Last week, selectboard members declined to reappoint nine-year veteran DRB member Andrew Schindel as a full-time DRB member. Instead, the board appointed Schindel as a DRB alternate following an interview in which, according to Schindel, he told the board he would refuse an appointment as DRB alternate. The selectboard expressed concern about the DRB’s ability to seat a quorum during Schindel’s three-month annual winter absence. But The Deerfield Valley News later learned that only one meeting had been postponed, and it was postponed because both vice chair Schindel and DRB chair Nicki Steel were unable to attend, not because of any quorum issue. Three DRB members resigned after the board’s action, including Steel, a 22-year veteran of the board.
This week, Wilmington residents and downtown business owners Carolyn Palmer and Lilias Hart began circulating a petition calling on the selectboard to “both appoint Andrew Schindel to a three-year term on the development review board (DRB) and return or reappoint the members who resigned. A functioning DRB with experienced members is vital to the regrowth and recovery of this town.”
Palmer says the selectboard’s action regarding Schindel’s appointment was unprecedented. “There’s no rule for not appointing or reappointing a volunteer because they’re not here full time,” she said. “And there was nobody waiting in line that wanted a full-time seat on the DRB.”
Palmer says the loss of experienced DRB members, following the recent resignation of zoning administrator Alice Herrick amidst controversy over the circumstances of her reappointment, comes at a bad time for the town – when there are several burgeoning rebuilding projects in the village, as well as development connected to work at Haystack. “We need an experienced DRB when we are finally rebuilding (after Tropical Storm Irene).”
The selectboard has scheduled a discussion on proposed term limits for town officials at their April 16 meeting. “If there are issues, let’s get them out in the open,” Palmer says. “If the board wants term limits, introduce term limits. But that’s not the way to do it. There was no reason Andy shouldn’t have been reappointed.”
Palmer says there are about 40 signatures on the petition now, and it will be available at Pickwell’s Barn over the weekend for the convenience of voters who would like to add their name. Palmer has already asked for time at the selectboard’s April 16 meeting to deliver the petition and discuss the matter. “We’ve got to have better communication,” she says. “We all love Wilmington, we should all be able to work together.”
Schindel agrees communication between the DRB and selectboard is an issue, and before last week’s resignations the DRB requested a joint meeting with planning commission and selectboard members. If the board were to reconsider their decisions as petitioners ask, Schindel says he’d be willing to accept an appointment as a full-time DRB member. “But I would condition it on having a free and open discussion, in open session, regarding the problems that have developed over the last several years between the DRB and the selectboard. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”