At the July meeting, the Lyme Town Board agreed to retain Jim Millington as the zoning and codes enforcement officer.
Many considerations came into play in making this decision, many in which most citizens may not have considered. As always, there are two sides to every story and sometimes more to consider than what appears.
I do not refute the opinions of the Watertown Daily Times editorial staff. Their synopsis is correct and their thinking understandable.
Nor do I deny the obvious improprieties that Mr. Millington has performed regarding the situation with his home. Although not the zoning officer at the time, there is no doubt the time elapsed should have been sufficient to complete the necessary paperwork.
Obviously, this should not have been neglected by him or any other inspectors who should have been involved. There is no doubt this reflects poorly on all involved.
I have addressed these concerns with him, and he understands that it is imperative that he treat every town resident fairly, equally and respectfully and he is to administer the town zoning and code laws with consistency. Mr. Millington understands he is on a short leash. He has been directed to get his paperwork in order for his house. It is my understanding that he will be working with zoning officers from the state and another municipality to achieve compliance.
What many people may not understand, and what the Town Board had to consider, is that there seems to be a different set of rules municipalities must follow if they wish to discipline or terminate an appointed employee. In some cases, civil service laws require a much stricter guideline than private regulations.
In making our decision, the town options were limited. Termination would have been difficult. To make that decision in the middle of the building season did not seem to be a prudent time. And if changes were to be made, the budget was not prepared to handle the additional expenditures that would have been requested by a replacement. Additionally, the concerns regarding the permitting process during the building of the home also came into question.
People sometimes forget that as Town Board members or appointed officials, we have to consider the best interest of everyone in the town. We must make sure we do not react inappropriately to a situation but rather proactively. It has been said that reality is blurred by perception, and perception is not always as it seems.
In 2012, the town received a little more than 210 permit requests for special uses, variances, building inspections, demolitions and seasonal mobile residency permits. In the five and a half years I have been supervisor, I can recall eight instances of complaints regarding the zoning officer.
If more people than that are complaining, they have not called or written. I have been told by the head of the State Zoning Enforcement Office that if someone does not complain about the zoning officer, he is not doing his job to protect the town.
I would assume the number of permit applications the past five years would be similar to the number of 2012. Eight complaints out of hundreds of applications does not seem quite so bad.
I believe Mr. Millington is doing the best he can with a very difficult job. There were complaints about the town zoning officers before he took the job, and Im sure there will be complaints about zoning officers who may come after him.
The Town Board has agreed to support Mr. Millington as the town of Lyme zoning and codes enforcement officer. It has been said that we learn from our mistakes. We expect he has learned a great deal from this experience. We trust in him and his knowledge of zoning and codes enforcement. We ask our residents to trust in him also.
Mr. Aubertine is supervisor of the town of Lyme.