2017-07-14 / Community News

Town finds its planner

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Although the planning director’s position was advertised and solicited applications from 20 individuals from all across the country – including Colorado, Missouri and Nevada – Town Manager Tom Hall didn’t have to look very far to find the right individual to replace former director Dan Bacon.

Jay Chace, who has been working as the town’s assistant planner since 2007, was officially promoted this month to replace Dan Bacon, who worked as head of the planning and code enforcement department for a decade. Prior to coming to Scarborough, Chace worked as town planner in Harpswell.

Chace, Hall said, was one of three finalists for the position, and like the other applicants was fully vetted to determine if he was the best person for the job.

“My long standing tradition is to encourage internal candidates to apply. For senior leadership positions, I never just do a local process. True to form, I did a nationwide search and encouraged internal candidates to apply. Jay was the only internal candidate to do so,” Hall said.

Local or not, Hall said the goal was to hire the most qualified individual he could.

“He was one of three finalists. I should say, the other two were well qualified. It was a tough decision, but a good problem to have,” Hall said. “In looking over the candidates, Jay had all the elements I was looking for.”

The planning director position is more policy-related, something that attracted Chace, previously the town’s senior planner, to the position.

“It’s a little more in the realm of policy-making and consideration, so much of the senior planner position was dealing with development review, which is certainly an aspect I enjoyed. Being able to look at bigger picture policy initiatives was something that was exciting,” said Chace, who has a master’s degree in community development and planning from the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.

Chace said he was drawn to municipal planning because it is where “people and places come together.”

“I enjoy working through the challenge of growth, preservation and all that goes along with how a town grows,” Chace said. “Everyone has a different vision of how that should happen. I like to be part of that conversation and help a community find its way.”

Despite finding the best option in house, Hall said if he hadn’t done the nationwide search for the position, “I would have wondered, as I suspect others would have too, what else was out there.”

For the last decade, Chace has helped and supported the planning board and development applicants through the permitting process and been involved in special projects, such as the update of the 2006 comprehensive plan or various pedestrian and vehicle improvement efforts throughout town.

Hall said in the end it was Chace’s familiarity with planning efforts in town that set him apart.

“It’s that sort of thing that set Jay apart. I had four or five, what I would call very respected community members and committee members that spoke highly of Jay,” Hall said. “That’s meaningful for me. I didn’t seek them out. They reached out to me.”

The move Chace is making is not unprecedented in town. Bacon also made the transition from assistant town planner, a position he began in 2004, to town planner when he replaced Joseph Ziepniewski in 2007. Chace started as assistant town planner in 2007, but was given the title senior planner several years ago to, as Hall said, recognize Chace’s “extra efforts and skill level.”

In the interim between Bacon and Chace, Scarborough Economic Development Corporation Director Karen Martin was named acting town planner. Hall said he chose Martin for the temporary position because she was not interested in the permanent post, but Chace was. Hall said Martin, who is a planner by trade, worked closely with Bacon and through that collaboration and SEDCO work, was up to speed on many of the big issues going on in town.

In the past Hall has filled a temporary vacancy like he did with Bacon’s, but also named people already in a department to the top post in an interim capacity like he did with Community Services Recreation Manager Bill Reichl until he could find a replacement for retiring director Bruce Gullifer, which he eventually did with new director Todd Souza.

Hall decided not to take that approach in this case because he knew there was a glut of things before the planning board and didn’t want Chace to have to balance that work and the work that would come as acting town planner.

“This afforded me a tremendous opportunity in having Karen take on role and maintain Jay as a independent, viable candidate,” Hall said.

It will be a busy summer for Chace, who aside from his planning director duties will be assisting the planning board like he was doing as senior planner.

Hall said he is looking to have an assistant planner in place by mid to late August.

Currently, Chace is working on the 2006 comprehensive plan update and auditing the results of the Higgins Beach character code that was put in place in that community in late 2015. The audit, he said, is aimed at seeing what has worked and what hasn’t. A report out to the planning board at its next meeting on July 17 is planned. It is undetermined, at this point, if a similar design code would work in Pine Point Beach.

“Now that we are updating our comprehensive plan, we have a chance to see if other areas makes sense to apply this,” he said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarbroughleader.com.

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