Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
6 apply for town planner position

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
February 27, 2006

VERNON - Officials hope a new town planner will be named by the time retiring Town Planner Thomas J. Joyce Jr. leaves at the end of March.

So far, the town has received six applications for the soon-to-be vacant position, Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer said last week.

Those applications came in response to a job opening advertisement in several regional newspapers and trade publications.

The deadline to submit applications is Tuesday, Shaffer said.

Once that deadline has passed, Shaffer said, a committee consisting of members of the land-use commissions would sift over the applications, choose the ones they believe are most qualified, and conduct interviews.

At the completion of that process, names of the committee's top three candidates would be submitted to Mayor Ellen L. Marmer, who will extend a job offer to one finalist.

In late January, Joyce, 63, notified town officials about his impending retirement.

Joyce came to Vernon in 1987 as economic development director and began serving as 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.

If all goes well, Shaffer said, he hopes a replacement would be named in time for Joyce's departure.

But even if there were to be a brief period when no town planner is in place, Shaffer said, the town would be able to function properly.

"We're looking for individuals who have a solid understanding of the process and the law," said Shaffer, who added that the town is looking for candidates who have worked as a town planner or assistant town planner. "This is not the kind of job where you can do on-the-job training."

Shaffer said a good candidate also would possess an ability to operate within a variety of state-mandated deadlines pertaining to applications and manage a complex town department.

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

This has been attributed to the town's dwindling supply of land that is ideally suited for development.

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

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

Most recently, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously adopted a change to the zoning regulations, eliminating special provisions that had allowed age-restricted housing developments to be constructed at higher densities than surrounding properties.

©Journal Inquirer 2006