By Chris Maza
HAMPDEN – After recently standing up in opposition of the Planning Board, Phill Schneider has decided he would like to join in.
Schneider, who was a leader of the Hampden Country Club Buffer Committee, recently announced his candidacy for a five-year term on the Planning Board in Hampden’s May 5 Annual Town Election.
Schneider said his main interest in joining the board was insuring that the laws and bylaws are followed.
“I’ve reviewed all the bylaws and it’s all common sense. You can do what you want with your property as long as the requirements of the bylaws are fulfilled and you are a good neighbor,” he said. “Unfortunately, what I’ve found is unless they are monitored, some people try to stretch the limits of what they think the bylaw means and some would rather ask for forgiveness instead of permission.”
Schneider, a longtime Hampden resident, attended local schools, including Minnechaug Regional High School before graduating from Cathedral High School in 1965.
He and his wife, Carole, have been homeowners in Hampden for 40 years and their children both graduated from Minnechaug.
With the Buffer Committee, Schneider opposed the Planning Board’s decision to allow the golf club to take down trees in an established buffer area as part of its improvement project. The committee filed suit against the town and requested a hearing with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).
It was the contention of Schneider and the Buffer Committee that the removal of the trees was a violation on the existing zoning bylaws and the Planning Board should not have allowed the work to be done.
The ZBA hearing, which took place in January, resulted in the overturning of the Planning Board’s decision.
“I’ve spent the past year and a half or so monitoring and working with the Planning Board with regards to the Hampden Country Club issue,” he said. “There are things I think the town needs to do to make sure the bylaws are followed.”
He added that there has been little movement since the ZBA made its ruling.
“We were grateful to the Zoning Board of Appeals for making that decision and thankful that the system worked, but since then, nobody has been enforcing that decision. Nobody has told the zoning enforcement officer what to do,” he said. “We still have a pending case in [Hampden County] Superior Court and the country club has also taken the town to court because of the Zoning Board’s decision, so the process is still being played out.”
Previous to this foray into local politics, Schneider was an appointed member of the Hampden School Committee and is currently serving the town as a member of the Hampden Police Department Headquarters Replacement Planning Committee. He has also been involved with Cub Scouts, while coaching youth baseball and softball.
He is a Marine Corps veteran and recently retired from the supermarket industry after approximately 50 years.
“I’ve lived in town for most of my life and now that I’m retired, I figured it was a good time to give back to the town that I love so much,” he said.