On December 19, 2018

One of Killington’s longest employees to retire

By Katy Savage

When Dick Horner came to Killington back in 1989, Killington Road was just one lane in both directions, the Killington Grand Hotel didn’t exist and snowboarding was in its infancy.

In his 30 years as town planning and zoning administrator, Horner has overseen development of major projects that have shaped Killington Resort and the town into what it is today.

He helped plan Green Mountain National Golf Course and helped  the Basin Sports ski shop expand. He’s watched snowboarding grow into a major sport and helped Killington Resort open its terrain parks.

Horner is the one of town’s longest-serving employees. He is retiring Dec. 31.

“It’s time,” he said.

Paul Buhler, a former Planning Commission member, will serve as interim planning and zoning administrator until a new person is named.

“The town is going to lose an asset,” said Buhler.

Buhler, a retired math teacher at Woodstock Union Middle School, has been part of Killington since 1971. He served as interim zoning administrator in the 1980s.

“I like public service,” he said. “Finding someone who has the experience and interest isn’t easy.”

Planning and zoning was second career for Horner. He grew up in Minnesota. Horner received a master’s degree in urban planning in New Orleans and then moved to Florida. Horner, now 66, interviewed for the position in Killington over Columbus Day weekend in 1989 and was hired immediately. He and his wife, a former nurse at Rutland Regional Medical Center, moved from Florida to Proctor, where they have since raised four children, now ages 25-39.

Since then, Horner has rewritten the Killington town plan five times, adding and tweaking language and rules of Killington’s development. Horner said the language in the town plan is general on purpose.

“Killington is a pro-development town. We try to encourage development and limit the roadblocks,” he said. “It’s a resort town, it should grow.”

Horner has helped a generation of Killington entrepreneurs expand their businesses, like Chris Karr, the owner of The Pickle Barrel, Jax, the Foundry, Mad Hatters and Charity’s, and Phil Black, the owner of Lookout Tavern.

“We really loved him and respected him,” said Black, who purchased his 1958 building about 20 years ago and has since relied on Horner’s stack of notes about the property’s history. “That wealth of knowledge is incredible.”

Besides helping commercial businesses, Horner has helped first time home builders.

He helped Martin Post and his wife build their house in 2000.

“He’s always been fair and tried to make improvements in the town, yet stick within the zoning regulations and rules,” said Post, who sits on the zoning board of adjustment.

Horner’s retirement will be hard for Town Clerk Lucrecia Wonsor.

Horner hired Wonsor in 1998 to take meeting minutes for the Planning Commission. She was later elected town clerk.

Wonsor said she’ll miss Horner.

“I tried to convince him to stay,” she said. “The knowledge and history we’re going to lose when he goes is going to be a huge loss.”

Horner’s job has shifted since he started.

“There was a lot more development going on back then,” he said.

When development slowed, Horner focused more on grant writing and planning.

Horner has stacks of sketches for future plans in his office. He’s studied the alternatives of converting Killington Road back to two lanes with a center turning lane, for example.

Horner doesn’t yet know what he’ll do in his retirement. He is active in his own town of Proctor. Horner sits on the Planning Commission and has been a Select Board member off and on for nine years in Proctor, though he said Proctor is far different from Killington.

“It’s a lot more low-key,” he said.

As for Killington, Horner said his most complex project here has been plans for the Killington Village – a vision for the town that began when skiers flocked to the area for the resort in 1968. The Planning Commission rewrote bylaws to make the village dream possible at one point. But after ownership turnover at the resort and the stock market crash in 2008, the vision has not yet become a reality.

Under the current plans, Killington Road would be a tunnel. Ramshead and Snowshed would be replaced with new lodges. And the majority of the parking would be at the bottom of the road, making the resort more reliant on shuttles.

Horner estimates it would cost $20-$30 million just to put the infrastructure in place for the Village, but he thinks it will happen someday.

“It’s going to change the whole dynamic,” he said. “It’s the dream.”

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