2017-09-01 / Front Page

Summit planned to discuss town’s future

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Town staff have a vision of what Scarborough’s new comprehensive plan should look like, but to make it a document that meets the needs of the community, a series of neighborhood meetings were held to garner public input. A four-day event is planned for later this month.

Over the course of two weeks in August, four “Imagine the Future” meetings were held at Scarborough Grange Hall, Higgins Beach Club House, Pine Point Fire Station and Scarborough Public Library.

Meetings were also held with the conservation commission, Scarborough Land Trust and Friends of Scarborough Marsh. An all-boards summit, organized by the Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14 at Martin’s Point Healthcare at 153 Route 1.

The town began the comprehensive plan update earlier this year with an introduction of the project consultant, Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative, a company that has worked with communities all across the country, including Lewiston, on updating their comprehensive plans. The state requires the plan be updated every 10 years or so.

The comprehensive plan makes recommendations about a whole host of topics from land use management to open space protection to traffic management to housing development and serves as a guide for the town.

“It is a guiding policy document that hopefully shape the decisions future leaders will make as they grapple with issues,” Planning Director Jay Chace said.

The comprehensive plan update work, he said, will build off the 2006 Comprehensive Plan.

“This comprehensive plan is seen as a refinement of that and how do some of what I’ll call the emerging trends of the community fit together. How does the need for more housing fit with transportation and sea level rise,” he said.

Planning board member Susan Auglis said updating a town’s comprehensive plan is important work.

“I don’t think there is anything more important for us to do than create a long range plan that truly reflect what the community wants,” she said.

The goal at this point in the process, Chace told planning board members earlier this week is to connect with residents “to have a conversation around the future and vision for Scarborough and get people to think big pictures as we head into Planapalooza.” Planapalooza is a four-day event later this month in which Town Planning and Urban Design will be in town talking with residents and working on the plan.

Chace said about 50 residents – ranging from high school age to 80s – came out to the four sessions and while each group brought different thoughts to the table, the central themes of transportation and traffic, housing and sustainability, both in terms of energy consumption and growth rate, emerged, as did the need for a senior center or community center with a pool. Other ideas brought up included, historic preservation, housing affordability, investment in the schools, housing affordability, the redevelopment of Scarborough Downs, stewardship of natural resources and walkability.

At the four Imagine the Future meetings, participants were asked several questions including about the character of the town and what attracted them to live here; what they wanted Scarborough to look like in 20 years; what their role in the future of Scarborough is; what areas of town they are most proud of and what improvements or changes they would like to see in town.

Planning Board Chairman Corey Fellows said the conversation at the Pine Point Firehouse started with issues specific to that area, but then “expanded to issues that were town wide.”

Chace said the planning staff decided to hold several neighborhood meetings rather than a larger meeting at town hall because it was felt that was the best way to connect with people about the plan. It is an approach planning board member Roger Beeley applauded.

“In my estimation, the town is really trying to reach out to citizens offering them a chance to participate,” Beeley said, adding he doesn’t know of any other community going through a comprehensive plan update that has taken such an approach.

Planapalooza, which runs Sept. 25 to Sept. 28 kicks off with a opening workshop beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 25 in the Scarborough High School cafeteria. On Tuesday, Sept. 26 in a second floor office space about Scarborough Grounds at 264 Route 1, there will be a series of technical meetings to discuss elements that may be found in the plan, including sustainability at 9 a.m., natural resources and resiliency at 10:30 a.m., economy and jobs at 2:30 p.m., mobility and health at 4 p.m. and built environment and design at 5:30 p.m.

The consultant will put together all the input and report back to the public the findings at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28 at Scarborough High School. Aside from those specific sessions, the office space will be open for the public to talk to the consultant about other areas from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. that Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 a.m. to noon that Thursday.

Auglis said although specific topics have been suggested for the technical meetings, the public is welcome to bring input for any element of the comprehensive plan.

“There is nothing about this that is set in stone,” she said.

“That’s not the end of the discussion by any means,” Chace said. “From there, staff will continue the discussion over the winter. Our consultant will disappear for a period of three or four months and begin drafting the plan.”

The proposed comprehensive plan is expected to be unveiled in the spring, when there will be another round of public input.

Check it out

For more information about the comprehensive plan update process or to offer input, visit scarboroughengaged.org

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