No new town planner in Guilderland’s immediate future

GUILDERLAND — Town planner Jan Weston, who had been on the job since 1988, retired at year’s end 2016, and the town has no immediate plan to replace her.

When Weston retired, she had been working part-time, said town Supervisor Peter Barber this week, and a decision will need to be made whether to replace her with a part-time or a full-time planner.

This will be part of the budget process for 2018, Barber said, and is “all subject to budget approval.”

For now, he said, the town has been introducing its new zoning code, adopted in June 2016, and a lot of responsibilities that Weston once handled are being given to the planning board, Barber said.

The code formerly divided uses into two types: permitted uses, which required only a building permit and no review by the planning or zoning boards; and special-use permits, which required site plan review by the planning board and final approval by the zoning board.

The town’s new code created a third category, site-plan uses, that require review only by the planning board to allow for more efficient review.

Barber praised the work done by Stephen Feeney, chairman of the planning board and a certified professional planner, together with Jackie Coons, acting chief building and zoning inspector. “Everybody’s stepped up, and the improvements that we envisioned have come true, that we’re getting quicker review of projects,” Barber said.

Barber agreed, though, that Feeney is limited in the amount of responsibility he can take on, since he has a full-time job working with the Schenectady County Economic Development and Planning Department.

Feeney said that, while he’s sure there will be a new town planner hired, he can manage on a temporary basis and still keep his two jobs separate. He returns phone calls within a couple of days on his own time, sends emails from home, and has enough vacation time that he can meet with people when necessary, he said.

Coons said that she and Feeney are “kind of doing it together,” referring to the work of the town planner, “because he can only be here on occasion.” If someone wants to meet, Coons said, a meeting can be set up with her and Feeney.

Feeney said, “I’m sure this is temporary,” and added, I’m not aware of anybody or anything that hasn’t been addressed in a relatively prompt fashion.”

“When Jan was here, she was pretty self-sufficient and didn’t delegate very much,” Coons said of Weston. She said that now Dawn Berschwinger, the planning secretary, “takes care of a lot of paperwork that Jan used to do herself; Steve gives Dawn tasks beyond what the previous planning secretary was asked to do. Sarah [Muller] and Leah Oliver also do more filing, things that Jan used to do,” she added.

Coons herself may soon have a new title.

She was finally able, on Sept. 9, to take the exam that would make it possible for the town board to vote to appoint her as chief building and zoning inspector.

Coons was appointed provisionally in July 2016.

Civil Service spokesman Tyrone Smith said this week that the “building and zoning inspector” exam is offered only every two to four years.

Smith said that a year is not a long time to wait for a test like this.

Smith estimated that there are probably only about 300 people in the state, “maybe less,” that would be eligible to take the test.

Coons said the results might not be back till the end of October or early November.

“Hopefully, if I pass, the town board can make me official by around the end of the year,” assuming that the members decide to, she said.

 

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