Menard: Westport zoning board shortfall needs action

Board is down to five members, which could cause issues, chairman says

By Ted Hayes
Posted 10/1/21

The Westport Zoning Board of Appeals is facing a membership shortfall that could affect its ability to call meetings and render decisions, following the resignation of one of its members this past …

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Menard: Westport zoning board shortfall needs action

Board is down to five members, which could cause issues, chairman says

Posted

The Westport Zoning Board of Appeals is facing a membership shortfall that could affect its ability to call meetings and render decisions, following the resignation of one of its members this past week.

Peter Borden, whose term was to run through next June, alerted the town recently that he is resigning his seat on the board, and the Westport Select Board Monday evening formally approved that resignation. With his departure, the board is left with five full members and no alternates. Though the board should have two alternates, Chairman Roger Menard said, none currently serve. Raymond Elias, who previously was the only serving alternate member, was re-classified as a full voting member Monday, to fill Borden's position.

"If for some reason a member can't attend, or there is an ethics reason why a person has to recuse ... if we get to the point where we only have four members at a meeting ... this is going to be an issue," Menard said.

Though a majority vote is 3-2, Menard said state law requires that at least some votes be super majorities; that is, a 4-1 vote.

In a case where one member is absent from a meeting, "it makes it not fair for either the town or the petitioner (because) all of our votes would have to be unanimous," or 4-0.

The issue could have cropped up as early as October, with the expected absence of one member who will not be available to attend the month's meeting in person.

But that issue was averted Monday when Menard asked the Select Board for and was granted permission to allow that member to log in to the in-person meeting remotely, thus giving the board five available members.

Longer term, Menard said the board should fill two alternate positions, giving flexibility where now there is very little.

"It's really important that somehow we require the zoning board to have at least one alternate; I would prefer to have two."

Elias, whose former alternate position was eliminated by his promotion to full membership Monday, said that while alternate positions are not always filled on various town boards, they are vitally important.

In his case, he said he was alternate in name only during much of his two-year tenure on the board.

"In the past two and a half years, I was active at every meeting and I didn't miss any meetings," he said, estimating that he voted on 75 percent of the applications before the board.

"I think it's important to have at least one" alternate member."

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