Whitingham Selectboard talks zoning and criteria for new board members
by Mike Eldred
Jun 13, 2013 | 3579 views | 5 5 comments | 195 195 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHITINGHAM- Selectboard members debated a controversial zoning proposal and answered questions about their criteria for appointing new board members at their regular meeting Wednesday evening.

School board chair Dwight Williams questioned the board about the process they followed when they selected Robin Kingsley to a seat vacated by longtime selectboard chair Blanche Mills, who resigned last month citing health issues. Both Williams and Kingsley contacted the board to express interest in the position.

Williams said he heard conflicting reasons why he was passed over for the position. “One was that I was over-qualified,” he said. “Another response was that it was more about who got there first. So, in theory, the village idiot could be on the selectboard if he got there first.”

Williams said that if it was simply a matter of timing, he had expressed interest in the position 10 years ago, and again before Town Meeting in March, but had learned that Mills intended to run for reelection. He said he chose not to run “out of respect for her (Mills). I thought she should serve as long as she wants.”

Williams said his concern was that there were no criteria used to evaluate the candidates. “When considering an appointment to a position, I would hope there would be more to it than who got there first,” he said. “I would hope that you’d consider qualifications, because I think that’s your duty. But no questions about any qualifications or experience were asked of me. How do you quantify what is in the best interest of the town?”

Board member Greg Brown said the board discussed the appointment in executive session, but he offered his thoughts on the matter. “My input was, why would we deny a valid candidate a chance to serve on the board to have another candidate hold two positions in town? The more people we can get involved, the better off we are.”

Brown said there were no set criteria for choosing a board member. “I’m not sure what qualifications there are,” he said. “I didn’t have to submit a resume when I was appointed, Karl (Twitchell) didn’t have to submit a resume when he was appointed. And I don’t believe any of the farmers that started this board had to submit any sheepskins. Both of you are qualified to be on the board as far as I’m concerned.”

In other matters, the board discussed a proposed zoning amendment that would change current districts, to include a conservation district and a rural district. Under the amended zoning, a minimum lot size of 27 acres would be required for development in the conservation district, and a minimum lot size of 10 acres would be required for development in the rural district. During a recent planning commission hearing, held before the commission sends the proposed zoning to the selectboard, seven residents showed up. According to planning commission members, three residents expressed dismay over the new districts and proposed development criteria.

Board member Allan Twitchell said he contacted the commission to express the board’s dismay regarding the proposal. “I told them it ain’t gonna fly as far as the board is concerned,” he said. But at a planning commission meeting held earlier in the evening, planning commission members concluded that the opinion expressed by Twitchell was that of only one selectboard member.

Williams asked if Twitchell spoke for the whole board. Board members nodded in agreement. “He was expressing my concern,” said Brown. “I have 30 acres and won’t be able to carve some out for the kid.”

Allan Twitchell said the way he looked at it, it would mean a minimum of 54 acres in the conservation district and 20 acres in the rural district would be needed for any additional development to take place on any land that already included a residence. “And 80% of the property in this town is already in conservation – 80%,” he said, referring to properties that are in the state’s current use, have land trust easements, or are enrolled in other land preservation programs.

Property owner Wayne Corse agreed with Twitchell’s assessment of the situation. He said the proposed regulations would have a severe impact on his property. “If I only own 19 acres, I can’t do a thing with it. I’m not against conservation,” Corse said, “but I hate to be force-fed. I urge the board to spend some time on (the proposal) or just decline it. There are a lot of people in town that have no clue about it.”

Selectboard chair Keith Bronson asked planning commissioner Phil Edelstein how the commission had arrived at the minimum of 27 acres for development in the conservation district. Edelstein said the figure was the sum of the 25-acre minimum needed to qualify for the state’s current use program, and two acres for a homestead. “With all due respect, the amount of time spent on it was very short, and not enough was put into it,” Edelstein said.

Edelstein, who had been at a planning commission meeting moments before the discussion in the selectboard office, said he had suggested that the two boards meet in a joint session to discuss the matter.

Board members agreed, and decided to begin their next meeting, on Wednesday, June 26, a half hour early, at 7 pm, to discuss the zoning amendment with the commission. Board members also passed a motion urging the planning commission to make changes to the proposal as well as set up a committee to study the matter.

“It’s got to be looked at,” said Karl Twitchell. “We’ve got an economic development board getting back together, and they’re going to turn around and change it so we can’t have any growth.”

Comments
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rustybolt
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June 15, 2013
Clarence if your voting in whitingham it is illegal you can only vote in one town
DwightWilliams
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June 14, 2013
Clarence2 is incorrect but I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. While having more time with family is an obvious benefit, the primary reason I didn't seek re-election was I think elected officials often stay in office too long, and others should take a turn. Supporters convinced me to run, but it was too late to submit a petition so it went by write-in. When the write-in was a tie, I felt obligated to pursue the role out of humble appreciation for those that supported me, including some of my critics. Mary and I had a great conversation where we discussed this in detail. We share many of the same opinions on important issues.

Since changing careers I work from home, and travel about once a month so I'm not sure where that came from either.

My concern over the Select Board's decision was over the process, not the actual choice. I too will support Robin, and I'm thankful that even though the process is seriously flawed, we ended up with a reasonable result.
clarence2
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June 14, 2013
Think this over a bit folks. Mr Williams opted not to run again for his school board position, citing his workload and being unable to fulfill the duties required. Yet he has a change of heart when it was announced Mrs Lemaire showed an interest in filling his spot. He reluctantly thre his name back in the ring just so she couldnt get it.

Now he has all this time to be on the road most of the week at work, be retained as a school board member and also wants to sit on the select board as well? Better off getting someone who will be available and showup and not use excuses not to participate. I voted for Mary in tthe election and will support Robin in his efforts also
commonsensenative
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June 13, 2013
Fired coach beats out banker for selectboard. Too funny. With decisions like this, it's no wonder the power company tax assessment and town finances got all messed up costing us thousands of dollars. Williams would be crazy to join this brain trust.
Useyournoodle
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June 13, 2013
So, what happens when the Whitingham Selectboard has their next vacancy and appoints another member new to town service, only to discover that person cannot read or write? Is the Town of Whitingham prepared to offer ADA accommodations? Next time, the board should just consider a friendly neighborhood felon for appointment so they can avoid accepting a resume from someone with actual qualifications and experience.