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Lamoine Comprehensive Plan Planning Committee

Minutes of August 7, 2013

Chair Fred Stocking called the meeting to order at 6:02 PM.

Present were: committee members Fred Stocking, Amy Duym, Joseph Young, Merle Bragdon, Kathy Gaianguest; Secretary Stu Marckoon and MacGregor Stocco of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Committee members Perry Fowler and Valerie Sprague had informed the board they would be unable to attend.

Minutes of July 25, 2013 – Fred noted one minor correction that was needed. Joe moved to approve the minutes, Amy 2 nd . Vote in favor was 4-0 (Kathy abstained).

Plan Costs – Stu reported that he spoke with the town administrator in South Thomaston who said their plan cost approximately $32,000, but most of it was funded by a grant. He said the Town of Trenton was unable to provide the cost to develop their plan, so he contacted the Hancock County Planning Commission. He said the commission e-mailed a sample proposal for consultant services, and said the general going cost is about $15,000. The committee said it would like to have the sample proposal sent via e-mail.

Meeting with MacGregor Stocco, State of Maine – Mr. Stocco introduced himself as did the committee members. He said he used to work for the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments and gave his planning background.

Mr. Stocco said there is a lot of misinformation about comprehensive planning in circulation. He said the Growth Management Act passed in the 1980's required that comprehensive plans must be done in a thoughtful manner as it deals with peoples' property rights. He said a Comprehensive Plan is required in order to pass land use zoning ordinances. He said the purposed is to manage growth and protect private property rights, and in its original form, there were ten goals that had to be met. He said the legislation was sparse in its details, so the State Planning Office put together a document that presented questions for each goal.

Mr. Stocco said state review is not required, but it is offered. He said it is legal to adopt a comprehensive plan and land use ordinance afterwards and not talk with the state. He said it is up to the town to decide whether it has met the state goals. He said most communities do ask for a state review and a letter from the state which says the plan is consistent with the growth management act. He said that is helpful to have in a court challenge.

Mr. Stocco said before a community undertakes a plan, it should talk about whether it makes sense to do it. He said it's worth looking at development trends, and many communities do not have a Comprehensive Plan. Fred said he understood the town could be eligible for many good things if it has a Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Stocco said when comprehensive plans were envisioned, that was true, but times changed with the recession hit in the early 1990's. He said the general vision about comprehensive planning was whittled away in the 90's and early 2000's. He said there is little state funding available, and the state vision was further blown out of the water when the State Planning Office was eliminated. He said the municipal planning assistance program is now housed in the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. He said while the grand vision is gone, there are still some incentives to having a comprehensive plan.

He noted that some state agencies grant points on grant programs for having a comprehensive plan. He said state government is chaotic, and it won't hurt to have a plan, but the town has to question whether it's worth the effort.

Joe noted that the town had a Comprehensive Plan, but it expired last December. Mr. Stocco explained that in 2007 the rules received a major modification and were greatly simplified. He said in return plans expire after 12-years, and that was an effort to have towns update plans after 10-years. He said if a plan was found consistent with the state's growth management act prior to 2000, the plan would expire on December 31, 2012. He said that consistency finding is what expires.

Merle asked how that affects zoning ordinance revisions. Mr. Stocco said it doesn't have an effect, but the town would have to defend its own ordinance and plan to say that it's consistent instead of receiving the state consistency certification. Kathy asked if the expired plan can still be used as a guideline. Mr. Stocco said it could. He said he's not saying not to plan, but added that it is an arduous process. He said the more thought given to developing a plan, the easier it is to do. He said a town doesn't want to develop a Comprehensive Plan just for the sake of doing it then have it sit on the shelf.

Merle said it's possible that ordinance changes might not be in sync with the Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Stocco said the Planning Board should reference the Comprehensive Plan at all points during ordinance development, and the Selectmen should not let any ordinance change go before the town without checking to see that it is consistent with the plan.

Amy asked if the process is still the same compared to the previous Comprehensive Plan effort. She asked what the time line looks like. Mr. Stocco said the previous process was mostly a land use program. He said there are only two people in his office that review plans, and they still use the same rules. He said they hope they are much more responsive than they were in 2007.

Kathy asked about engaging the community. Mr. Stocco said that in 2007, towns took a lot of time to do data collection and analysis. He said that left little time for policy analysis and implementation. He said the state now supplies all the data that a plan needs, and they send out data packets twice a year. He said the town's job is to look at the data and think about what it means. Fred said he looked over the data that was sent and some of it is pretty sketchy and hard to use. Mr. Stocco said the review does not require any more data than what is in the package and the state won't penalize a town if the state provides bad data.

Mr. Stocco said the state pays all the regional councils such as the Hancock County Planning Commission to provide assistance to municipalities. He said a town does not have to be a member to receive assistance. He said the regional council will not write the plan, but can help with data gathering. A brief discussion followed regarding assistance from the Hancock County Planning Commission.

Mr. Stocco said to think about what the town has for a plan, what it can do itself, and what it wants help with. He said the town should see what resources it has and what it needs help with, and to be specific about what is wanted. He handed out a guide on how to approach comprehensive planning, and several copies of selected parts of the publication. He said the town's Comprehensive Planning Committee should figure out how to approach the work and give regular updates to the Planning Board and Selectmen. Fred said this committee's task was to come up with a budget. Mr. Stocco then distributed a document on updating Comprehensive Plans.

(at this point Stu had to leave the meeting for a previous commitment and said he would compile the remainder of the minutes from the DVD).

Mr. Stocco handed out an article about public participation from Burlington Vermont. He suggested not having just night meetings, but to go to the public – attend meetings of other organizations. He said the state wants a comprehensive planning committee to spend its time talking with neighbors about their opinions, and it's very difficult. He said if you don't do that, you'll get a plan that no one pays attention to. He recommended involving the school, and using visuals. Kathy agreed that involving high school students would be a good idea and keep them connected to the community. Mr. Stocco suggested involving college students as well, and teachers love to have real world projects to work on.

Mr. Stocco said he drove around town and found it quite beautiful. Committee members noted that the roads were pretty brutal before they were just recently paved.

Mr. Stocco said the year round population is a factor and one to pay attention to. Fred said the seasonal population is not that big a factor. A discussion followed about seasonal and year-round populations. Kathy said there is an impression that Lamoine is becoming a retirement community. She asked if there is a way to look at trends from the state data. A brief discussion followed.

Mr. Stocco said the town could count on some help from the Hancock County Planning Commission and that he would be happy to show up a few times during the process to assist, at no cost. Merle asked about whether the budget is spent in the first year or spread evenly over the 2-year process. Mr. Stocco provided an average scenario, but there are numerous ways to do it. He said most towns hire a planner for $20,000 to $30,000 and they go through the different goals, with a big visioning session at the beginning, and the writing of the plan kicks in some expense because of the consultant costs. He said a consultant will cost $20-30 thousand dollars, but with some planning ahead of time, that cost could be $5-10 thousand dollars. He said it will take more effort on the front end, but it will cost taxpayers a lot less, the more specific the town is.

Mr. Stocco said the biggest piece of any plan is going to be the writing – just the physical act of typing it out will cost $5-$10 thousand dollars. Kathy asked what other costs might exist. Mr. Stocco said mapping is a potential cost, but if the town can find college or high school students to do some pictures and mapping, it would be less expensive. Discussion followed on pictures and maps. Amy asked about electronic versions of Comprehensive Plans. Mr. Stocco said printing requirements can be greatly reduced by posting the document on a website, which minimizes printing costs. He also cautioned about relying on and expecting too much from volunteers, and that it can't be done for free.

Mr. Stocco said Lamoine is not a big development hub, and the town doesn't want to devote a lot of time planning to become one. Kathy said one question is how the town wants to use the space that it has and whether it wants to attract new activities such as elderly housing. She said there is no other industry than very small industry and gravel. She said the challenge is to determine how the town can be balanced economically. Mr. Stocco said he doesn't like the term “attract business”. He said the better you make Lamoine, businesses will come here if it is a nice town. He said open space and agricultural land is much cheaper than developed land, and discussed development and transportation options.

Kathy asked if, when developing a budget recommendation, they could report that state resources are available. Mr. Stocco said that was correct, and he favored a multi-year budget asking for a little each year. He said the resources should be identified and estimates gathered. Fred said the danger is that this committee would be telling a future committee what to do.

Kathy asked if there are towns that did participatory planning. Mr. Stocco said he spoke with the Town of Unity last spring, and suggested that community be contacted. Fred said he had some contacts there. Kathy inquired about what the experience was in Limestone. Mr. Stocco recommended involving people at their comfort level, instead of the public forum format, and return to that level consistently, while minimizing the public planning meetings to every 2-3 months.

The committee thanked Mr. Stocco for coming to meet with them.

Next Meeting – After a lengthy discussion, the committee agreed to meet either September 5 th or September 12 th at 4PM. At the next meeting the committee may divide up chores and set future meeting dates.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 7:41 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Stu Marckoon, Secretary