MANCHESTER — Greg Boshart, who sat on the Manchester Planning Commission for 14 years and served as its chair, has stepped down from the panel, saying it’s time for others to bring their energy and ideas to formulating the town’s land use policies.
“I thought given that we live in Dorset now and given the duration of time on the commission, it was best to let others run with it,” Boshart, the owner of Maple Valley Design Build Inc. in Manchester, said Tuesday.
Commission Chairman Phil Peterson said Boshart had alerted him last year that the December and January meetings would be his last as part of the five-member commission. The panel sets land use policy and is responsible for the town plan.
“He’s done an incredible job stewarding changes,” Peterson said of Boshart’s work on the panel, most notably his efforts on the 2019 rewrite of the town’s land use ordinance and zoning map.
The makeover streamlined and modernized a land use ordinance that had become cumbersome, and reflected the town’s desire to promote a more vibrant downtown with higher density housing while protecting its rural character and open space.
Boshart, who ceded his position as the commission’s chair last year, had considered stepping down earlier, but said he stayed on to help Peterson’s transition.
When Boshart first joined the commission, the Main Street-Depot Street roundabout had yet to be completed and “the outlets were still booming,” he recalled. He said the redesign of Depot Street to make it more pedestrian-friendly and the rewrite of the zoning ordinance were the commission’s most significant accomplishments during his time on the board.
“We had just moved here from out of state,” Boshart, a New York state native and Syracuse University-trained architect, recalled. “I was a new architect in town working for Bill Badger, one of my big mentors, and I wanted to get involved with the community. I wanted to dive in as quickly as possible and bring my expertise to the table.”
“I always like it when people who provide a complaint also provide a solution. I wanted to be part of the solution,” he added.
Living in Vermont made that possible, Boshart said.
“One of the things I love about Vermont is you can be an individual in a community and really be a part of it. I would not necessarily have done that in a big city … here, access was easy.”
Boshart and his family were Manchester residents when he joined the commission. Under state law, a majority of a planning commission’s membership must reside within the city or town, but non-residents are allowed to be members as well.
While there had been comments from some residents noting Boshart was no longer a Manchester resident, he said that was not the primary reason he stepped down. He said he hoped to remain involved in town affairs; his business is in Manchester, and he owns that commercial property as well as another residential parcel.
Boshart’s departure comes two months after former Planning and Zoning Director Janet Hurley left the position to become a senior planner for the Bennington County Regional Commission. The town is presently seeking a zoning administrator, and the Selectboard is considering — in the face of significant budget pressure — whether it can add a full-time planner or have one person responsible for planning and zoning, as Hurley was.
In the meantime, Peterson and Boshart both urged residents interested in land use planning to consider joining the commission, particularly as it tackles a rewrite of the town plan and efforts to address a worsening housing crisis.
“I wish more people would come and get involved. I think it’s important especially now — there’s a lot going on,” Boshart said.
“I’d like more people to apply,” Peterson added. “The only reason I filled out my original application was because I had found some notification somewhere that the town was looking for people.”
The Conservation Commission, the Design Advisory Committee, the Development Review Board, the Tree Committee and the Investment Advisory Board are also seeking members, according to interim town manager Leslie Perra.
People interested in serving the town as a member of a board or commission can find the application on the town website, manchester-vt.gov, under “boards and commissions.”