Saturday June 1, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

POWNAL -- For the second time the Select Board has declined to appoint Nelson Brownell as zoning administrator.

Last week the Planning Commission voted unanimously to nominate Brownell, who has done the job for years and is currently holding in the interim. On Thursday the Select Board voted three to one to reject the nomination.

A joint meeting between the commission and board was tentatively set for June 11 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the appointment of a zoning administrator.

The planners first nominated Brownell in April but the board instead appointed Dave Thomas, a member of the Development Review Board. The board failed to follow the correct procedure, however, and so it sent the nomination back to the commission with a request for a new one. Again, the commission said it wanted Brownell and sent a letter to the board explaining its decision.

Best qualified applicant

According to the letter, signed by the commission’s chairman, Michael Slattery, both votes to nominate Brownell were unanimous because he was the best qualified of five applicants.

"The Planning Commission works very closely with the Zoning Administrator as he counsels and guides us on a variety of topics including the interpretation of the bylaws and by helping us to devise an appropriate Town Plan.


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Nelson has been instrumental in all of these functions and has offered his expertise in assisting us with grant applications just to name a few things he does well for us," reads the letter. "We are very comfortable working with Nelson, and ask that the Select Board consider Nelson for three more years as Zoning Administrator."

The letter was accompanied by another which was a response to a letter sent by the board to the commission explaining why it wanted someone other than Brownell in the ZA position. Besides wanting a "fresh" start the board raised concerns over bylaws being enforced.

"We, on the Planning Commission, share your concerns regarding the difficulty in enforcing and following up on compliance," said Slattery in the commission’s letter. "...we find the primary underlying factor impeding enforcement is the lack of authorization afforded the ZA by the current Town Plan, Bylaws, and also the grandfather clauses of the State Statute. This lack of enforcement power often ties the hands of the ZA," reads the letter in part. It asks for the board’s support in rewriting the town plan to strengthen and clarify the powers of the ZA where appropriate.

Select Board member Ronald Bisson suggested the board wait until all members were present before making a decision on the second nomination Thursday.