The board’s three full-time members, Peter Wallace, Debby Dorsett, and Wendy Manners, chose a leader while board alternates Fred Houston, Meg Streeter, and Paul Tonan looked on.
Dorsett began the meeting by nominating Wallace, the board’s most senior member, as chair, while Wallace nominated Dorsett as vice chair. Dorsett also nominated Manners as board clerk, and in one unanimous vote, the nominations were approved and the new DRB got to work.
All three of the DRB members are new to the process. Dorsett and Manners were appointed as full-time members at an April 16 selectboard meeting, while Wallace was appointed in mid-March. Wallace is the only full-time member of the DRB who has experience, having sat through a hearing in April. The DRB has undergone a sea change over the past two months, after the resignation of three full-time members in early April, following a selectboard decision to not reappoint vice chair Andy Schindel to a full-time position.
While Wallace acknowledges the board is new, he also acknowledged its importance, as well as his excitement to be a part of it. “I’m excited to be a part of the community at this level,” said Wallace. “We (the three board members) have a good synergy working, and I look forward to moving ahead.”
Wallace, who is also a downtown business owner, said that as chair, he intends to bring clear and positive thinking to a board that he feels has important work ahead of it. “We’re focused on positive development for the downtown, but with respect for the past and what Wilmington represents. ‘Respect’ is a big word there.”
The full-time and alternate members of the DRB all had questions for Bennett, who encouraged the board to come up with lists of questions for future meetings as well. Bennett also encouraged the board to use both his and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ services when needed. Bennett handed out a wealth of guides, and handbooks for the board to use, peruse, and develop questions from as well. “Interpreting and applying development standards is what your job really is,” said Bennett.
One question raised was, with only three full-time members (the town’s DRB has a five-member, three-alternate system), could the full-time members delegate their powers to alternates in advance of meetings if they knew they would not be in attendance. Another question included whether the board could hold a hearing if the majority of those on the board for the hearing were alternates. Bennett said that the DRB would need to plan for these issues in advance of meetings. Bennett said that multiple alternates could be assigned for a hearing and considered part of a quorum, but was unclear on the delegation of powers to an alternate.
Manners asked if the board should include four members at each hearing in case of recusal issues, but Bennett, and alternate Meg Streeter, said a member of the board would know in advance whether they are in conflict, and therefore an alternate could be used instead, with proper notice to the board and the applicants.
Alternate Paul Tonan asked Bennett for clarification as to the role of the town’s zoning administrator in relation to DRB meetings, and whether he/she represent the town, the applicant, or the bylaw. Bennett said that the zoning administrator could confirm questions that the DRB or applicant has, and can give testimony as to the bylaw’s application.
Manners said that the board should recess cases when asking the zoning administrator for testimony, so that the facts can be properly researched. “We should err on the side of recessing them,” said Manners. “I know of cases in the past where the zoning administrator gave inaccurate information, and we don’t want them in a position to give an answer if they don’t have facts in front of them.”
The DRB’s next hearing is Monday at 7 pm.