CHESHIRE — Republican Paul Bowman's sudden resignation from the Town Council, which he announced during a meeting Tuesday night, is official.
Town Clerk Laura Brennan confirmed in an email Thursday she had found the written resignation, which had been slid under her office door, Wednesday morning.
The typed letter, which Bowman signed, stating he had resigned his seat as an at-large member of the council “effective immediately.” The letter was dated Feb. 11. Brennan stamped the letter saying it was received 8:30 a.m. Feb. 12.
The Town Council now has 60 days from that date to approve the appointment of another town Republican to fill the vacancy. If after 60 days the council cannot agree on an appointment, Town Council Chairman Rob Oris Jr. has the authority to fill the vacancy without a full council vote.
Republican Town Committee chairman Guy Darter, when reached by phone Thursday, said he has not yet learned about any potential candidates who might seek the appointment.
The process of vetting candidates to replace Bowman will begin next week, when the RTC meets.
Adam Grippo, vice chairman of the RTC, said the committee takes the responsibility of filling that vacancy "very seriously and will be methodical during the vetting process."
“We know that whomever we choose will be replacing one of the most experienced and respected citizens in Cheshire,” Grippo wrote in a message to the Record-Journal.
Oris was one of the few people who knew ahead of Tuesday's meeting that Bowman had planned to step down.
“Obviously it was a big surprise. I was hoping, maybe by the time got to the meeting, he would reconsider,” Oris said Wednesday.
The resignation came on the heels of the second of three public hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding a proposal to subdivide land along Cornwall Avenue Extensions into seven lots.
Bowman and his son Phil Bowman are the developers behind the proposal. On Monday, a group of town residents voiced their opposition to the proposal, which would be the second phase of an existing development called Clearview Farm Preserve.
Earl J. Kurtz III, who chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission, said an audience member who spoke during Monday's hearing had accused Bowman of using his position as a member of the council to push the proposed development through.
Kurtz said he called that speaker out-of-order. The comments she made were “totally uncalled for.”
The hearings on the application have been continued until Feb. 24.
Kurtz called Bowman's resignation from the council “a tremendous loss for the town of Cheshire.”
Oris and other colleagues defended Bowman as a community-first minded member of the council.
“In my experience working with Paul, he has always put the Cheshire community first in any decision-making he has made,” Oris said, adding the insinuations of self-interest are “completely disrespectful to an individual who has a long history of giving back to the community.”
“At the end of the day, and I will underscore, this, he has always represented the town of Cheshire, with the utmost highest integrity, and always put Cheshire's interest first and foremost,” Oris said.
Tom Ruocco, a former Town Council member, also came to Bowman's defense.
“There's nothing to show he put his personal interest first,” Ruocco said. “He's helped the community in many ways.”
Bowman, when reached by phone Wednesday, defended both the development proposal and his record on the council. He said any time there was a potential conflict of interest, he has recused himself from council votes.
Bowman described the latest attacks as being “antagonistic, hurtful and troubling.” He felt they constituted harassment.
The current proposal, in addition to the new lots, also calls for a cul-de-sac to be constructed at the end of the narrow street to allow emergency vehicles and delivery vehicles room to turn around, Bowman explained.
During phase one of the project, 11 lots off of Mountain Road were developed at what is now Beechwood Court. All of those properties, which were to be custom-built homes, had sold. Construction has finished on all but two of the homes, Bowman said.
The Beechwood development is to the south on the map.
That part of the proposal also had met with some opposition from neighbors, with one resident going so far as to sue the Planning and Zoning Commission over its 2017 vote to approve the development. That lawsuit was dismissed in 2018.
Kevin Jewett, a Cornwall Avenue resident, blasted both the proposal and Bowman.
“He's trying to get the town to pay for the upgrade to the road,” Jewett said.
Bowman is used to receiving criticism. He said in his 40 years as a developer he doesn't believe he's had a development that wasn't met with at least some opposition. But he respects people's rights to disagree.
“People opposed to these developments have every right to express their disagreements,” Bowman said, adding that proposals often become better projects when concerns are aired.
“We do listen to what our neighbors say,” Bowman said, adding he takes exception when the attacks become personal.
Bowman said since his announcement he has been overwhelmed by the support he's received, including phone calls, emails and other messages from over 100 people expressing support.
David Schrumm, a former Republican member of the Town Council, said he is among those surprised to learn of Bowman's announcement. He noted being in a position of leadership comes with added scrutiny.
“Paul's done a lot for the town over the years,” Schrumm said. “Anyone who serves in public life, you make your sacrifices... Also being a developer you do attract a certain amount of criticism, especially when you're in public office.”