606 Douglas Highway
Lamoine, Me 04605
Meeting of October 8, 2003
PANEL DISCUSSION ON DEVELOPMENT IN LAMOINE
Moderator: Ted Koffman of COA and Maine Legislature
Discussants: Ann Kreig, Town Planner of Bar Harbor
Isabel Mancinelli, COA – Community Development
Perry Fowler, Chair, Lamoine Planning Board
Ted Koffman : Perspective of State Legislature
The Maine Resources Commission in Augusta has noted trends of migration in Maine over the past 40 yrs.
1. The North (“the County”), where forestry and agriculture predominate, has lost 12-15 % of its population, with concomitant loss in vitality. Downeast lost 12% in the last decade alone. Residents move in search of jobs and housing, and go to Boston, to Lewiston-Auburn, or down the coast.
2. The second trend over the past 15-20 years is from urban to rural areas which then become suburbs in a pattern of “sprawl”. It is the middle and upper class who buy land, and then commute to the city for work. As an example, Portland’s population grew by 100%, but the Portland area expanded by 600%. Locally, a similar trend includes the Bar Harbor and MDI population moving to Lamoine and commuting to MDI for work.
A town’s Comprehensive Plan, which offers a vision rather than law, can address such trends, particularly if made specific enough. Ordinances on the other hand direct growth, and contradictions with the Comprehensive Plan should be avoided. The upcoming revision of the Comprehensive Plan is important in these respects.
Perry Fowler: Perspective of Lamoine Planning Board
Over the past 5 years, the Lamoine Planning Board has seen major change. Meetings in the past had a short agenda, were attended by members only, and left time enough for workshops (proactive thought) and housekeeping. Now, meetings draw a full house, have long agendas, and there is only time to react as permits are requested. In particular, subdivisions have increased exponentially. This has implications.
1. The cost of permits does not cover the time of the code enforcement officer, or other costs incurred by the town in the aftermath of development. The Board does not have the time to evaluate the real cost however.
2. In addressing the pressure of development, Building and Land-use Ordinance revisions have been attempted for the past two years, including Aquifer Protection provisions, so far without success.
3. In an attempt to optimize the use of the Planning Board meeting time, Stu Marckoon now pre-screens applications (which need to be submitted 2 weeks earlier).
4. The Planning Board has concerns about preserving some open space in town.
Ann Kreig : The Bar Harbor experience
The Bar Harbor Planning Board is similarly busy, with rapid development and subdivisions. Concerns include:
1. Encroachment on rural areas.
2. Physical limits of land use; the aquifer in particular is being stretched to the limit viz. quality and quantity. Additional studies are under way.
3. Three new committees were formed to address parking, a masterplan for downtown, and a revision of the Comprehensive Plan.
At this time, the value of land in Bar Harbor has risen so high that there is great pressure for the landowners to seek “performance” (best use). Lamoine may be in a better place in this respect. This would be a good time to be pro-active in defining what represents highest and best use of land, before the pressure rises here too.
Isabel Mancinelli: Theoretical perspectives on Community Development
If one wonders why bother with planning for the course of development, southern New England has examples of random, profit driven development with loss of habitat. Lincoln, MA on the other hand is an example of a town where 80% of the residents participated in creating a vision, which included socio-economic diversity (with affordable housing), cluster housing and a town center, different zoning areas, and preservation of communal open space with a trail system.
Ms. Mancinelli showed slides of hypothetical landscapes in the Connecticut River Valley near Amherst, MA, illustrating random divisions of open space into large lots with long driveways, each with private views and docks cut to the river; at the roads, strip development offers service and businesses. By contrast, the same level of overall development, where cluster development is encouraged at the edge of the tree area, results in larger open space with common access and greater views for all. The incentives to the developer include shorter roads to build, shared septic systems, reduced frontage to permit houses closer to each other, and more increase in property value for houses abutting open space, and/or which have attractive views. Also, a “density bonus” in permissible development can be granted in exchange for preserved open space (incentive zoning). It is also possible to transfer development rights from shore zones, in exchange for permission to develop more densely on the land away from the shore.
Locally, Acadian Woods subdivision is an example of such advantageous development.
Ms. Mancinelli also pointed out that because sprawl development creates high costs, local taxes are further driven up (by 89% between 1984 and 1994 in BH). This further compromises affordable houses on MDI, and contributes to pressure on Lamoine. In addition, the environmental impact on habitat, air and water is clear, and public access to lake and ocean water for fishing and for recreation has been reduced. The planning boards are overwhelmed, can only react, no longer plan ahead.
She too, emphasized that a Comprehensive Plan is essential to determine where
to encourage growth with respect to available resources, and where to preserve.
Colleges have helped at gathering the information regarding what resources need
Fred Stocking inquired about resources at the town planning level. Two suggestions emerged: to have the ordinance state that permit applications address their compliance with the Comprehensive Plan would facilitate research by the planning board. An engineer on staff will become important , but is not available in Bar Harbor as yet.
Ted Koffman pointed out that at the State level, water is a concern, as 50% of Maine residents rely on wells. There are large state-wide costs involved in clean-ups. Also, coastal development is expected to be critically pressured, as 85% of the US population (expected to increase to 400 million by 2020) will live on the coast.
Ken Smith raised the issue of how to properly revise a Comprehensive Plan with limited resources. Ann Kreig suggested that hiring a consultant may be more cost-effective than hiring additional staff, and would further have the advantage of an outside voice to settle differences and facilitate discussion of the options. Grants may be available at the State Planning Office.
In areas with dense housing, alternatives such as town sewer need to be weighed against the possibility of communal septic systems or leach fields. Costs of such systems can be offset by reduced cost Incurred by the town with cluster housing compared to sprawl (e.g. road costs). As for the costs incurred by the town from large subdivision developments, these can be curbed somewhat by setting high standards for a road before it can be taken over by the town for maintenance.
Various formats were discussed for engaging the community in debate and planning.
Resources were cited for grants, and for acquisition of areas in which to preserve
open space or water access.