Pownal meeting ends in tie votes, no consultant

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POWNAL — An at-times contentious Select Board meeting last Thursday ended in tie votes and no consultant for zoning bylaws.

The board split their votes for a consultant for the Municipal Planning Grant for zoning bylaw review between the Bennington County Regional Commission and Sven Fedorow, an attorney.

Each vote ended in a 2-2 tie.

Board members Ron Bisson and Robert "Bob" Jarvis voted in favor of Fedorow, who had also previously applied to the town administrator position; Jason Olansky and Suzanne Caraman voted in favor of BCRC.

Jarvis attended the meeting via phone conference.

In the case of a 2-2 vote, the motions can't pass, said Michael Walker, town administrator, when reached Friday.

"I have to start all over again," he said. He sent out a new Request for Qualifications for the consultant last Friday.

The RFQ did not change in substance from the first iteration, Walker said. The responses are due March 18.

"When the bids come in, I've got to bring them back, and the hope is that [the board] pick a bidder as a majority, so we can forward," he said.

The Municipal Planning Grant is for the town to look over the zoning bylaws concerning economic development, he said.

The town approved a new town plan last spring, and not all of the zoning bylaws match the language in that plan, he said.

"So you've got to change them," he said.

That's done with a consultant, who provides recommendations.

Walker had recommended the BCRC be awarded the consultancy, as Fedorow had not followed all the requirements of the RFQ.

His response was late, and he also did not follow specific guidelines for putting the package together, Walker said.

"Don't get me wrong — the guy is super-qualified," he said.

Fedorow is an attorney and also attended school for economics in a "renowned institution," he said.

He had also recommended BCRC because they know the town plan and zoning bylaws intimately, he said.

The board went into executive session to discuss who to approve as consultant, at the suggestion of Jarvis.

Before the executive session, Michael Slattery, chairman of the planning commission, spoke to the board in favor of bringing on BCRC.

"In hiring the BCRC as a consultant, you have some known commodities," he said.

They also worked with the town in "lock-step" on the town plan, and know the town's bylaws.

"I would like to think in the spirit of cooperation here, the Select Board and the planning commission would work together on this," he said.

Jarvis said some things about Fedorow's qualifications really "stick out," and he didn't think the board should make a decision without discussing them.

"I repeat — he didn't put the package together correctly," Walker said at the meeting, referring to Fedorow's response to the RFQ. "You can't do that — man, please."

Slattery responded, saying he didn't see anything wrong with Fedorow's resume, but the town knows BCRC.

"There's some real pros and cons here," Jarvis replied. "There's some things I think we really need to talk about here."

Every five or six years, towns ought to be looking at their bylaws, said Slattery, in a conversation with the Banner while the board was in executive session.

Anytime there's a new town plan, it's important to look at the bylaws, to make sure they're in line with the vision painted in the plan, he said.

"Best to hire a consultant to make sure you're in compliance," he said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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