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SPOTLIGHT: PZC Chairman Jon Carroll

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When Jon Carroll ran for Planning & Zoning Commissioner (PZC) last Fall, he could not have foreseen that he would soon be serving as Chair.
Staff Writer

His 20 years’ work as a utility contractor prepared him for the “world of regulations”, having to comply with local, state, federal and military project requirements. But it was his work as co-owner of the local Briar Hill Farm, his “passion”, that got him involved with Planning & Zoning, as he helped write a regulation allowing farm stands. When an open seat emerged, he decided to run for it. A newcomer, he was surprised to be elected Chair, “but now that we’re a few months in, I’m happy that I’m the Chair, and I’m quite comfortable and confident to be in that position,” he said. He believes his background helps “navigate these applications and some of the intricacies of certain regulations or questions...”

Carroll participated in a telephone interview with The Goshen News on April 2nd.

Q: Marty Connor’s resignation came as a surprise after 30 years as Town Planner and Zoning Enforcement Officer (ZEO). Were you surprised?

“I was somewhat surprised about it. Obviously, we all appreciate Marty’s years of service to the Town and I do hope that he’s able to go out and enjoy spending time with his grandchildren and pursuing his personal interests.”

Q: As the search for a replacement is undertaken, should the Town be looking for one person to fulfill the roles of Planner, ZEO, and Inland Wetlands Enforcement Officer, or should it be split up?

“Those jobs are really tied together and go hand-in-hand with each other. The person who’s issuing the permits would also be the person going out and inspecting and that way they can be fulfilling multiple functions…you can make sure that things within the plan are being done as prescribed in that plan…I believe that makes the most sense… It is a lot of power to give to one person, but that’s why we have commissioners…who were elected to oversee that individual, and make sure that they are doing what the Town wants.”

 Q: The commission has reinstated Public Comments on their meeting agendas, and contrary to past practice of all communications being filtered through the Town Planner as a gatekeeper, commissioners are now individually communicating by phone or email with the townspeople who elected them. How’s that working?

“I don’t know before, to what extent the Commission was receiving correspondence or not…but I know we are receiving a lot of feedback and information now from the townspeople, and I think that’s a wonderful thing…

Public Comment, which goes back to transparency… is something we campaigned on, and which is something all of the town wanted… It allows the people to have a voice….Not everything can be discussed outside of meetings…but we can have conversations or at least listen to the people and hear their opinions.

Q: Sometimes you have an issue, like the recent North Street Country Club application, with people on both sides of the issue. The majority of speakers were in favor.. Do you go with the majority?

“In that case, and I don’t speak for any other commissioner… you have to weigh the comments and not who, necessarily, they’re coming from, but where they are coming from… For me personally, the adjacent property owners, that are directly impacted by the potential application, have the loudest voice…as opposed to somebody who would never see what would occur based on an application.”

Q: The Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD) must be updated in 2 years. A big item that has people’s attention is what we will or won’t do on Affordable Housing. Legislation coming out of Hartford doesn’t seem to impose a lot of mandates on towns like Goshen. Is that your understanding?

“I want to agree with you, but I definitely need to do my due diligence before I can really speak properly about it. I don’t want to misspeak and say it’s looks like there aren’t going to be any significant changes and then we read page 148 and there’s some big change that we didn’t anticipate… That’s why we asked for additional funds to have counsel be available to help us navigate this and make sure that whatever the state requirements are that we fulfill them.”

Q: Is the counsel you will be hiring somebody in particular?

“We’re going to hire an independent individual… To Be Determined.”

Q: It seems many commissioners are unclear about Conflict of Interest, where they should draw the line, and when they should recuse themselves. We’ve heard it asked how you can be impartial on the PZC if you’re on the Economic Development Commission (EDC), whose plans might come before Planning & Zoning.”

“I’ve heard that as well… I believe the direction of the EDC, currently, will not overlap Planning & Zoning matters, but I will recuse myself on any matters that arise that can possibly come before the [PZC]. We all need to be more aware of what Conflict of Interest is and how it’s interpreted… The most important part is that each official has the trust of the people… so if there’s any question of public trust then an individual should recuse himself from discussion or a vote on that issue.”

Q: The same impartiality question was asked about the 2022 Housing Plan Committee, whose members included selectmen and PZC commissioners who later voted on the plan that they, themselves, developed.

“I think it’s clear that those were not sound decisions on behalf of those elected officials. The townspeople should never have to question whether the decisions are being made solely in their interest or not.”

Finally, Jon brought up the subject of getting information packages to the commissioners by the Thursday before a Tuesday PZC meeting.

“The only way for the commissioners to do their due diligence is to have all the information pertaining to any applicant… [so they can] research it, educate themselves if needed. I think that’s what the taxpayers expect.” “… and that goes back to the Boards and Commissions… taking the responsibility that we’ve been elected to perform more seriously than merely accepting a recommendation made by a hired professional.”