Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town planner leaves for similar post in Canton

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
June 19, 2007

VERNON - Town Planner Neil Pade, who has guided development in Vernon for the last three years, has resigned to take a similar job in Canton.

His last day in Vernon will be July 6. In his letter of resignation, which will be presented at tonight's Town Council meeting, Pade explained that he made the decision to "move forward for the betterment of my family, career, and overall quality of life."

Pade, 35, said the decision to leave was "incredibly difficult."

But the constraints of the job in Vernon left little time for family, and Pade, the father of a 19-month-old son, said he wanted that to change.

"It is my first priority to be a good father and husband and to be there for my family," Pade wrote in an e-mail this week to co-workers and commission members informing them of his resignation. "To that end, I have been given an opportunity that I am hoping will allow for that and hopefully allow for me to grow professionally at the same time."

After serving two years as assistant town planner overseeing economic development, Pade was hired to replace a retiring Thomas J. Joyce Jr. as town planner in 2006.

Among his goals accomplished or nearly realized in the last three years was installing global information system technology, commonly found in many towns, which allows for easy tracking of parcels and changes to wetland boundaries or property lines. He also oversaw a revamping of the plan of conservation and development and zoning regulations governing notorious undeveloped properties.

During his short tenure, the department has seen its workload drastically increase as the amount of land in town ideally suited for development dwindled even as complex and controversial applications became the norm. Now on the table and likely to be hotly contested is a resurfaced Home Depot application and the investigation into an alleged Indian burial ground at the site of a planned subdivision.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark said for all his work and effort, Pade would be difficult to replace. To meet budget constraints, the town delayed hiring for six months an economic development coordinator, forcing Pade to work two jobs for quite some time. That put considerable stress and strain on Pade, Clark said, which led to his departure.

Seeing no change to budget problems on the horizon, Pade decided he didn't want to wind up running the show alone again, Clark said.

"It's interesting from my perspective that some of the reasons are the fiscal stress and strain that this town goes through, and here we are on the day of another referendum," Clark said, adding, "People need to realize that when budget cuts are made there are impacts. Sometimes it's too cavalier to say we want cuts and there's no impact. This is one where we've lost a very, very, good person because of the fiscal uncertainty."

Mayor Ellen L. Marmer agreed, forecasting a dim future for Vernon employment and economic development. The town planner position is crucial for raising funds in terms of tax base, and losing Pade will leave a large hole, she said. The planning department will likely shut down one day a week after he leaves and while the town advertises for a replacement, Marmer said.

An interim planner likely would be named by next week, Clark said.

"It's extremely disturbing," Marmer said of Pade's resignation. "I think people just need to see the constraints department heads are working under. If things continue on this track, there are going to be more individuals leaving. Vernon is going to get a bad reputation as far as employment purposes go, and that's not where we want to be in terms of getting and retaining people."

©Journal Inquirer 2007