HARWICH — As the town begins its hunt for a new town planner, Town Administrator Joseph Powers has provided an additional charge to the position, giving it the new title of director of planning and community development and assigning it the task of coordinating and overseeing the health, conservation, building and planning departments.
The new director will coordinate community development department activities with other departments, will act as the primary advocate for the various departments within the community development organizational structure and work with the departments to develop technical solutions to shared problems.
The change comes with the retirement of former Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh, now serving as the interim planner on a part-time basis. Greenhalgh continued to work two days a week after she officially retired at the end of November.
Powers presented the new job description to selectmen last week. He is continuing to work with the town's collective bargaining unit, which has given tacit approval for change, but the union has asked to see a community development department organizational structure chart.
The change in title represents a modest change in responsibility, Powers said. The new director will be serving primarily as an advocate for the department. The director will continue to function under the administrative direction of the town administrator and/or assistant town administrator, but will function independently, consulting with the planning board and the town administrator when clarification of policies or procedures are required.
Selectman Chairman Larry Ballantine wanted more information on what “oversight” of the community development department means.
Powers said the role of the position will be to coordinate with other departments. The assistant town administrator has direct oversight, he said. The director will serve as the primary advocate in addressing the department's needs. Right now there is no official coordination between the four community development departments, Powers said.
“This is not management, but a person to work with other departments to tie us together and work as an overall team,” Powers said.
One of the major tasks Powers for the new position to address is e-permitting system in the community development department. The Accela Citizen Access system used to filing permits with the community development department electronically needs to be replaced, he said.
The position of director includes maintaining regular contact with town departments as well as state, regional and local agencies while also having frequent contract with the general public and applicants. Tasks include providing reports and assistance to the planning board and board of appeals.
As town planner, the individual will work with the planning board conducting technical and administrative work evaluating information, preparing reports, and managing operations of the department. That includes assisting the board with land use decisions, crafting zoning amendments and shaping and implementing the local comprehensive plan.
The director will also with local and regional planning agencies to undertake studies, address local and regional concerns and serve on town and regional committees.
The recommended qualifications for the position include a requirement of a bachelor’s degree, with a master’s degree in planning preferred; five years of professional planning experience, preferably in local regional government; or on an equivalent combination of education and experience. Knowledge of Massachusetts zoning law and local zoning practices, knowledge of planning and environmental issues and working knowledge of GIS are also recommended.