Conroy, Abby

Interviewee: Abby Conroy
Narrator: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Building Inspector’s office, Town Hall
Date of Interview: March 14, 2022
File No: 6 Cycle: 5
Summary: Job of Planning & Zoning, Wetlands, and Conservancy

Interview Transcript

Abby Conroy Interview
This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Abby Conroy who is going to talk about her job: Planning & Zoning, Wetlands, and Conservancy. Today’s date is March 14, 2022. This is file #6, cycle 5.
JM: What is your name?
AC: My name is Abby Conroy
JM: Your birthdate?
AC: March 14, 1988
JM: Your birthplace?
AC: Torrington, Ct.
JM: How did you come to Salisbury?
AC: Word of mouth!
JM: Perfect. W here did you get your undergraduate degree?
AC: My undergraduate degree is from Alleghany College in northwestern Pennsylvania in Environmental Studies. My graduate degree is from Green Mountain College in Vermont in Conservation Biology with a concentration in Aquatic and semi-aquatic ecosystems.
JM: What other job experience did you have before Salisbury?
AC: I began my career as a land-use administrator in the town of Burlington, Ct. and moved on to Woodbury, Ct. Then I came here.
JM: Did you have to apply?
AC: I did
JM: Did you have an interview?
AC: I did.
JM: Who interviewed you?
AC: A lot of commissioner members. It was a very professional interview. I had Curtis Rand, First Selectman, and Joseph Cleaveland for inner resource questions, Dr. Michael Klemens who is Chairman of P&Z, and Deborah Allee who is a commission member.
JM: `That was quite an interview.
AC: Yes she actually had a professional career running her own planning firm so she had a lot of experience in interviewing candidates.
JM: It makes you feel better though doesn’t it?
AC: It does.
JM: P&Z Planning and Zoning What does that mean: what do they do?
AC: Planning & Zoning deals with development and conservation of land in a municipality. Connecticut does not require that each town have a Planning & Zoning commission, but all but 2 have them in Connecticut. So we essentially design a zoning map where different kinds of uses, such as commercial and residential are more appropriate and establish regulations to manage the use of the land.
JM: Your specific responsibilities are?
AC: I am an advisor to the Planning & Zoning Commission. Ultimately the statutory authority to regulate is given to them. They appoint me as a staff person.
JM: When does P&Z meet?
AC: Currently they are meeting every other Monday.
JM: I know Monday is a long day for you. It is rubbing salt in the wound to have to do this too.
JM; The Chair of the commission would be whom?
AC: Michael Klemens
JM: How many members are on the board?
AC: Right now it is 5 full members and 2 alternates, with one vacancy.
JM: When was your job expanded to include Wetlands?
JM: Before I was hired, there were two separate people one in P&Z and the other handed Wetlands. Then they thought it might make more sense because of the overlap between the two departments to have one single person execute all of it. They created the position for which I am the first person to be hired for it.
JM: Congratulations!
AC: There is a lot feeling our way through this.
JM: When were you actually hired?
AC: I started in June of 2020. I overlapped with the Prior Zoning Board official.
JM: That would be Nancy Brusie? (See her interview)
AC: Yes I worked with her for a month to see how she ran things. I got a handle on Planning & Zoning for several months becoming in charge of Inland Wetlands, replacing Ruth Mulcahy in January of 2021.
JM: That gave you some wiggle room to learn.
AC: That was really great having time to learn how things work. They had great foresight that they saw the value of cross training.
JM: They did plan ahead. What is the purpose of the Inland Wetlands?
AC: The Inland Wetlands and watercourses Commission carries out the inland Wetland and Watercourses Act. The state of Connecticut requires that each town have its own Wetlands agency. They delegate regulatory authority on a local level to the Inland Wetlands Commission.
JM: Do you work with DEP?
AC: Indirectly
JM: If I ask you when they meet, you are going to say.
AC: Twice a month on Mondays
JM: Is there a chair of this commission?
AC: There is– Larry Burcroft
JM: Oh no, I had him is school.
AC: He is a nice guy.
JM: Oh he is wonderful. He was wonderful as kid, too
AC: Oh I am sure.
JM: I can still see him when he was 9. How many members on that commission?
AC: I believe there is a total of 11, 8 regular and 3 alternates.
JM: When was the conservancy part added?
AC: Originally Salisbury had a Conservation Commission that carried out conservation responsibilities and inland wetland responsibilities. They are authorized under two separate statutes. It had become very specialized: the preferred legal path was to separate the two. So in 2020 the Conservation Commission and Inland Wetlands Commission were split per se of their responsibilities, but because we were required to have a Wetlands Commission, basically everyone just moved over to Wetlands. We are working currently to build up a Conservation Commission. Then I would be in an advisory role.
JM: What is the purpose of the Conservancy?
AC: They make recommendations to other boards and commissions or to the town, perhaps to the Land Trust for things like acquiring land, or if there is a particular resource that is being proposed to being developed what the Conservation Commission concerns would be with it.
JM: Then would the Salisbury Association Land Trust Committee speak to you about a possible purchase?
AC: Correct
JM: Are you an advisor on this commission as well?
AC: Well they haven’t met yet, but it is very likely that I will be.
JM: But you have not yet got a commission formed yet?
AC: Correct
JM: Who makes all of these wonderful regulations?
AC: I think there were a lot of them for Planning & Zoning definitely because along the way there were planning consultants that made recommendations. But currently we are doing a lot of in-house revisions. We have seen them in action so we know where they are not so great. We are working on some minor amendments which our attorney would review.
JM: So you can tweak them a little to make them more efficient.
AC: Correct
JM: What are your office hours?
AC: My office hours are currently Mon, Tues. Thursday from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM that will overlap with the Building Official, then on Wednesday from 8:00 AM to 12:00.
JM: Are appointment available?
AC: Yes, highly encouraged
JM: What do you like about this job which they have given you to cover three different things?
AC: There are just so many opportunities here to do things and make them better for the community. I have worked in other towns and Salisbury is unique, I think. I previously had the accusation from an unhappy resident that “You don’t even live here! Why should you possibly care?” I care. I probably care too much.
JM: It shows in the attitude, the work ethic. You don’t necessarily have to live in a place if you listen to the customers and you care.
AC: Correct it has become a highly legal job.
JM: Yes, I can tell.
AC: That is sort of a new concept for Salisbury. Salisbury has kind of been buffered from it. It has gotten to a point where the value of land is so much valuable now.
JM: Shangri-La is being impacted by reality. Is there anything that you don’t like?
AC: Not enough hours in the day. I just wish there were more time in the day to get things done.
JM: Is there anything before we close that you would like add?
AC: I am happy with the progress that has been made, the people I have been able to work with has been a pleasure.
JM: Thank you.
AC: Thank you.