Planning director out after three months on job

In 90-day performance review, Select Board member says Mark Smith, town agreed he wasn’t ‘living up to his responsibilities’

RINDGE — After having the position filled for just three months, the town is once again without a planning director.

After a 90-day review of his position, Planning Director Mark Smith stepped down in what Select Board member and Planning Board ex-officio Roberta Oeser referred to as a mutual decision. Smith’s was hired in October, shortly after relocating from Colorado to Jaffrey. Before he took the job, the Planning Director position had been empty for 9 months.

Smith’s last day was Jan. 21, said Oeser, the same day as his 90-day review.

“We just had a discussion with him. He didn’t feel he was living up to his responsibilities,” said Oeser of Smith’s departure. “It was not like any big decision. It was just a matter of discussion and that both the board and he felt it wasn’t working. It wasn’t a good fit. As [Smith] said, he just didn’t have the passion for it.”

The planning director is a full-time, salaried position. Among the responsibilities of the planning director are to review applications to the Planning and Zoning boards, post public hearings, make recommendations to the boards regarding applications and verify they comply with the town’s ordinances and regulations. The position also has an ongoing responsibility to review and recommend updates to the town’s master plan, zoning ordinance and town regulations, and to ensure that the town’s zoning regulations are in compliance with the master plan.

“There’s a lot to it,” said Oeser.

The town has not posted the position yet, said Oeser, and the Planning Board will be discussing a plan of action for hiring a new planning director during its regular meeting next week. All of the zoning amendments for this coming election have been submitted and reviewed, she said, so it is not a busy time to lose the director. For anything that needs to be reviewed in the interim, the town’s Interim Town Administrator Jane Pitt, who has experience as a planning director, and the Planning Board Secretary Susan Hoyland will fill the gaps, Oeser said.

“They will be able to assist if questions come up, so I feel like we’ll be able to do okay,” said Oeser.

McCummings steps down

In other Planning Board news, during a Dec. 3 Planning Board meeting, Planning Board member Kim McCummings announced that due to work and school scheduling changes, she would not be able to continue as a regular board member. At the time, she announced that Dec. 17 would be her last meeting as a board member, although she did contribute to the Dec. 19 continuation of the Dec. 17 meeting. McCummings indicated on Dec. 3 that she would be willing to continue on the board as an alternate member, which is now her roll.

In an interview Monday, Rindge resident Kelen Geiger noted that she had concerns about McCummings becoming an alternate for the Planning Board if she could not regularly attend meetings. At a recent meeting, she voiced her concerns, telling the board that by the board’s own rules of procedure, alternates are required to be at all meetings and public hearings, according to a recording of the meeting. At the meeting, Select Board Chair Kirk Stenerson said that the rules of procedure do allow for Planning Board members and alternates to be absent, as long as the Planning Board Chair is notified in advance. While he understood Geiger’s concern, the board would take what it could get in terms of participation from qualified alternates, he said.

The board unanimously agreed to appoint McCummings to alternate at the Jan. 7 meeting. The Planning Board meets on alternating Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the town offices.

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