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Quorum Failure Delays Lebanon Zoning Board

Lebanon — Four of the last six Zoning Board of Adjustment meetings have been cancelled due to a lack of a quorum.

“We’re really low on members right now,” said Zoning Director Carmela Hennessy, who added that the board should consist of five regular members and three alternates.

With last week’s City Council approval of a new appointment, the sparsely populated zoning board now has four regular members and one alternate.

If a regular member were unable to attend a meeting, the newly appointed alternate — Jennifer Mercer — could be appointed to fill the void. That still leaves the board with only four members to discuss and decide zoning matters, which is the bare minimum allowed by state law, according to Hennessy, but not the ideal.

“Obviously, you want to afford the applicants their best opportunity, which would be having five members there” she said.

The board has met twice since January, with meetings canceled on Jan. 7, Feb. 4, March 4, and March 18 since then. Messages left for Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairman David Shulock were not returned.

Hennessy, a 35-year veteran of the zoning department, said that the membership of the zoning board typically ebbs and flows.

“We have lots of members on board and then people start retiring and moving on, and other people don’t step up to the plate and serve their community,” she said. “It’s a time commitment ... and I have a lot of respect for the volunteers who spend their evenings serving.”

On the other side of the coin, Hennessy said, issues can crop up that polarize or motivate the Lebanon community to participate, causing the board to fill up with new members.

Asked whether Lebanon — one of the largest cities in the region with considerable commercial and residential development — might intimidate those who are considering serving on the board, Hennessy said, “It might factor in to the person who is sitting at home and thinking about it, but once you apply and you get on the board, all you really need to have is a desire to serve the community and educate yourself a little bit.”

She added that the city offers training workshops and that other board members are “always willing to help.”

“You don’t need to be a lawyer or anyone involved in land use to do this,” said Hennesy. “You just have to have a willingness to understand some of this.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction appeared in the Wednesday, March 27 edition of the Valley News.

At present, the Lebanon Zoning Board of Adjustment would have four voting members if an alternate replaced an absent regular member at a meeting, one more than is required by state law. An article yesterday was incorrect on that point.