Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon PZC lobbies mayor to return Goldich to panel

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
February 2, 2006

VERNON - The Planning and Zoning Commission is asking Mayor Ellen L. Marmer to work with them to have the Town Council reappoint Terri J. Goldich to the commission.

Republican Town Council members in December blocked Goldich's reappointment. The council has final say in all mayoral appointments.

But Marmer, a Democrat, said this week that Goldich's former seat already has been filled and she is unsure if Goldich would accept a reduced role on the PZC.

Goldich says she would consider returning to the commission.

In December the Town Council voted along party lines 7-5 to block the reappointment of both Goldich to the PZC and alternate member Jane T. Seymour to the Inland Wetlands Regulatory Commission.

After the vote, Republican leaders said they had concerns over the ability of both commissioners to be impartial.

But last month the council reversed its position on Seymour after several people and wetlands commission members spoke in her favor.

On Jan. 19, two days after the council voted to reinstate Seymour, the PZC sent its letter to Marmer, asking her to resubmit Goldich's name for confirmation.

"Terri has been an engaged, hard-working member of the commission," PZC Chairman Gregory LaChance and the remaining commission members wrote. "It was a position that she never took lightly. Terri has participated in training to expand her knowledge on planning and zoning issues, and she has worked to thoroughly consider every application."

The letter also notes that Goldich, a Center Street resident who works in the University of Connecticut Library, was elected vice chairman of the commission last year and as a result had taken on the added responsibility of running meetings in LaChance's absence.

On Tuesday Marmer said she had received the letter but was unsure if she would act on it.

Because two vacancies for regular PZC members already have been filled, Marmer said, the only open slot is for an alternate member.

An alternate member can sit in on public hearings but cannot participate in deliberations or vote on an application unless one of the regular members is absent and they have been designated to take their place.

Marmer said Tuesday she is unsure if Goldich would be willing to take on a reduced role, given the amount of time she has put in since her initial appointment to the commission as an alternate member in January and a regular member in October 2004.

"I don't know if Terri Goldich would be interested in what I would call a demotion," said Marmer, who added that she hadn't spoken to Goldich about the possibility.

But Marmer did say the letter speaks well of Goldich's work on the commission.

Goldich said Thursday she was thankful for the PZC's support and would consider serving as an alternate if asked.

But even if Goldich were to accept the alternate position, it's unclear whether enough Republicans are willing to change their vote a second time around, as was the case with Seymour.

If there isn't enough support to return her to the commission, Goldich said, she would be willing to serve on a search committee charged with looking for a replacement for Town Planner Thomas J. Joyce Jr., who is retiring at the end of March.

"The commissioners are very busy," Goldich said. "I could stand in and try to represent, the best I could, the commission on the search committee."

Goldich's initial appointment as an alternate was controversial because of her previous involvement with the Rockville Concerned Citizens for Responsible Development - a coalition in the northeast section of town that advocates controlled growth and opposes big-box development in Vernon.

Because of Goldich's previous affiliation with the coalition, Town Council Republicans, who were in the minority before the Nov. 8 municipal elections, expressed concern that she could be impartial on certain applications.

Goldich is not affiliated with a political party.

Her past involvement with the coalition resurfaced in December, days before the Town Council's vote, when a developer's lawyer asked Goldich to recuse herself from an application because a lawyer for one of the project's opponents had worked with the coalition.

Goldich responded by saying she was no longer a member of that group and could remain impartial in considering the application.

The developer's lawyer appeared to be satisfied with her response and Goldich continued to hear the application.