By Curt Peterson
Preston Bristow of Woodstock was shocked to get a job he never applied for.
“The Town of Killington decided to downsize it’s town planner and zoning administrator to half time and I was available, with the skills to start immediately, and no need to relocate,” Bristow, 65, announced on his Facebook page.
Bristow will have office hours in Killington every Thursday and Friday, and the second and fourth Wednesdays.
Killington Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said Bristow’s appointment is officially “interim,” but there are no plans to seek an alternative candidate.
Bristow is placing the previous zoning administrator of 29 years, Dick Horner, who is retiring from the position.
Horner made his exit plans known last summer, and the Select Board has been seeking his replacement for several months.
The town is wrestling with how to regulate Airbnbs and other online short-term rentals for safety and health issues, and how to level the playing field for other lodging owners by collecting room and meals taxes from the on-line landlords. There is also a pending complaint in Environmental Court by a landowner.
Bristow is well-known and respected in the area, and serves as zoning administrator for Barnard, as well as their Select Board Administrator. He has been “riding the circuit” – in his words – in the region, like the Old West judges who would ride into town, hear all the pending cases, then move on to the next.
He’s known for his familiarity with zoning statutes, and for seeking dispute resolutions that are the least inconvenient for all parties while staying within the letter of the law.
Bristow has a Bachelor’s Degree in Botany and Plant Pathology from the University of Maine, and holds a certificate of completion from the Vermont Leadership Institute at the Snelling Center. He has served as zoning administrator in Braintree, Chelsea, Newbury, Pomfret and West Windsor. He’s also been on-call floodplain administrator for Hancock, Granville and Sharon, towns that do not have zoning laws that would otherwise apply.
He is also a charter school bus driver for Butler Bus Service. Always up for something new, Bristow has been a Realtor, worked for the Vermont Land Trust, served on the Woodstock Select Board (2005-2017), volunteered as an Emergency Medical Technician for Woodstock Rescue Squad, operated a ski lift, and hiked the entire Long Trail, “end to end” in 1972, according to his extensive resume.
In small, rural towns there’s no need, or money, for a full-time zoning admin, so his are universally part-time positions.
Bristow realizes his duties will be on a larger scale than that to which he is accustomed. By comparison, Killington’s 771 residents are fewer than Barnard’s 918 (2017 U.S. Census), and the two towns’ geographical areas are similar – 46.9 square miles (Killington) versus 48.9 square miles (Barnard) – the difference is Killington Resort.