Zoning Administrator Has More Than One Boss. It is
common for selectboards and planning commissions to be confused about how oversees the
Zoning Administrator. This is because, unlike most employees of a town, the zoning
administrators duties are established by statute and both the planning commission
and the selectboard have a role in his or her oversight. The selectboard oversees the
zoning administrator for the purpose of personnel issues. (Selectboard has authority to
adopt personnel regulations 24 V.S.A. § 1121(b).) The planning commission has authority
over the zoning administrator insofar as it is the planning commissions
responsibility to "administrate the zoning bylaws of the town." 24 V.S.A. §
4325. The interest of the planning commission to ensure that the bylaws are capably
administered is balanced with the ultimate authority of the selectboard to deal with
personnel matters for the town. This relationship is reflected in the fact that, although
the planning commission appoints the zoning administrator, it must have the approval of
the selectboard to do so. 24 V.S.A. § 4442. In turn, although the selectboard may remove
the zoning administrator for cause, it must first consult with the planning commission. 24
V.S.A. § 4442. Note that a zoning administrator who fails to perform his or her statutory
duties risks not only personnel action, but also court action. In re Fairchild, 159
Vt. 125 (1992) (Writ of Mandamus issued to force zoning administrator to enforce a
As a practical matter, the planning commission and selectboard of the town must work
together to determine how the zoning administrator is to be supervised on a day-to-day
basis. A town personnel policy could designate the chair of the planning commission or the
planning director (if there is one) as the supervisor. No matter who is the designated
supervisor, if the planning commission believes that the bylaws are not being effectively
administered it has an obligation to work with the zoning administrator and his or her
supervisor to ensure that the statutory obligations are met.
- Planning Commission Must Vote To Participate In Act 250. A
planning commission wishes to participate in an Act 250 case and doesnt know exactly
how to get involved. The first step is to convene a public meeting and vote to participate
in the Act 250 case. Under the Open Meeting statute, a public meeting is when a quorum of
the planning commission assembles to conduct its business or to take an action. This can
occur at a regular or special meeting of the board. 1 V.S.A. § 312. At this meeting of
the board, the board may vote to oppose, support, or be neutral on the Act 250 case. The
planning commission can also designate specific planning commission members to appear at
the Act 250 case on behalf of the planning commission. Because the planning commission is
a statutory party, it has the unconditional right to participate at the Act 250 hearing on
all issues, most importantly whether an Act 250 permit is required and, if so, whether the
project complies with the ten Act 250 criteria.
- A Board May Only Go Into Executive Session Upon A Motion And Vote. We
receive many calls from citizens and board members who are concerned about the
communitys use of the executive session. An executive session is a closed meeting
within a public meeting. Boards cannot enter executive session without first meeting in
public session and then voting to close the meeting, and then only for very specific
reasons. A majority of the members of a local board (a two-thirds majority of a state
board) must agree to enter for the reasons stated. This motion and vote must then be
included in the minutes of the meeting, making a permanent record of the session and its
reasons. No action may be taken in executive session.
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