Posted on March 8, 2021
The Board of Selectmen approved a restructuring of its land-use department in an effort to stabilize planning, which, town officials say has been in transition since the retirement of longtime land-use official DeLoris Curtis two years ago.
First Selectman Jeffery A. Manville said the town will rely on a consultant from the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments to assist with planning issues on a month-tomonth basis at $2,100 per month.
Curtis, who died four months after her retirement, ran both the administrative and planning sides of the department in her job as land use administrator. Manville said replacing Curtis has been a challenge and the position has not been filled in more than a year.
The town recently named Jessica Townsend the interim land use administrator, but she will not have her planning certification for another four years. For now, Manville said, her role will mainly be administrative.
Keith Rosenfeld, a longtime planner from COG for towns like Naugatuck, Southington and Waterbury, will devote two days a week to Southbury, working on various development plans.
Manville said the town has attempted to hire a new town planner, but no qualified candidates could both administrative and planning work.
The first selectman said the town is moving toward online permitting, which should alleviate the workload in the landuse office, particularly on the building department side. Selectman Emily Harrison was concerned that the level of planning might fall off with an outside consultant to replace “such an important role,” especially with regard to the Plan of Conservation and Development.
Manville said additional assistance could be called in if needed for certain applications.
Manville said the savings to the town would be about $10,000 a year, a figure Selectman Mike Rosen wondered might not be worth it, considering all that could be lost.
But Manville said the move was just a better plan overall and not about saving money.
“We are trying to have continuity of planning over time, institutional knowledge,” Manville said. “This gives us a way to stabilize the planning side of our needs.”
Rosen said he is generally in favor of promoting from within, but is concerned about the length of time before Townsend could become involved in planning. He suggested implementing the new plan while searching for a fulltime planner.
Manville said he does not see the benefit in going back out for applicants, adding that his goal is to stabilize the planning side of the department.
Manville said COG provides all these services now to other towns, including Beacon Falls and Seymour, and having a variety of planning specialists and a relationship with COG for collaboration and assistance on other issues even after Townsend gets her certification is important.