Op-Ed: Shelton P&Z chairwoman offers support for charter changes
For several weeks, a number of Shelton residents have been expressing their opinions and criticisms of the proposed changes to the charter of the city of Shelton. As a member of Shelton’s Planning and Zoning Commission since 2005, and its chair since December, 2017, these are my opinions about the proposed charter revisions concerning the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The Charter Revision Commission recommended an increase in the number of P&Z regular commission members from six to seven. I wholeheartedly agree with this change as it would add one more voice and perspective to discussions prior to a vote and eliminate the possibility of a tie vote, which results in an automatic denial of an application. The increase of one member will not result in giving one party total control as the same number of votes needed to approve an application - four - does not change.
The Charter Revision Commission also recommended a change to the charter to reflect a concern I personally expressed on Jan. 30, 2020, at the first public hearing of the Charter Revision Commission. Current language in Section 5.1.4 (a) states “The Commission ... subject to the approval of the Mayor, shall appoint and may remove zoning and planning officers and such professional and other personnel as may be necessary or convenient to the operation of the commission.” I oppose that language as all city personnel are employees of, and compensated by, the city of Shelton, not the individual boards or commissions he or she may be affiliated with. In addition, the city’s merit system contains a specific hiring procedure which includes a job application, a check of credentials, a written test, and a personal interview. The P&Z Commission should not be expected to oversee a process that would conflict with the long-established hiring procedure under the city’s merit system.
That does not mean that the P&Z Commission is left out of the hiring process. In fact, when the search began to find a new P&Z administrator to replace an employee who served in that role for 22 years, I and former Vice Chair Tony Pogoda participated in the hiring process. After the city’s director of human resources reviewed all applications, checked credentials, supervised the written test, and a three-person panel of Planning and Zoning experts conducted an oral test, former Commissioner Pogoda and I had the opportunity to review each candidate’s job application and test results, interview the top three candidates, and make our own separate recommendation to the mayor as to which candidate we felt was best suited for the position. The mayor agreed with our recommendation and subsequently offered the position to the current P&Z administrator on a provisional basis, as also called for under the merit system. So any criticism that the removal of language in Section 5.1.4 (a) would remove the commission from playing a role in the appointment of new P&Z staff is incorrect.
The changes to the charter were recommended by the Charter Revision Commission after many meetings, significant research of state statutes and regulations followed by other Connecticut municipalities, considerable input from Shelton residents, and careful consideration of the impact of each change. All the recommendations of the Charter Revision Commission are well thought out and appropriate. I will be voting yes on Tuesday, Nov. 3, to approve the new charter, and I urge my fellow citizens in the city of Shelton to do the same.