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Peck Gets Picked As Planning Director

Part-Time Job Becomes Full-Time

By DIANE STRUZZI
Courant Staff Writer

November 29 2006

SIMSBURY -- Hiram Peck was working Monday night when the board of selectmen approved his appointment as the new director of planning.

On Tuesday morning, Peck came into town hall to discover he had gotten the job, one he has been doing on a part-time basis since earlier this year. Shortly after hearing he had been hired, Peck said, he looked forward to doing an "excellent job for the town."

Town officials say Peck will be busy with several planning issues: The town is in the middle of discussing a draft for conservation and development - the subject of three public hearings this week, one that Peck attended Monday night. The zoning regulations are also under revision, which Peck said he expects will gear up early next year.

But among the most complex issues Peck will face is the pull in town between preserving open space and developing land. A much-talked about proposal by Konover Development Corp., for instance, has already become a controversial topic, even though no formal application has been filed. The company wants to develop River Oaks, an estimated 60 acres along Route 10 that would consist of residential, office and retail space.

The challenge between development and open space, Peck said, is described in a textbook on planning, which includes a concept that promotes the preservation of open space by offsetting it with development in other parts of the community.

"What the community has to decide is that some [land] is suitable for development and some is suitable for open space," Peck said Tuesday. "My goal is to try and find out what the ultimate pattern should look like and help the town get there."

Peck's experience in various towns, such as New Canaan, where he was the town planner, and in Greenwich, where he held the positions of assistant town planner and senior planner, will serve him well in grappling with the issue, say town officials. Selectman Moira Wertheimer said what impressed her about Peck was his experience and balanced approach to issues.

"I think as Simsbury is left with less and less developable land and with the educational funding system the way it is ... Simsbury is going to have growing pains trying to balance attractive and appropriate commercial growth against [the town's] rural character and charm," Wertheimer said. "I think it can be done and someone like Hiram is the right person to balance those interests."

Peck will receive an annual salary of $98,521, consistent with the salary of the former director, William Voelker, according to Director of Administrative Services Brandon Robertson. Voelker left in November 2005 to work for the town of Cheshire.

Peck, who lives in Woodbury, said the town has agreed to let him still do private consulting work as long as there are no conflicts with the work he is doing in Simsbury.

According to a letter written by First Selectman Thomas Vincent to the board of selectmen, Peck was the top candidate selected by the personnel search committee following a national search. Vincent requested the board approve Peck's appointment to the position.

Peck received the approval of five of the six selectmen. Deputy First Selectman Joel Mandell was not present at Monday night's meeting. Robertson said Mandell had indicated he was supportive of Peck.

On Tuesday, Vincent said Peck's experience, especially in New Canaan and Greenwich, made him a strong choice.

"I think he has a professionalism and professional manner," Vincent said. He "does all his homework on all projects."

Contact Diane Struzzi at dstruzzi@courant.com.

Copyright 2006, Hartford Courant