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Comprehensive Planning Committee Minutes

October 2, 2014

Chair Fred Stocking called the meeting to order at 6:30 PM

Present were: Comprehensive Planning Committee members Fred Stocking, Richard McMullen, Brett Jones, Andrea Ames, Bob Christie; Code Enforcement Officer Michael Jordan, Tom Martin (Hancock County Planning Commission), Administrative Assistant to the Selectmen Stu Marckoon, and Cynthia Donaldson.  Committee members Bonnie Marckoon, Kathryn Gaianguest and Valerie Sprague had informed the committee prior to the meeting that they would be unable to attend.

Agenda Review – No changes to the printed agenda were proposed.

Minutes of September 4, 2014 – Fred noted one minor change to be made.  Bob moved to approve as amended.  Brett 2nd.  Vote in favor was 5-0.

Meeting with Hancock County Planning Commission – Tom Martin, Executive Director of the Hancock County Planning Commission addressed the committee.  Mr. Martin said there are some frequently asked questions about comprehensive planning.  One, he said, is whether a town is required to have a comprehensive plan.  He said there is no requirement, but there are many reasons to have one.  He said if the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance has requirements beyond the state minimum, a valid plan is needed.  He said if there are impact fees charged or there are rates of growth ordinances (and no one in this part of the state does that), a plan is needed.  He said there are many other advantages, including state grant preference. 

Mr. Martin asked if the primary reason was because the town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance goes beyond the state minimum.  Brett said the town’s current comprehensive plan is very old and while it is large in data, it lacks in planning information.  Mr. Martin said a plan serves as a future vision for a community.  He said it requires a lot of work, but it is a good vision. 

Bob asked about shortcomings of the current plan.  Mr. Martin said because it is more than 12-years old, it is out of date.  He said the plan does not provide a lot of detail on what people want.  He said the committee is basically starting from ground zero.  He said most committees take a couple of years to come up with their plans.  He said some, like Trenton, move faster as they needed one in order to accommodate the federal bus facility. He said typically there is a lot of citizen outreach in the process.

He said the committee will need to decide how intrusion on property rights should be proposed.  He said he gets the impression that Lamoine is divided on that topic.  Brett said he wasn’t sure that he wanted to look at the planning process from that perspective as it’s a rough road to follow.  He said he would prefer looking in various issues instead of seeing how heavy handed the town could be.  Mr. Martin said that is part of the challenge. He said a lot depends on the community input.  He said the committee will want to phrase things positively, as people are sensitive to intrusion issues.  He said public involvement is important.

Andrea said she envisions the process as finding out what the town wants and figuring how to get there.  Mr. Martin said the plan requires a vision statement, and then going through a checklist.  He used Bucksport process as an example.  He said the committee will need to identify key issues, for example, gravel mining. He said the state review process is much easier.

Mr. Martin said the state provides data packages.  Fred said the preliminary committee had that information.  Mr. Martin said he would contact the state for the spring mailing list.  He said another good data source is the census.  Stu said the town already has that information.

Mr. Martin said the big question is how much energy there is for the town to work on the plan on its own.  He said Castine and Surry did their own work.  He said other towns used a consultant.  He asked if the committee has thought about the resources it will need.  Brett said he just finished taking a GIS course, and he can do some mapping.  He said he envisioned the process of working more as a group instead of using consultants.  Fred said he had the same sense.  He said they do have a budget for such things. Mr. Martin said if the committee has that energy, that’s the way to go.  He said there is a fairly good resource base available and the town can look at other plans for guidance.

Fred said it appears the state is approving plans quite promptly.  Brett asked what changed.  Mr. Martine said the state became more realistic. He said it’s better to have some restriction than none at all.  He said the state was looking for middle ground.

Michael Jordan asked what plans would be best to look at – whether those created after 2008 or even before.  Mr. Martin said the plans approved after 2008 are when the state eased down.  He said it depends on the history of the town.  He again suggested reviewing Surry’s plan and a brief discussion followed regarding Trenton’s plan. 

Mr. Martin said he could send along some sample public opinion surveys.  Michael said that would help.  Fred asked about an outreach strategy.  Mr. Martin said it is helpful to bring people in and ask them questions in small discussion groups.  Fred said instead of calling meetings, the group has discussed finding groups that meet and attending those meetings.  Brett suggested the PATRONS group would be one such organization.  Discussions followed on the school population, census data and valuations.

Mr. Martin said the state data package only goes so far.  He said local data is important.  He suggested sending town department heads a standard form asking for issues and information, and he could send examples of that 

Brett noted the town did a long range planning effort several years ago which included a survey.  He said it would be interesting to compare responses.  Mr. Martin said he could send some sample surveys and the town would serve as the data collection point.  He said it doesn’t sound like the committee is enthusiastic about doing outreach meetings.  He said there is some basic GIS information available. He cautioned the committee to avoid burning out.  Fred said they would like to get the up to date state data package.  He said the group has the 2013 package.  He asked if there were contacts for Surry or Castine.  Mr. Martin said he could get those.  

Stu asked what the first thing to do would be.  Mr. Martin said it would be to review initial data to see what the town is doing; collecting that initial data, and to see what is happening in the community, and asking folks what they think.  He said a public opinion survey is good at the start to get an idea of underlying issues in town.   Brett suggested taking the Long Range Planning Committee questions and re-asking those.  He asked to pull up the long range report.  

Mr. Martin asked what the major impetus was for the updated plan.  Brett said many of the town ordinances make reference to being consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Fred said the Lamoine plan is no longer consistent with state guidelines.  He said a pre-committee was appointed and the town meeting voted to re-do the plan and to fund it.  

Michael asked if the comprehensive plan requirement in the ordinances is legal if the state no longer recognizes the plan.  Mr. Martin said it could be subject to challenge.  He said the town’s Building and Land Use Ordinance had some problems years ago and could use a major re-write.  He said the Comprehensive Plan is the foundation for the Building and Land Use Ordinance.  Brett said he would like to see a well-crafted foundation document.   

Richard asked how to follow the process through to make sure that the suggestions in the comprehensive plan happen.  A lengthy discussion followed.  Brett asked if it’s OK to ask follow up questions of the Planning Commission.  Mr. Martin said it was OK. 

Information Requests – Fred asked what the most efficient way of requesting information would be.  Stu said just to ask.  Brett asked if they could have the Long Range Planning Committee Data.  Stu said he thinks it’s still on the computer.  Fred said the Selectmen annually update the capital needs list.  Stu said that’s easy to supply.  Michael said the fire department generally has a 5-year plan.  Brett said the school did a budget assessment formula and there was a brief discussion about who owns the school. He said there were no big capital plans at the school.  A discussion followed on demographics 

Next Meeting – The original date of November 6 provided conflicts.  The group agreed to meet on November 20, 2014 at 6:30 PM, and again on December 4, 2014.   The next agenda will include reviewing the old comprehensive plan, data, and perhaps a free flow discussion about the town.   The January 2015 meeting would fall on New Year’s Day, so perhaps the 15th would be the alternate date.  

Other – Michael said he’s read the material from the state and noted that there is only a 7-member board.  He said that is not nearly enough members and there ought to be a few more.  He said there should be a Selectman on the committee and other board members as well.  Fred said people are welcome to help, but it’s up to the Board of Selectmen to determine the size.  Michael said he wished that he had not asked to be removed from the committee.  He said the Code Enforcement Officer is not recommended in the manual because they often are not citizens of the town.  Fred said this is not the venue to raise the issue.  

Andrea said she would like to have more knowledge about the town at the November 20th meeting.  She said it be easier that way to go into a brainstorming meeting.  Brett said maybe some thoughts about implementing ideas could be discussed.  Andrea said maybe the planning process could be done more frequently and measured.  Bob said it would be helpful to have a guide on how to make suggestions to governing bodies.  

A general discussion on growth followed. 

Cynthia Donaldson said she is willing to help the committee do some leg work.  

There being no further discussion, the meeting adjourned at 7:42 PM 

Respectfully submitted, 

Stu Marckoon, Secretary pro-tem.