2018-08-03 / Front Page

Comp plan draws keen interest

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Comprehensive planning is not a new thing. Required by the state, the long-term municipal plans are supposed to be renewed every 10 years.

And, because all local ordinances are generally considered to be more legally defensible if challenged, when based on needs and goals identified in a comprehensive plan, officials are not shy about soliciting public input, in hopes of making sure the final, approved plan, represents the true desires of the community at large.

And so an online survey, such as the one recently linked to the Scarborough town web page (available at www.scarboroughengaged.org/survey) is not at all unusual.

What is a little bit different, however, is just who is urging residents to participate in the survey and why.

In a July 31 post to its Facebook page, advocacy group Concerned Taxpayers of Scarborough issued a call to action, drawing attention to a draft of the new comprehensive plan that is the basis for the online survey.

“The plan may have significant tax implications and cause changes to the town that some of us won’t like,” the post reads. “For example, the plan currently raises the possibility of ‘civilizing’ Route 1 by narrowing it from four lanes to two and allowing parking on both sides!”

The survey has six questions and Concerned Taxpayers calls each one “loaded — to produce the outcome that they want.”

Town Planner Jay Chace says the draft of the new comp plan was based on input from the a series of public meetings last summer, followed by a week-long planning workshop dubbed Planapalooza in September.

But the taxpayer group raised concern that these meetings topped out at 200 or so participants, total.

“Only 200, out of nearly 20,000, Scarborough residents provided input into the direction our town will be taking over the next 10 to 20 years,” the group posted, urging its members to take part in the survey after studying the group’s own “survey guide” to each question.

“At the moment, however, our main concern is to get the broadest possible response on the survey,” said Brian Kanode, a member of the SMARTaxes group, who helps maintain its Facebook page.

“We want to make certain that the plan that ultimately gets adopted reflects the ideas of the people of Scarborough, and not those of the consultant,” Kanode said. “That’s why we added several suggested topics in response to question No. 6 in the survey. We think those topics -- which weren’t directly addressed in the survey -- are probably important to many Scarborough residents as they think about the town’s future.

“We had suggested that a survey be sent to all households in the early stage of the comp plan development to gauge just what was important to citizens, but that was rejected as too expensive,” Kanode said.

Some of group’s suggested responses to Question 6, which is an open-ended request for “any ideas for the future of Scarborough,” include: Putting limits on future tax increases, keeping the “essential scale and character of the town” allowing only modest improvements, stopping “the rampant growth of apartment units, protect and expand public access to waterfronts and beaches, and encouraging “appropriate commercial development” to ease the tax burden on homeowners.

The response deadline for the comp plan survey is Aug. 15.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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