Planning Troubles May Lie Behind Hayfield's Departure
New Robbins Town Board member Kevin Stewart cited troubles with the town Planning Board as one reason he wanted to replace Town Manager George Hayfield.
Under pressure to resign or be fired, Hayfield agreed to resign on condition of receiving two months’ severance pay. Last week, the town commissioners voted 3-2 to accept Hayfield’s conditional resignation.
Planning Board Chairwoman Susan Eubanks said in a telephone interview that she did have trouble working with Hayfield.
“He was the most negative person,” she said. “It was my impression we were to rezone the town. George tells us we can’t rezone unless we have a land-use plan in place. If we don’t have that — and we rezone somebody’s property — they can sue us. So that was his last excuse.”
Eubanks said she didn’t know if Hayfield was right about that.
“We wanted to make the zoning more coherent,” she said. “When we would get up steam, his next stumbling block was the land-use plan. He kept finding excuses. We’d get an idea. We’d work on it. At the next meeting, there would be some reason why we couldn’t do that.”
Other board members had no problem with Hayfield. Charles Montjoy said he found the former town manager to be helpful, advising them on proper approaches and regulations that affect what towns may and many not do when it comes to zoning and planning.
“No, I didn’t have any problem with George,” Montjoy said.
Planning Board member Glenn Mathews thought Hayfield was very helpful to the board and said he doesn’t know why Stewart spoke as he did.
“Kevin Stewart was not on the Planning Board,” Mathews said. “To my knowledge, Kevin was never at a Planning Board meeting.”
Mathews thought Hayfield’s awareness of regulations that affect towns was useful.
“Mr. Hayfield was most always in the meetings unless he was tied up with some other things,” Mathews said. “He was always most helpful. He was able to give us information — that we would otherwise not know — as to legalities and how we may, or may not, proceed in certain areas. I had no problems with Mr. Hayfield. I cannot speak for other members of the committee.”
Matthews recalled one of the first issues that came before the board had to do with a request from a property owner for help getting an easement across another piece of property. The Planning Board came into being at the time plans were in place for Providence Place, which would need a change in zoning before it could be built.
“Terri Holt’s stepfather owned land behind there,” Eubanks said. “There was either an easement or a right-of-way or something that was on paper, that had never been developed. It could have been a road and would have come out to Middleton Street. He came to a meeting and asked about it.”
Holt’s stepfather, T.D Burgess, had asked the board to make granting such an easement a condition for giving St. Joseph of the Pines a recommendation for the zoning change that would make Providence Place possible, according to Hayfield. He had told the board at the time that it would be improper to do that.
“It would have been unethical,” Hayfield said when asked about it. “You can’t use zoning power to benefit one property owner at the expense of another.”
Holt is a town commissioner who — along with Stewart and Claire Barrow — wanted Hayfield out.
Three years ago, the Planning Board in Robbins was established as an advisory board to town commissioners. By town ordinance, it was given the job of providing information and advice on zoning and land use issues.
Among its powers and duties are to conduct studies of Robbins and its surrounding areas relevant to zoning, review the zoning ordinance and all zoning amendments, and help the Town Board identify objectives for town development and options for achieving them “in a coordinated and efficient manner.”
Members can conduct research and provide information to the Town Board on the advantages and disadvantages of various zoning options. The board has no authority but acts only to give advice to town commissioners.
Hayfield was succeeded temporarily by Police Chief Jeff Sheffield as interim town manager until Robbins can hire a permanent replacement. Sheffield said Hayfield has been very supportive and ready to help him.
“If I need help, he will call me,” Sheffield said. “He is knowledgeable. If I have a question, he will answer — at least send me in the right direction.”
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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