P&Z officer search continues
Full/Part time position discussed at Saratoga Planning Commission meeting
July 17, 2019
As the Town of Saratoga enters month four without a permanent planning and zoning officer, the three member Saratoga Planning Commission spent a large portion of their July 9 meeting discussing how to handle the issue. Since the departure of Dan Ferrin in March, the position has remained open, though former planning and zoning officer Kent Smith has served on an as-needed basis.
The planning commission also sent a recommendation to the council in regards to the zoning amendment for Seth “Turtle” Johnson at 1st and Hickory.
Planning for Zoning
“We talked a little at last month’s meeting. Kent suggested (that) maybe we should be looking at a full-time position,” said Tom Westring, acting chairman for the planning commission.
Bob Keel, town council representative to the planning commission, informed Westring and commission member Jim Beckmann that two people interested in the position had withdrawn their applications after finding out that the position was not full-time.
“We have one more interview scheduled. There happened to be a miscommunication. He told us he wasn’t interested and now he’s saying ‘Well, I’ll interview still,’” said Keel.
Westring added that a concern discussed in previous planning commission meetings was whether or not someone hired as planning and zoning and building inspector could be kept busy in a full-time position. Smith told Westring that he believed it could be done.
“We need to move along as diligently as we can. Kent’s helping and, you know, there’s discussion from people outside that we do need to get a building inspector on-board permanently,” Westring said.
Smith told the commission that whoever they hired would have to have some background in construction and that they could pick up on the planning and zoning aspect of the job. Westring stated that the problem the Town of Saratoga appeared to be running into was finding someone who had that background and could also step in as a zoning officer. Kathy Drake, of Triple D Construction, echoed Smith’s comments.
“It’s very important to get somebody that has the building experience and the knowledge. I don’t believe you can just learn that. It would be better to have somebody that was a builder, or has that experience, because it doesn’t do any good to have someone come into that position without the knowledge,” said Drake.
Drake added that, for the contractors in the area, a building inspector was extremely important due to the need for a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).
“For the outlying areas, like Encampment and the county, where they don’t require inspections is very difficult for us. We would prefer inspections because we need inspections to get COs, to get financing for people. That’s a requirement. We found, say, for example, when we built in Encampment, we had to hire someone to do the inspections to get the certificate because they don’t require it, but somebody can’t get their financing without that. So, to us, that’s a very important position,” Drake said.
As discussion continued around trying to take the position to full-time from part-time, Keel said he wasn’t sure what the interest would be for the rest of the council to do so after just passing the budget for the fiscal year.
“It’d be a hard sell, at this point, to get the council to change because it would require a budget amendment,” Keel said. “We’re just not finding anybody interested that’s got strong qualifications.”
Another option that the planning commission may consider, considering the difficulty of finding qualified applicants for a part-time position, would be to contract the position out. This idea was raised when Drake informed the planning commission that Triple D had contracted someone from WLC to perform a building inspection.
“We’re just spinning our wheels on the part-time position,” said Westring.
Turtle Moves Forward
Johnson, who recently purchased property at 1st and Hickory, was in attendance for a public hearing regarding a zoning amendment for the location. As was reported previously (see “Variance and the ‘Turtle zone’ on page 3 of the May 22 Saratoga Sun), two properties, Mom’s Kitchen and the house next to it, are zoned differently. One is zoned highway business and the other is RD 6000. For Johnson to construct an office, a zoning amendment was required for the property in RD 6000.
With the appropriate number of signatures and no dissenting voices during the public hearing, the planning commission sent the zoning amendment to the Saratoga Town Council with a recommendation for approval.
In addition to the zoning amendment, Johnson was also working on a special use permit for his property at 1116 W. Farm. He informed the planning commission that he was still three signatures short of the required amount, adding that some of the property owners lived out of town and he was waiting on letters to be returned.
Should the town council approve the zoning amendment as recommended, Johnson can begin to move forward with the demolition of the two structures and construction of his office.
The next meeting of the Saratoga Planning Commission will be at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the Saratoga Town Hall.