HAMPSTEAD – Longtime Planning Board member and committee chair Randy Clark has decided the time is right for him to retire.
Clark, who has lived in Hampstead for 36 years, has spent about 25 of those years as a member and often chairman of the Planning Board. During those years he developed a wealth of knowledge and experience that town officials say will be difficult to replace.
Clark has also been a volunteer on the town Fire Department – indeed, that was his first town commitment soon after he arrived.
“We lived right across the street from the fire department (now the police station) and I watched the truck pull out and go across the street, where the firemen threw ladders up against the Central School,” he said. “I thought that looked like fun and I joined as a volunteer fireman and became a fire truck driver.”
Clark was also a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Capital Building Committee. He was off the Planning Board for a short period after the Board of Selectmen appointed an individual to the Planning Board who was not the person the board had recommended. He said he and several other members left the board at that point but that after a few years he returned. Board members are no longer appointed; they are elected.
Asked why he had decided to retire, Clark answered, “Vivian and I want to travel more and we have slowly been backing out of all of our commitments. This is the last one.”
The biggest change he has witnessed during his years on the board is the increase in population in town, and the resulting effects. The town has grown from around 1,800 residents when he first moved to Hampstead to nearly 9,000 residents.
“When we first lived here you could tell the difference between the summer and winter by the amount of traffic that passed our house – there being more in summer with the influx of people coming to their summer homes at the lake, but there is no longer any difference,” he said. “Hampstead has been helped tremendously through this growth because the Town had zoning ordinances in place before I came on board. The wisdom of Dean Howard, Jack Wood, Lennie Chase and others successfully put in place zoning ordinances that made sure the Town could address planning issues as they arose, and would continue to be a town people were comfortable living in.
“That is why Route 111 does not look like Route 28 in Salem,” he said. “Hampstead is not actually a farming community but there are still some farms and animals in town, but it is more of a full-time bedroom community, and I think that is the way people envisioned it back in the late ‘60s when they put the beginning zoning ordinances in place. These have been modified a little bit along the way.”
Clark said the issues that come before the board today don’t differ significantly from the ones dealt with several decades ago. People still get upset over change and want to keep the town the way it is, he said, noting that subdivision hearings still can bring out abutters to object, in the interest of keeping Hampstead essentially unchanged.
Asked what he was proudest of during his years on the Planning Board, Clark said, “I don’t think I am happiest or proudest of any one particular thing. I think that the fact the town has grown pretty much according to what those first zoning ordinance writers envisioned, setting out what the town should look like, and the fact that it does look pretty much like that today is what stands out most for me.”
Clark admits he will miss being a part of the Planning Board environment but said, “It is time to move on. We want to travel and probably spend January and February where it is warmer.”