Steve Palmer, town planner of New Canaan since late last year, is stepping down from his position with the municipality to join his family’s business, officials said Friday.
Town employees received word from New Canaan Human Resources Director Cheryl Pickering-Jones in a midmorning email.
“We are going to miss Steve and the work he has done in just a short time for Planning and Zoning,” she said in the email.
In a relatively short period of time, Palmer has tackled multiple dense and divisive P&Z applications and appeals before the town, including the Merritt Village, sober house, Grace Farms and Roger Sherman Inn.
Asked about the development, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said that Palmer has done “a magnificent job while here.”
“We are going to miss him,” Mallozzi said.
Palmer told NewCanaanite.com that “it’s been a privilege to work with such a professional group of volunteers on both the Planning & Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.”
“Their dedication to to ensuring the long-term well being and preservation of New Canaan’s small town charm is inspiring and made my job easier. I’d also like to thank the first selectman for giving me this opportunity and my staff for their patience and hard work.”
Palmer’s family’s business is located in Stratford, Mallozzi said, and the town planner had expressed to him in giving notice on Thursday that it was a difficult decision to join it following the retirement of Palmer’s father.
“I could not talk him out of it,” Mallozzi said. “He is in a good place and ready to make a change in the direction of his future and I think he will have great success.”
The resignation is effective Sept. 15.
Palmer in giving notice was “extremely complimentary” of his relationship with P&Z Chairman John Goodwin and the entire group and “extremely sad to have to tell me that he had to leave because he enjoyed working with me and the folks at Town Hall.”
“I think it was a tough call,” Mallozzi said.
Goodwin said that “New Canaan is a tough place to be a planner and particularly recently with a number of complex situations.”
“I was impressed by Steve’s quickly coming up the local learning curve and his great attitude, so I’m disappointed to lose him so soon,” Goodwin said. “He briefed me on his next professional step and it sounds exciting and I wish him all the best. I met with the first selectman this morning and we discussed succession which town hall is already working on as well as managing through the transition.”
John Engel, a member of the Town Council and Realtor in New Canaan who also serves on the board of the New Canaan Land Trust, said he would be “sad to see” Palmer go.
“In his short time with us Steve Palmer faced difficult challenges with complete professionalism and helped the New Canaan community grapple with sometimes controversial decisions that will be part if us for the next hundred years: Merritt Village, Grace Farms, Cell Towers and the Roger Sherman being only the most prominent,” Engel said. “Aside from these high-profile cases Steve always made time to hear New Canaan citizens and help guide us to a successful outcome if possible, both for homeowners, builders and for the town.”
Mallozzi said that he and Goodwin would work with HR starting Monday to look for a successor.
“We will roll up our sleeves right away,” he said. “It’s a very important position and we will do our best to fill it in as short a time as possible with all the requisite skills and background needed.”
Palmer during an application process last fall outpaced a field of 21 original applicants for the position long held by Steve Kleppin. Prior to coming t New Canaan, he had been the Planning & Zoning director in Westport for a relatively short period of time, and spent many years in Bethel as planning director before that.