Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town planner to retire

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
January 26, 2006

VERNON - Town Planner Thomas J. Joyce Jr. will retire at the end of March, officials said Thursday.

Joyce, 63, informed town administration officials about his impending retirement on Wednesday, Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer said Thursday.

Although he has no immediate job plans once he leaves Town Hall, Joyce said Wednesday that he expects to remain in the area after his retirement.

Joyce came to Vernon in 1987 to serve as economic development director.

He became the interim town planner in the summer of 2001 following the resignation of Town Planner George Russell.

In October 2001, The Town Council unanimously appointed Joyce to the job on a full-time basis.

Before coming to Vernon, Joyce headed up redevelopment efforts in the Willimantic section of Windham.

Joyce's salary for the current fiscal year is $76,767, Finance Officer James M. Luddecke said.

Shaffer said today that Joyce's contributions to town government would be missed.

"He's been a very good and loyal town employee," Shaffer said. "I'm going to miss him a great deal, both professionally and personally."

Shaffer said the town would immediately get to work on finding Joyce's successor.

A team of town officials and members of the local land-use commissions would likely be assembled to aid in the selection process, Shaffer said.

Officials have already begun working on a job advertisement, and hope to set an application deadline for late February, Shaffer said.

Once applications have been received and qualified candidates interviewed, Shaffer said, a replacement could be named by the end of March or the beginning of April.

The town planner's office has become an increasingly busy place in recent years, with an influx of controversial development applications now routinely creating logjams on the agendas of land-use commissions.

Joyce said that many of these applications are controversial because the town is running out of land that is ideally suited for development.

During the past two years, the planner's office has found itself also in the middle of controversies involving large-scale retail developments, notably a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter and Home Depot near exit 67 off of Interstate 84.

The Home Depot proposal, which was rejected by the Inland Wetlands Commission, remains tied up in court while the Wal-Mart controversy led to changes in the town's mixed-use development zones.

Joyce said handling those applications was tricky because there was a significant number of opponents looking for the town planner's office to take a position against the stores.

But Joyce said the planner's responsibility is to protect the town from costly lawsuits by ensuring that development applications receive a fair hearing before local land-use commissions.More recently, an increase in the number of age-restricted housing developments led Joyce to spearhead an effort to eliminate zoning provisions allowing those developments to be constructed at higher densities than surrounding properties.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously adopted those changes last week.

© Journal Inquirer 2006