Neil Faiman

Neil Faiman -- ZBA

Neil FaimanThe reason for zoning is to regulate land use, keep related uses together and not cause problems, like having a factory next to a house.  People are asked to give up some rights to make it better for everyone. Over the years, as things change, more regulations are added, but the idea is to keep it workable and equitable.

“But there are always special cases,” Neil Faiman said, “You draw a zone and create districts where certain things can be done. It sounds logical except things aren’t always equal. They are good rules and make sense until you look at that lot and it becomes unreasonable because of its particular circumstances.” A landowner has to be able to make a reasonable use of his land.

Those odd cases are the reason for a Zoning Board of Adjustment. Faiman has been part of Wilton’s for about 30 years. He is also a member of the Planning Board.

Lynne and Neil FaimanNeil and his wife Lynne moved to Wilton from Nashua in 1987.“Our daughter was at Pine Hill,” he said, and we decided the commute was too much and started looking around. They found their out-to-the-way place on Putnam Hill Road.

Although he grew up in Durham where his father was an administrator at UNH, “I was born in Fargo, N.D.” He graduated from Michigan State University of Michigan.

“I met Lynn there, got married and stayed,” he said. He was working in the computer industry in places like Detroit and Ann Arbor when he got a job in Nashua at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC.) “For me, it was like coming home.”

He hadn’t given any thought to government service, he said, “But I saw a letter in the Cabinet about the town needing people to volunteer, and decided to run for the Planning Board.” He lost, but the selectmen “suggested I apply for the Board of Adjustment and I was appointed.”

He did a self-taught “crash-course in zoning law,” because when he does something, he wants to do it right. “You do have to be familiar with the state regulations. I’ve been chairman of the ZBA for about half the time the time the town has had one.”

Wilton ZBAVariances are a sort of compromise, he said, “a trade-off. If it’s a common problem, it’s not unique. Reasonable is the operative word. You can’t have zoning without allowing for variances.” There is a common misconception, he said. “Variances do not set precedents. Each case is specific to that lot. You have to adapt to the realities of the land in New Hampshire, the historical aspects, the hills and the rivers. That’s why you need a zoning board.”

The Planning Board has also created special exceptions, like more density in the downtown and home occupations in residential areas. “The idea is good, but you need a set of rules. The Zoning Board also looks at those. And a lot of it is interpretation.”

It has become a lot easier, he said, since the town has hired a Land Use Administrator, Michelle Decoteau. “She has made a huge difference in how we do things, a more professional way. We really needed more than a secretary.”

Wilton Zoning BoardWhy would anyone want to be on the Zoning Board? “People move into town and don’t think much about the government,” he said. “Then they realize the government is people like you, and some people want to make a contribution. There are lots of ways to do that, and a lot of the business is done by volunteers, lots of groups trying to make good things happen.”

He added, “People should get involved if they think it is interesting. The Zoning Board can be a very interesting thing to do; you see an aspect you wouldn’t otherwise.”

He added, “The board has space for five alternates, but we only have two.” Alternates stand in for absent Board Members; otherwise, they take part in the discussions, but do not vote. “It’s a real hands-on learning experience.”

Now retired, he and Lynne can indulge more in one of their favorite pastimes – walking all the interesting back roads in Wilton and Lyndeborough.

“They are very pretty places.”

(For more information on the Wilton Zoning Board, visit their page on the Wilton website HERE.)

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