ZBA refines procedures, struggles with definitions

The Zoning Board of Adjustment is still working on its new rules and procedures.

At its regular meeting on June 9, the ZBA mulled over definitions from its August 2005 Rules of Procedures and Ethics Manual. The board is updating the document in response to last year’s community concerns about lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interest at the ZBA.

Town Planner Larry Lewack said he circulated board member Charles Russell’s latest draft incorporating ZBA members’ most recent comments and edits. At a previous meeting, board member Karina Warshaw suggested members be required to address others by their preferred pronouns. The latest draft contained that language, Russell said.

There was robust discussion regarding the definition of “interested persons” for purposes of providing testimony during hearings. The board was unclear about whether the term referred only to adjoining property owners or if it had a broader meaning.

Member Ronda Moore asked for clarification about ex parte communications, stating that the rules were not “particularly clear” regarding whether two board members are allowed to communicate with each other. She also asked if members are “allowed to ask questions of applicants” at site visits.

Former ZBA Chair and current Selectboard Vice Chair Frank Tenney, who attended the meeting via Zoom, said previously when the board went on a site visit, “I would state that anything that was brought up at a site meeting would be brought up at a [regular] meeting so it would be on the record.”

Following Tenney’s comments, debate commenced about whether discussions at site meetings should be discouraged in the first place rather than repeated later for the record.

Russell said he will continue incorporating members’ changes and comments into the document and circulate a “clean copy” to the board for further discussion.