Wilmington appoints new DRB members


WILMINGTON -- Despite requests made during public comment on Wednesday to reappoint members of the Development Review Board who resigned, and the fact the DRB is still short, the Selectboard went ahead and appointed two new regular members as well as one alternate.

"I believe there are five spaces and they're still short two. Those spaces will be taken up on a temporary basis," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy.

Once out of executive session, the Selectboard accepted the resignations of DRB members Sherry Brissette, Sheila Osler, Andy Schindel, former chairwoman Nicki Steel and alternate Andy Schindel. Selectboard Chairman Jim Burke thanked them for their service.

Resignation notices began coming in after Schindel was appointed as an alternate rather than a regular member. He had told Selectboard members during a telephone interview that he would not accept the position as an alternate member. The other three DRB members followed suit.

On Wednesday, Wendy Manners was appointed as a regular member for a term that will end in 2016. As Planning Commission Chairwoman, she said she had approximately two years experience dealing with zoning bylaws.

Manners told the Selectboard that she would like to see some of the commission's goals reached before leaving the commission. Some of those goals were outlined in a municipal planning grant, which include evaluating the historic review district, signage and waiver process. Through the grant, services from Windham Regional Commission will be available to the commission until June 2015.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving the Planning Commission if there wasn't a plan to find someone to fulfill the role," said Manners. "For a very short term, I can play both roles but I could not do that for long. I'm not quite clear how that succession would look right now. I'm concerned that it could go on for a long time."

She stated she could immediately assume a role as a DRB member.

During public comment, Carl Boyd read a letter written by Carolyn Palmer that mentioned a petition going around, which had received 39 signatures.

The petition was urging the Selectboard to reconsider its position, asking the board to reappoint Schindel as a regular member as well as the other members who resigned. Palmer's letter acknowledged "the insult to Andy Schindel... an exemplary member."

"No one else was asking to be a regular member," the letter stated. "We understand no meetings were postponed for lack of quorum while Andy was away this winter."

The letter also mentioned that winter months are the slowest for applications to the DRB. Those who signed the letter were said to be concerned about the lack of experience of new members joining the DRB.

Deb Dorsett was also appointed as a regular DRB member. Although originally interviewing for an alternate position, she agreed to join as a regular member if the Selectboard thought it was appropriate. Her term is set to expire in 2015.

"It sounds like a lot is happening," said Dorsett. "Maybe you'll have more applicants."

The town is in the middle of a project, led by Economic Development Consultant Gretchen Havreluk and downtown organization Wilmington Works, to fill vacant buildings in the downtown region. There is also talk of the Hermitage Club coming in for additional permitting at its Haystack Mountain base lodge -- currently under construction -- where a hotel may be developed.

Fred Houston was appointed as an alternate. He had past experience as chairman of the Newfane Planning Commission.

"Because of sins in past lives, I'm a lawyer in this one," he said. "I can read zoning bylaw and know how to interpret statutes and most of case law with permitting zoning."

The Selectboard decided not to appoint Tom Manton as a regular member. Selectboard member Susie Haughwout abstained from voting on Manton because the two are siblings. The board did not cite any reason before the meeting closed.

Two questions that the Selectboard asked during interviews had to do with recent concerns. Alternates were asked if they would be willing to attend more meetings until the DRB was filled while all candidates were asked if they would be willing to attend more meetings if permit applications were backed up.

Before the Selectboard made appointments to the DRB, newcomer Peter Wallace was the only regular member. He had only sat in on one case on April 7. Meg Streeter was previously appointed as an alternate.

Palmer advised the Selectboard to make the interview candidates at Wednesday night's meeting alternates to make sure a quorum was always available. In closing, she stated that residents wanted to see Wilmington "continue its regrowth without being jeopardized."

Former Selectboard member Tom Consolino echoed Palmer's sentiments and called for more transparency within the town.

"There must be trust on all sides," he said. "I hope members will continue to take steps to regain trust."

Two other residents voiced their concern over the recent events before the meeting continued.

The Selectboard approved a revised appointment policy for how it handles appointing and reappointing board, commission and committee members. Murphy pointed out the new changes.

"Instead of by the end of February, it's the first meeting in March that the Selectboard will reappoint someone or not," he said.

The other change will give the Selectboard two weeks after an interview to vote on whether a candidate will be appointed. Previously, the board had one week to let the candidate know whether they were appointed.

Burke said that an interview for a person seeking reappointment will depend upon whether the Selectboard deems it necessary.

"If we want to interview them, we will interview them in an open session," he said.

The Selectboard will also review the zoning permitting process that applicants must go through in order to be heard by the DRB. During her first week as Interim Zoning Administrator, Diane Chapman and Town Administrative Assistant Jessica DeFrancesco had looked into streamlining the process.

"You could probably use one application and make it simple for everyone," said Chapman. "It's just food for thought."

At the meeting, DeFrancesco believed there were approximately 10 different applications on the website. Selectboard member Tom Fitzgerald mentioned the possibility of submitting an application digitally rather than having to bring papers into Town Offices. He said people could pay the associated fees by credit card.

Murphy asked the Selectboard if it would like to reschedule the April 23 meeting, which was going to include a discussion between DRB, Planning Commission and Selectboard members on how to create a smoother process for the public.

"With all the reappointments and all those issues that came up with that, we thought it may be best to reschedule this meeting for sometime in May, which would allow the boards to reassemble and come together and talk about what we were going to talk about," he said.

The Selectboard agreed to inquire what date in the future would be best with all groups to meet. An e-mail will be sent out to determine when everyone would be available.

The DRB will have its first meeting with the new members on May 5. Officials expect two cases will be heard.

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


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