Clark leads influential commission

ORANGE - Walter E. Clark IV, the newly elected chairman of the Plan and Zoning Commission, said his job is to make sure all voices on the commission are heard.

"This isn't the Beau Clark show. We're all committed to making our town better," Clark said when he sat down to discuss his vision for one of the most influential branches of town government.

At the January meeting Clark, a Republican, was unanimously chosen to lead the group for the next two years. Clark has come a long way in the past six months. During the campaign Democrats urged Clark to resign because of a fight outside of a meeting with Rocco Salperto a Democratic appointed zoning alternate who played a key role during the campaign season. After the fight charges were dropped against both parties.

In November Clark was reelected to a second four-year term. The commission is comprised of Republican members Judy Smith Morgan, vice chairman; Ozzie Parente, secretary; and Clark. Democrat members are Paul Kaplan, representative to Council of Governments, and Rick Mangione, liaison to the Inland Wetlands Commission.

Clark said one of his goals as chairman was to have a united board.

"I want to keep the board operating as a unit where we can achieve goals that are best for the town with consensus," he said. Smith Morgan said Clark has always listened to fellow commissioners and she expects he will continue to do so.

"Beau seeks and values each commissioner's opinions," she said.

Kaplan said Clark would not let the commission down as its new leader.

"He is very capable and dedicated," Kaplan said.

Other important issues to Clark are open space and affordable housing for seniors. He also ranks maintaining the Light Industrial Zone as important.

"Stew Leonard's took up a big chunk of that zone. But that is water over the bridge," Clark said. "The remaining area needs to be preserved for LI use," he said.

Currently, Clark said, the commission is readdressing the architectural standards passed last September.

"While I support having standards, the regulations passed where too overbearing and were a deterrent to businesses especially new businesses coming in," he said.

"I think we can maintain quality buildings without being overbearing."

Another issue Clark is tackling is whether to keep the current town planner Anthony Panico.

Calls to Panico were not returned.

"At out last meeting we voted to look into a new planner in a 4 - 1 vote. Kaplan was the opposing vote." Clark said.

"I think Mr. Panico let us down with the architectural standards. Anybody with close to 50 years experience should have at least advised us of the pitfalls with the architectural standards we passed being so strict. If we had chosen to proceed it would have been on our shoulders," Clark said.

Kaplan said he was "not in favor of making a change" during discussion at the TPZ meeting.

"He (Panico) has a tremendous amount of experience and was taking direction from the chairman and carrying out what he was directed to do," Kaplan said.

"It (current artechitural standards) has cost us tax revenue because it has held up projects. It has certainly caused friction between the town and Pez and how that application was handled," Clark said.

"I have a general lack of confidence in his advice. The planner should advise us and not take our advice and put his stamp on it. He should be giving us advice and direction," Clark said. "I want a planner that when any of us come up with an idea he gives us an honest opinion or advises on how or how we should not proceed," Clark said.

Clark said his commission members would work well together.

"We are a group of people who can and do work well together. Everyone contributes even our newest two members have jumped in and been active right from the start," Clark said. "I want to avoid having a divisive board. I want people to express their ideas and concerns. This will ultimately benefit the town. Having opposing views can be constructive," Clark explained.

Clark said he likes the fact that the commission has easy access to the town attorney Vincent Marino and the firm Cohen and Wolf who have regular office hours in Town Hall on Tuesday and Thursdays. Marino up until recently served as Republican town chairman. He resigned that position when his firm was appointed town council.

"This is a huge plus to meet with the town attorney early and in the Town Hall office," Clark said.

"The town has a great resource with the Law Firm of Cohen and Wolf and their attorneys who specialize in zoning laws," Smith Morgan said.

First Selectman Jim Zeoli, Republican, said he was confident in Clark's ability to lead the commission.

"I believe that Beau, since being on the board, is very diligent, does his research prior to meetings and will do an excellent job," Zeoli said.

"His thorough analysis of each application is apparent," Smith Morgan said.

"I know he will look at each and every application without bias," Zeoli added.