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Chapman named interim leader for Zoning Office

Washington County Building Inspector Scott Chapman was named interim zoning administrator during the Nov. 25 meeting of the Zoning Administrator’s Oversight Committee.
Chapman replaces Mike Rutherford who will serve as Environmental Court administrator, a new position created by the county commission the night before.
Attorney Tom Seeley recommended Sessions Court Judge James Nidiffer make the selection since the position will report to him, and Nidiffer has chosen Rutherford.
Commissioner Joe Wise said a decision by the General Assembly on the request to repeal the private act that created the position of zoning administrator for Washington County, another vote that passed during the November commission meeting, would not be reached for potentially six months.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said a letter will be sent to one of the county’s local legislators with a request to carry it through the legislative process.
“In the interim, what is the status?” Commissioner Skip Oldham asked.
Eldridge said the current private act remains in place with no changes.
Commissioner David Tomita said the status and direction of the role need to be made abundantly clear to the person taking over the duties.
Wise agreed. “It’s an interim position,” he said. “We’re not picking a favorite horse for this position because it’s not our choice.”
If the private act is repealed, the title of zoning administrator would change to county building commissioner and be appointed by and report to the mayor.
“My concern is for the staff in the office because change can be unsettling,” Wise noted.
Eldridge said it will be important for the committee to not allow the department to remain in a state of uncertainty. “If we’re going to change the way the services are delivered, we need to begin thinking about that now.”
Commissioner Joe Grandy shared the opinion. “If we’re going to reorganize, it will help us know the (needed) skill set of the person to be hired when the private act ends.”
Grandy said the number of residential and commercial permits issued by the county has significantly declined this year. “We need to send a message that it’s a new day in Washington County,” he said. “We need to be building and development friendly.”
Commission Chair Greg Matherly said the county’s chief zoning deputy and building inspector are probably the most knowledgeable about the department’s responsibilities. “Which means you have two candidates to consider,” he said, referring to Chris Pape and Chapman, who were both present.
“It doesn’t make sense to go outside of the department,” Oldham agreed.
Eldridge did not hesitate to state his preference. “If it is the intent of this committee to restore trust in the building and development community, I would recommend Scott,” he said. “He is well known in the building and development community, he would be a statement of change and he can get the message out.”
Chapman is a licensed building contractor with more than 25 years of experience in the building industry. He also is a certified codes inspector and is responsible for inspections of new construction in rural Washington County to ensure code compliance.
Eldridge said his recommendation was in no way a reflection of Pape’s abilities.
Commissioner Tom Krieger predicted Pape would have his hands full working with the Reapportionment Committee members who will be considering options to reduce the size of the county commission, and Pape agreed.
Grandy made a motion to appoint Chapman as interim zoning administrator. The motion was seconded by Krieger and passed with unanimous approval.
Pape noted the zoning administrator also holds the titles of building official, stormwater administrator, floodplain administrator and general health and welfare officer. Grandy made a new motion, seconded by Tomita, to include all titles under the interim role.
Wise asked Chapman if he was comfortable managing the staff offices located in the courthouse.
“I am,” Chapman responded.
Committee members also gave unanimous approval to a temporary stipend of $1,000 per month for Chapman during the time he holds multiple roles. Because dollars are available in the current zoning budget, a request for the action did not have to go to the Budget Committee for approval and recommendation.