In split vote, New Scotland to hire its first planner

— Enterprise file photo

The retirement of Jeff Pine, New Scotland’s full-time code-enforcement officer, has the town taking a new path forward with its planning, zoning, and code enforcement.

NEW SCOTLAND — The retirement of the town’s code-enforcement officer led to rare dissent among the New Scotland Town Board members over who should be helping with the direction of the municipality’s future planning and zoning. 

There have been “different thoughts and ideas that we’ve bandied about over the last couple of years, and a little more intensely recently, on how we might want to reform the [building] department,” Supervisor Douglas LaGrange said during the April 14 board meeting. 

At issue for the board was whether to continue to allow the town’s building  inspector, Jeremy Cramer, to handle all things planning and zoning and hire a full-time replacement for the retiring code-enforcement officer, Jeff Pine, or to make Pine’s post part-time and hire the town’s first professional planner on a part-time basis. 

For some time, the board has discussed bringing the building department, “essentially [into] the 21st Century, where we have more of a planner handling some of the planner duties. Because in our town, historically, with our zoning, the building inspector has handled all of these duties,” Councilman William Hennessy said.

Historically, a significant portion of the building inspector’s time was spent handling planning and zoning items, Hennessy said, which is a practice that’s “long been done by the smaller towns.”

But as time progresses and the town grows, he said, “we need to focus [on] ... proper procedures … with our projects,” which means having a part-time town planner. If the town were to hire a part-time code-enforcement officer now rather than being locked into a full-time position, Hennessey said, it would give the town wiggle room in the budget to pay for a planner.

Councilwoman Bridgit Burke said she thought, if the board were looking at restructuring the building department, there should have been a workshop “that included public comment, but others were against that.”

Burke said she spent a lot of time speaking to stakeholders, the town’s current consulting planner, the chair of its planning board, and the town’s building inspector, and she came to the conclusion “that hiring a part-time planner at this point makes sense.”

The consulting planner, Nan Stolzenburg, told Burke that building departments run best when there is a planner in place, but advised Burke to check with the town’s planning board chairman, Charles Voss, to gauge his opinion on the matter. 

She reported that Voss “felt the way things were working right now was really optimal” with support from Cramer and from planning and zoning attorney Crystal Peck.

The problem the town is having, Burke said, is with enforcement.

“I think the planning aspects of things are working,” she said. “And so, I think cutting enforcement in that office is a big mistake.”

“I just need to correct some missing assumptions there,” Councilman Adam Greenberg said in response to Burke. “We’re not cutting back on code enforcement.” 

Greenberg noted that a significant amount of Cramer’s time — perhaps as much as 90 percent — is devoted to planning and zoning, and by hiring a planner, it would free up Cramer to do more building inspections and code enforcement.

Burke responded, “It certainly wasn’t a misconception on my part. It was, I don’t believe that we really are in a position to take [Cramer] completely out of his role in planning, and I think that that would be detrimental to us.”

Greenberg said he was responding to Burke saying the town would be cutting back on its code enforcement, which it would not. Rather, Greenberg said, Cramer would be able “to spend much more of his time on building inspections and code enforcement and water-stormwater management.” 

LaGrange, speaking to code enforcement, wanted to see a full-time hire, but wasn’t “married to it.”

Burke’s concern was that a part-time employee wouldn’t be willing to come in and take on all of the work that Cramer currently does, because he also deals with the planning and zoning scut work — like making copies. 

With a part-time planner, the town could go after more grants like the one it received for the Hilton Barn, Greenberg said.

“We got a $1.2-million grant for the barn and the park last year. How many planners does that $1.2 million pay for? How many years of planning. That’s something we don’t have at all now; we’re missing out on that — other towns get gigantic grants like that every year,” Greenberg said.

LaGrange was fine going ahead with the planner but thought it important that he or she be hired as a consultant rather than as a town employee in part because a number of projects that have already come in have escrow accounts set up for the current planning consultant’s time to be allocated toward.

When it came to vote to advertise for a part-time planner, Burke cast the dissenting vote, 4 to 1. 

But it was a 3-to-2 tally when it came to vote on advertising for a part-time code-enforcement officer, with LaGrange joining Burke in the minority. 

LaGrange, while casting his vote against, said, “I really think this is going to put that office in a tremendous hardship, going part-time, this time of year — I vote no — I think we should do part-time and full-time at the same time.”

Joined: 03/28/2017 - 10:44
TNS Planner story


Having just read your story, which I highly commend, this is not an LTE.

Zoning, in particular code enforcement to protect the rural character in the town rates an F

Having read your story TB members are out of it when it comes to code enforcement to protect the the rural character and protect property values.

i'd like to take u o a tour. we'd have to work that out given covid. No on'e in my car other than wife for her a year

I hope the Town board avoids the messes that mohave and are going on o the hill towBe glad to talk off the record right know.

It's been just a matter of time for a story to break like whats going on in the hill towns.

John Dearstyne


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