In their first few weeks on the job, the two newest Milton town department heads faced unprecedented tasks.
It was public works director David Allerton’s 10th day of work when hurricane-force winds swept through the region, knocking down trees and power lines and impeding travel to and from Milton.
And nearly as soon as his predecessor left this fall, planning director Victor Sinadinoski had to enforce Milton’s unified development regulations, a comprehensive overhaul of zoning rules in town.
But those challenges haven’t scared off Allerton or Sinadinoski. Rather, they’re ready to dig in.
Allerton most recently worked as a project manager for Burlington Public Works, counting the Andy A-Dog Williams Skatepark at the waterfront among his successes. Sinadinoski can attest to its popularity: He runs by it every day.
Sinadinoski came to Milton by way of Middlebury, where he served as that town’s assistant zoning administrator and development review coordinator.
Both Allerton and Sinadinoski bring extra skillsets to their respective roles. Allerton is a public engineer, a certification Milton hasn’t had in-house since 2011.
Sinadinoski has a law degree. Before entering municipal government, he obtained his juris doctor and masters in environmental law and policy from Vermont Law School, giving him a unique perspective on planning.
He’s already published a development review board “case law” summary on the town website, explaining the legal basis behind some of the DRB’s recent decisions. The goal, he said, is to give developers planning to submit similar projects a sense of how their application might go.
This all relates to Sinadinoski’s plans to make his department – which, by nature, deals with enforcement and rules – more user-friendly. He started by whittling down an 18-page form to five.
“I want people to look at our department and say, ‘They’re helping us get to where we want to go’” instead of impeding them, he said.
As planning director, Sinadinoski oversees the town’s planning, conservation and economic development commissions, all of which have separate but intersecting goals.
He and Allerton are now examining how their respective departments can collaborate, too, aiming to put an end to the notion that Milton works in silos.
An example is the town’s infrastructure standards committee, a group that corrects inconsistencies in public works specs, zoning regs and more. The idea is to create standards to promote streets, sidewalks, bike lanes and rec paths that calm traffic, provide transportation alternatives and mitigate stormwater, its mission statement says.
The latter item is a big deal for Allerton, who’s well aware of the state’s Lake Champlain cleanup efforts. Since he started, he’s worked closely with the town’s water and wastewater department – which is currently without a permanent supervisor at the helm since Nate Lavallee resigned for a new position.
Allerton said he’s reviewed Milton’s stormwater infrastructure and found it lacking.
“Quite honestly, they’re all in pretty rough shape, and that in itself is gonna be a huge undertaking to fix,” he said. “But we’re up for the task … Everybody wants to move forward and get stuff done.”
Allerton expects the town will continue contracting with an engineering consultant for larger projects like stormwater, though he does anticipate reviewing smaller projects in-house.
“You’re like the conductor of an orchestra – you have to make sure all of the parts are in sync,” he said.
Allerton said as new developments are proposed through the planning office, he can ensure they’re up to spec. Sinadinoski agreed.
“We all have so much in our own departments that we forget that other departments have valuable resources,” he said. “It’s more of staying in touch with each other and realizing there are other resources in here.”
Both department heads said that will become especially relevant with the upcoming hourglass intersection fix at the Route 7-Middle Road-Railroad Street junction.
That project, covered in part with the $2 million tax increment financing bond voters approved last week, has prompted discussion on stormwater management and economic development opportunities, Allerton and Sinadinoski’s specialties.
Sinadinoski said Milton will find ways to better market itself. He suggested setting up tours for real estate agents, pushing Milton’s industrial space and promoting special markets – such as artisanal foods – to set up shop in town.
“To be known for something would definitely help boost that image,” he said, adding Miltonians need shopping options in town to cover their basic needs.
“That’s one of the focuses,” he said. “Trying to make this a livable, workable community all around.”