Planning Board Discusses Third Party Review Draft

The Planning Board reviewed a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for Third Party Review for land development applications but plans further discussions on the matter.
Third party review has been an issue, with the Town Council last May dropping Stantec as third party reviewer and the process begun again, due to the Council’s displeasure that cost was not a factor in the choice of reviewer.

“Based on the concerns at the last Council meeting (May 6) to include the issue of cost, and the issue of the number of bids that were submitted, my thought was to go back to the beginning, and the beginning is ‘what were the parameters outlined by the Request For Proposal’ (RFP),” William Hart, then acting town manager, said at the time.
Hart said that based on his conversation with town attorney Michael Ramsdell and the concerns of the council, he suggested withdrawing the RFP. The decision was made to rewrite the RFP to include cost as a potential factor.
Now the board is again preparing to make a decision on the RFP proposal and move ahead with the process.
At the board’s Wednesday, Nov. 6 meeting, member Lynn Wiles asked if the board was voting on the measure.
“You can approve it tonight if you are OK with the language. Essentially this is looking for two instead of one,” Town Planner Cynthia May said.
May said the town attorney suggested taking out of the RFP the language that said the applicants would not also seek to participate in representing clients coming before the board.
Board Chairman Arthur Rugg said his opinion is that it would create a conflict. “I look at it as protecting the town,” Rugg said.
Board member Mary Wing Soares asked if the proposal was something the board was asking the Town Council to send out on behalf of the Planning Board.
“The Planning Board is asked to send this out,” May said.
Rugg said the document had been reviewed by May, Town Manager Kevin Smith and Ramsdell, but as the ex-officio board member from the Town Council, Tom Freda, was not present, Rugg didn’t know the council’s view of it.
Board member Leitha Reilly questioned the time frame and what the Planning Board is being asked to do. Rugg said the board would interview candidates. May added that staff did not vet candidates “for obvious reasons.”
Board member Chris Davies said they would have to go through the interview process because it was required.
The two issues facing the board in the RFP are consideration of cost and quality.
Board member Maria Newman asked if two candidates were to be chosen, how the work would be distributed to each company.
May said Derry alternated between reviewers but the process for Londonderry would have to be established by the board.
May said the intent is for the board to look over the document for the next several weeks and decide what would work. “So maybe we come back next week and revisit that question,” May said.
Soares noted that all the contracts are approved by the Town Council. “We will never have the final say in a contract,” she said.
Rugg said all contracts are executed by the Town Manager.
Board member Chris Davies said the Town Council can always say, “no, we’re not going to do it that way.”
“As they did last time,” Soares responded.
Davies suggested staff meet with other towns to see how they handle third party review, and May said they did that last year.
“Most towns have one third party review agent and Derry has two,” May said.
Reilly said the board should review the board’s minutes and notes from last year to refresh themselves on what was done.
May recommended a three- to five-year contract be established with the two candidates chosen.
Board member Laura El-Azem questioned whether Smith, as the new Town Manager, wanted two third-party reviewers, and May said she did not know.
Rugg said the board would review the minutes and the report, and tabled the discussion until the Dec. 4 Planning Board meeting.

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