Stockbridge Select Board adds three to Planning Board in wake of resignations
STOCKBRIDGE — Responding to an upheaval on the Planning Board yielding resignations of three out of seven members during the past two weeks, the Select Board announced three new appointments on Wednesday.
The sudden departures were triggered by deep division over the role of the board, as the three former members sought to confine votes and discussions to the town's specific zoning bylaws, while others favored more extensive, wider-ranging examination and debate on the issues.
Barbara Cohen-Hobbs, a longtime member, disclosed her resignation on Tuesday, joining Douglas Rose, the chairman, and Robert Bartle, the board's clerk, who departed last month.
A fourth member, Donald Chabon, the sole candidate for an open slot on the Select Board, said this week that he plans to leave the Planning Board after the May 17 town election because of a potential conflict of interest caused by serving on both.
"Sometimes, one would like to comment on the style, taste and appropriateness of an applicant's location. But in reality, all we're allowed to do is vote according to the bylaw," Cohen-Hobbs said in an interview. She noted that each of the three members who resigned had more than 15 years of service on the board.
"I was very sad to resign, it was a major part of my life," she added. "I feel that I made a positive contribution to the town and I'm disappointed that it has come to this."
The three new members recruited by Selectman Stephen Shatz who have agreed to serve one-year Planning Board appointments through the May 2017 town elections are:
• Ruth Pearce, who moved to town about four years ago and holds a law degree from Concord Law School in Los Angeles and a master's degree from the London School of Economics. She has been a team builder and coach for Mass Mutual's retirement services and for several other firms. She now does similar work at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
"We've had an eye on her for a role in town government because of her skills," Shatz said at the Wednesday morning Select Board meeting.
• Marie Raftery, a longtime resident and volunteer at the Town Offices, has been the town's representative to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and is a current board member of the Laurel Hill Association and the Stockbridge Land Trust.
"She's thoughtful and comes to her work without too many personal agendas, or at least agendas that get in the way of careful and deliberate thought," Shatz said.
• Jennifer Carmichael, the current Planning Board secretary. "There's certainly no one who knows more about the day-to-day operations of the board and will, I think, bring a fair degree of stability to the organization," Shatz said.
The Select Board voted 3-0 to approve the recommended new members.
Gary Pitney, continuing as the acting chairman of the Planning Board, was complimented by Select Board members for his handling of this week's meeting.
"The meeting that you ran was a model for how to run a meeting," Shatz said. "It was very well done, respectful."
"I appreciate it," said Pitney, who attended the Select Board meeting and added that he is "more than fine" with the selection of the three new appointed members.
Asked by Selectman Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo if he felt the Planning Board would now move forward in a positive direction, Pitney said: "Without a doubt; I thought it went very well Tuesday night and I don't foresee any problems."
As for Chabon's impending resignation, Pitney agreed that "there is an inherent conflict being on both boards, I think it probably could be done, but he feels he's better off just being on the Select Board."
Current members remaining on the Planning Board are Kate Fletcher and Eugene Talbot.
Shatz, while declining to comment on the reasons for the spate of resignations, cited this week's Planning Board meeting as a favorable omen.
"The board operated in a way that was civil and respectful and got to the issues," he said. "I don't think there is any question about the ability of this Planning Board to operate effectively and the three individuals we've just appointed are very much in that mold."
Select Board Chairman Charles Gillett, explaining that he had not talked with the three planners who resigned, said he is not aware of the reasons for their departures "in a similar manner and a similar time. I just don't know."
Cardillo also declined comment for the same reasons.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
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