all new members with no DRB experience, except for alternate Paul Tonon, the session was held before its first official hearing on May 12. It will be a special meeting to hear two cases involving properties downtown.

The board will consider an application from LH Vermont House, located at 15 West Main Street. Applicants are looking to change the use of the property to an inn and install new windows and a handicap ramp. The other application is from Lorista Holdings LLC and the Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC. The applicants want to change the use of the properties at 1, 3 and 5 East Main Street to an inn and retail store as well as attach and renovate the buildings.

Former DRB members Sheila Osler, Sherry Brissette and Nicki Steel resigned after the Selectboard chose to appoint Andy Schindel as an alternate. He had said that he would not accept the appointment if it were not as a regular member.


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New members were interviewed then appointed by the Selectboard. During reorganization, the DRB elected Deb Dorsett to serve as vice chairwoman while Wendy Manners was elected clerk.

Serving also as Planning Commission Chairwoman, Manners is versed in the zoning bylaws. Ordinances for telecommunications were the only parts she said she was not as familiar with.

Manners was initially concerned about the work load of the clerk position but was assured she only had to write the minutes. Drafting decisions could be a shared task among the board.

Bennett handed out documents that included information regarding the Vermont Municipal Regional Planning Act and what is required of a municipal panel such as the DRB. He referred to statutes that would need to be known by the board.

"This will tell you about the procedural requires and gives you sort of an overview on what the DRB's role is," said Bennett, who also said that their jobs are to interpret and determine development standards.

If board members had questions, Bennett said they could call him but having one person as a contact was advised.

"There's no budget for the DRB," said Meg Streeter, a DRB alternate. "So we might want to confer with (Town Manager) Scott (Murphy) so it's not a lot of excess expenses he's not aware of."

The question of how alternates can be used came up. Bennett said he believed there could be a quorum if an alternate was appointed to the case.

"It has to be planned," said Streeter. "We get cases two weeks ahead. You know if you're going to have a conflict or not. You let Peter (Wallace) know."

According to Tonon, the DRB did not have alternates in recent years. He was appointed by Selectboard as an alternate only used if a quorum was needed.

"I'm an alternate alternate," he said.

DRB members and interim Zoning Administrator Diane Chapman thought the minutes from the Selectboard meeting where Tonon was appointed should be reviewed. It was suggested that he should be appointed as a full-time alternate if necessary.

Disclosing information was brought up by Tonon. For an example, he said if a member is shopping at the supermarket and is approached by someone who recognizes them.

"If they say, 'You can't vote against that on Wednesday.'... then before the meeting, you should disclose that a person came up to you said such and such and it's not going to affect how I vote," he added. "That you really need to be concerned about."

As an owner of a coffee shop downtown, Wallace thought it could be difficult at times because hearings may be discussed there.

"It's going to come up," said Tonon.

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