Two resign from DRB following vote flap
by Jack Deming
Apr 04, 2014 | 3403 views | 0 0 comments | 89 89 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- Nicki Steel and Andy Schindel, the chair and vice chair of the Development Review Board, have both resigned their positions following a reappointment vote addressing Schindel’s role.

While the selectboard reappointed all incumbent members of the town’s boards, commissions, and committees to their current positions, they decided to hold a separate vote over the reappointment of Schindel, who has served on the DRB for nine years.

The board voted four to one to reappoint Schindel as an alternate member of the board, rather than as a full-time member, with selectboard member Tom Fitzgerald providing the only dissenting vote.

Schindel’s appointment as an alternate comes after two phone conversations with members of the board, one public and one private. According to published reports, during a call on March 19, Schindel explained to the board a number of the challenges that the DRB faced in recruiting and retaining members, due to the time, effort, and knowledge that go into the volunteer position. A second phone call was held between Schindel, Burke, and Fitzgerald at a later time, and Burke would not comment on the topics discussed.

But Schindel will not be serving as an alternate or on the DRB in any capacity, according to a letter of resignation sent to town manager Scott Murphy Wednesday night. In his resignation letter, Schindel says he made it clear during his phone conversation with Burke and Fitzgerald that he would not accept an alternate position, only his regular full-time position.

Neither Burke nor Fitzgerald informed the board publicly of this information at Wednesday night’s meeting, and even with Schindel making it clear to board members he would not accept a position as an alternate, the board so voted to appoint him. An executive session was held at the beginning of the meeting to evaluate a town official.

On Thursday morning, DRB chair Nicki Steel sent a notice of resignation to the board requesting it be effective at the time the DRB signs off on the decision that will come from a hearing scheduled for this Monday night. Steel said she would send a formal letter to the town on Friday.

Some members of the selectboard made their decision based upon concerns over Schindel leaving town for three months each year, between January and April. “My main concern is Andy is gone three months out of the year and this year they had to postpone hearings because they didn’t have a quorum,” said vice chair of the board Diane Chapman. “I just thought it was important to get another full-time member on there because this is a crucial time for the downtown.”

Board member Susie Haughwout echoed Chapman’s sentiment. “The alternate position is the best of both worlds for us,” said Haughwout. “We get to retain his expertise in assisting the board, but we also get to look for a permanent position that could be here most of the year and not gone for a full quarter. We have no problem that he wants to spend his winters elsewhere, but it put a crimp in the schedule this year and it could happen again.”

“We need to think toward the future,” said Burke “If they are ready to fill that seat and they find someone, he can still be an alternate.”

Since Town Meeting, three public officials have sent their resignations to the town. Zoning administrator Alice Herrick resigned effective April 1, and now Schindel and Steel are leaving their positions as well. The DRB has struggled to find members in the past year and has already undergone a plethora of changes, including the departure of two members, Frank Sprague and Gil Oxley, as well as the appointment of Sherry Brissette and most recently Peter Wallace as full-time members. At the end of Wednesday night’s meeting, Meg Streeter was appointed as an alternate to the board, joining Paul Tonan in that capacity.

Later in the meeting the board voted unanimously to appoint Chapman as temporary zoning administrator as the town continues its search for a full-time replacement for Herrick. Chapman has previously served in the same capacity in Dover, and said that she would be able to fulfill the position’s duties for two days a week.

Chapman was initially concerned that there would be a conflict of interest in her appointment, but town manager Scott Murphy said that he had checked and there was no such conflict. Burke agreed with Murphy. “ There is no conflict, your giving out permits would have nothing to do with us. If someone comes before us with a qualm about zoning you can recuse yourself.”

The board also discussed and postponed making amendments to their reappointment policy for town boards, commissions, and committees, which are mostly volunteer positions. The board floated the idea of changing the time at which the board makes its reappointments, as well as setting term limits on these positions. The selectboard decided not to amend the policy, postponing action until their April 16 meeting.
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