Friday April 5, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- Although the Select Board has made it clear it does not wish to see Nelson Brownell as zoning administrator, because of a procedural error he remains in the position.

In Pownal, when it comes time for the zoning administrator to be reappointed, the Planning Commission votes on who to recommend to the Select Board. The board then votes on whether or not to appoint that person or request a new recommendation from the commission.

Board Chairman Stephen Kauppi said the board made a mistake when it rejected the Planning Commission’s recommendation to appoint Brownell and instead appointed David Thomas, a member of the Development Review Board.

On March 21 the Select Board received a recommendation from the Planning Commission to appoint Brownell to the zoning administrator position. Board Chairman Stephen Kauppi said he and board members Michael George and Dale Palmer voted against Brownell’s nomination while board members Ronald Bisson and Rich Ryder voted for it. Kauppi said the motion to appoint Thomas was supported by all of the board except Bisson.

Kauppi said this was all done in error and the board should have sent a letter to the commission asking for a new recommendation. He said a meeting was held on March 28 to rectify the mistake and on Tuesday he attended a commission meeting to explain what happened.

Commission Chairman Michael Slattery said in an interview that it appears the board made an innocent mistake. The commission decided to table the matter of recommending a new zoning administrator to a later meeting, which he said might be the one after next. The commission meets regularly once a month. Slattery said five candidates were considered by the commission and it’s likely their next recommendation will come from that group. The commission can recommend Brownell again. If Thomas is appointed by the board he would have to step down from his position on the Development Review Board .

Kauppi said the board has requested a person knowledgeable in building trades and the town’s bylaws.

He said the board wishes someone different than Brownell because of the length of time Brownell has served. "I’m a proponent of not having a person stay in a position too long," he said. "They get comfortable with it."

Brownell has been the zoning administrator for long periods since he started with town government in the 1970s.

This is not the first time the board has been divided over Brownell being the zoning administrator . His last appointment was in 2010; after the board was split 2-2 over his appointment, he cast the tie breaking vote in favor himself, but later rescinded it saying that action was a conflict of interest. At that time he was the board chairman and other board members raised concerns over how widely the zoning administrator position was advertised. After interviewing candidates in public session the commission recommended a man from Readsboro, but the board rejected that appointment. Brownell was then recommended by the commission and approved by the board.

The Planning Commission is responsible for crafting zoning bylaws which govern the building of structures in town. The zoning administrator handles building applications and approves them if they are routine and send them the Development Review Board when there are questions or a variance is needed.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr