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  • 20 Feb 2017 9:34 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    With every edition of Front Page, MAP highlights the "comings and goings" of planners through Bytes 'N Pieces.

    • Jessa Berna  is joining the Greater Portland Council of Governments as Associate Planner. She was previously a planner in Portsmouth, NH and New Gloucester, ME.
    • Eric Galant resigned as the long serving Executive Director of the Mid-Coast Regional Planning Commission to pursue a new professional direction as a private consultant. During his tenure he put the agency on a sound financial footing and maintained its independence from other encroaching organizations and groups.
    • Doug Greene is now the City of Auburn's urban development and grant administrator.
    • Ian Houseal, who most recently managed the city of Portland’s rental inspection and registration program, has been named director of Community Development. READ MORE.
    • Catherine Ingraham has been selected as the coordinator for Mahoosuc Heart & Soul.
    • The Mid-Coast Regional Planning Commission (MCRPC), located in Rockland, Maine, is very pleased to announce the hiring of Anne Krieg, AICP, as its Executive Director. Anne was the Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development in Bridgton, Maine, and before that was the Planning and Development Director for the Town of Bar Harbor, Maine. She is eagerly looking forward to assisting Mid-Coast communities with their land use and transportation planning needs.
    • Peter Morelli announced his last day at AARP with the end of his contract to work on the age-friendly program. Stating that he is very pleased that they now have 24 towns in the network and that interest in all things age-friendly is very high.
    • The New England Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism awarded the Town of Scarborough Office of Planning & Code Enforcement, and the Principle Group (planning consultant) a 2016 Urbanism Award. The team was recognized for its efforts to develop a form-based code that would help resolve difficulties that homeowners at Higgins Beach often encountered when trying to make improvements to their dwellings under the former conventional zoning that was in place for decades.

  • 20 Feb 2017 9:03 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The recreational marijuana use law adopted by the voters in November provides for the state licensing of five types of “establishments” dealing with the commercial production and distribution/sales of marijuana. It seems that most of the discussion and community concern involves two types of establishments – retail marijuana establishments where one can purchase various cannabis products to take home and marijuana social clubs where cannabis can be used/consumed on the premises. Everyone interested in this topic should read the law in its entirety to understand the statutory limits placed on these two types of establishments.

    We recently went to Colorado on vacation. Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012 and implementation of the retail/commercial establishment rules went into effect in 2014. As most planners know, a site visit is very important in understanding the planning implications of a situation or development proposal. So while we were in Denver, we conducted a professional site visit to a retail cannabis store. The idea for this visit was triggered by receiving a “discount card” for purchases at the neighborhood cannabis store when we checked into our hotel in downtown. Our visit was strictly professional – we did not buy anything. What follows is a description of our visit to the retail store. This is just one store and it may or may not be typical of Colorado retail cannabis stores but the store we visited is part of a chain with stores across the state. 

    Here are a few observations based on our limited experience: 

    1. Retail cannabis stores openly advertise in all sorts of media including high-end tourist publications. Typically these are full color ads and many are very attractive full page ads. For example the ad for the local store in Aspen in a classy tourist magazine could be mistaken for a Gucci ad or an ad for an art gallery or jewelry store. 

    2. When we arrived at the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver we were given a discount card for cannabis purchases at the neighborhood retail establishment--Native Roots –as part of the checked-in. Native Roots is the largest chain of retail marijuana shops in Colorado with 17 locations throughout the state primarily in the major cities (Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Glenwood Springs), tourist centers, and the Denver suburbs. The racks with tourist information in the hotel lobby had information about Native Roots and other retail stores and dispensaries in Denver. Like Maine, Colorado has both medical and recreational marijuana stores. 

    3. We visited the Native Roots shop near the hotel. The store is located in a downtown office building on a lower level with an attractive entrance (see pictures). Its neighbors are a chain coffee shop, salon, and sandwich shop. To enter the store you go down the stairs to a waiting room. To get into the retail floor you have to provide a picture ID to the person at the entry booth. Once they confirm your age, you can enter the retail floor through a locked door. 


    4. The retail floor is set up like a bank. When you come in there is a que where you wait until one of the clerks calls you up to the sales counter. You cannot wander around the store. The sales counter is set up much like a bank with a number of sales positions each with an identical display of products. All products are in the display cases or on shelves behind the counter. No products are displayed in the open or on shelves that customers have access to. At this store there were five sales positions. Each position has a display of the available products including various types of cannabis products including flowers, tinctures, gels, various edibles, etc. (see the pictures). 

    5. When it is your turn, a sales clerk calls you to one of the sales positions. The first thing they do is ask again to see your ID. After they confirm your age, you can buy products. We talked with the clerk about the various products especially the various edibles. Many of the edibles do look like “candy” or other sweets. There are cookies and mini-brownies as well as chocolate bars, gummies, gum, etc. The potential for accidental use does probably exist. Many of the edibles appear to be sold/packaged in sizes that are for multiple uses. 




    6. While we were talking with the sales clerk there was a customer at the next sales position and the clerk spent time explaining to him the pros and cons of the various products depending on the reaction you are seeking and suggesting how much to use of each product. 

    7. The experience was much like going to the bank except with a much higher level of security (and no drive-through). The shop was very nice with attractive displays, indirect lighting, and lots of collateral logo merchandise such as shirts, hats, bags, etc. 

    8. This is just one example of a retail marijuana sales establishment in Colorado. While walking around Denver, we saw another shop that we did not go into, but it was in a freestanding building (maybe a former convenience store) that was brightly painted. And the pictures of the Aspen store in the magazines looks like a high end jewelry store. 

    9. We took the new light-rail from the Denver airport to downtown. The line goes by a large industrial/warehouse district on the fringe of downtown. There is a couple of marijuana grow and/or processing facilities that you can see from the train. They appear to be in older warehouse type buildings within this area much like the medical grow facilities in Maine. 

    Based on this single experience, many of the “horror scenarios” being suggested about retail marijuana establishments in Maine appear to be unfounded. The store we visited did not have anyone hanging around outside – customers came and went. The store operation was very professional and as with the requirements of the Maine law, sales were limited to cannabis related products. The staff was well dressed, polite, and seemed to be very knowledgeable about their products. Security was tight. 

    An interesting tidbit is that Colorado (like the new Maine law) allows municipalities to adopt more stringent regulations for retail establishments than the state requirements. The state allows retail cannabis stores to stay open until midnight but Denver apparently requires them to close at 7:00 PM. Apparently this has resulted in stores locating across the city-line in other communities that allow stores to stay open later. This might be an argument for thinking about cooperative local regulations among groups of communities within the same market area to avoid these sorts of issues.

    --  Carol Eyerman, AICP, Assistant Planner, Town of Topsham  and Mark Eyerman, Principal, PlanME, LLC

  • 20 Feb 2017 8:46 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The advent of the recreational marijuana industry poses many concerns and questions for municipalities.  This is amplified by the fact that the Maine Marijuana Legalization provides towns with a large degree of control over licensure and regulation of marijuana businesses.  Towns may decide to prohibit marijuana commercial activities altogether, or to permit some activity but to limit the number of marijuana businesses that operate in a town.  Towns also have the power to pass zoning ordinances controlling where marijuana retail activities can take place, and to impose their own regulatory requirements on marijuana businesses. 

    Many towns have decided that a first step in dealing with the emergence of the marijuana industry is to implement a moratorium on commercial marijuana sales.  

    It’s important to understand that commercial cultivation and sales of marijuana cannot take place in Maine until licenses are issued by the state to allow such activities.  Those licenses cannot be issued until the state completes its rulemaking process.  Currently that is scheduled to take nine months, but the legislature is considering legislation to extend that process out until February 1, 2018.  It does become legal for Maine residents to possess, use and grow marijuana for personal use beginning on January 30, 2017, but a fully developed commercial system is several months away.

    So at this stage of the game, since no commercial recreational marijuana cultivation and sales can lawfully take place, one may wonder whether moratoria are really necessary. 

    One reason cited by towns in implementing moratoria is a concern that local residents don’t understand the complex regulatory process that needs to unfold before implementation of a commercial marijuana industry in Maine, and may wrongly believe that they are entitled to begin opening marijuana stores right now.  A moratorium gives a code enforcement officer a basis rooted in local ordinance to shut that kind of operation down.  It’s a local policy and political decision for town policy makers to determine whether a moratorium makes sense in their town. 

    Remember, however, that moratoria are ordinances: they must be enacted by the municipal legislative body (either town meeting or town or city council).   A moratorium ordinance must also meet the other requirements of Maine law, including a limited duration of 180 days, subject to extensions for additional 180-day periods provided (1) the problem necessitating the moratorium still exists, and (2) reasonable progress is being made to alleviate the problem.  So while a town may decide that implementing a moratorium on commercial marijuana activity makes sense, care must be taken to make sure that this is done in compliance with applicable legal procedures, and that consideration of the deeper questions of how the town will regulate marijuana continues while the moratorium is in place.   

    -- Ted Kelleher heads Drummond Woodsum’s Regulated Substance Practice, where he helps clients, including municipalities across Maine, navigate the complex rules governing industries that make highly regulated consumer products such as breweries, distilleries and marijuana related businesses. 

  • 20 Feb 2017 8:36 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The built environment in our communities has significant effects on public health.  Car dependent communities have proven to contribute to the obesity epidemic. A built environment that includes sidewalks, safe crossings, and facilities for on road bicycling can make all the difference with respect to whether people use healthy active transportation (walking and bicycling) in their daily lives.  And research has established that creating opportunities for regularly incorporating physical activity into a person’s daily routine has more lasting benefit than “gym time” or exercise periods.  A built environment for active transportation is key for active, safe living and a ‘healthy’ public health landscape.

    Unfortunately, changing the built environment –eliminating barriers for walking and biking, building facilities that encourage it, etc. – can be politically challenging due to limited funding and doubt that the improvements will make a difference in increasing walking and biking. People have a difficult time making sense of plans on paper, and often skip public meetings where they can learn about planned projects.  Community leaders can be reluctant to spend money on projects they can’t really visualize or that they are skeptical of working in reality.

    Over the last year and a half, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s (BCM’s) “Imagine People Here” (IPH) campaign has had considerable success in helping communities envision and plan changes to their built environment by using short-term demonstration projects.  The campaign creates temporary versions of facilities like bike lanes, curb extensions, and wayfinding signage, and then collects community responses to such facilities.  As a version of sanctioned “tactical urbanism”, the IPH campaign has provided local planners with a powerful tool to imagine changes to their roadways that support more active transportation options.  So far, 3 of the 6 communities in which BCM has staged projects are considering permanent installations, and 1 has already budgeted for and installed bike lanes that were originally created as a demonstration project. 

    As NNECAPA members may recall, in late 2016 NNECAPA submitted and APA awarded a $60,000 grant from the national “Plan4Health” program, an initiative of the US Centers for Disease Control, the American Public Health Association and the APA to extend the IPH program and develop replicable tools for use across Northern New England communities.   In 2017, BCM staff will be working with a team that includes former NNECAPA President and PACTS senior planner Carl Eppich and the GPCOG’s public health lead Zoe Miller to create several demonstration projects in Maine (and perhaps in New Hampshire and Vermont), a “do it yourself” tactical project toolkit, and reports to be shared nationwide.  The goal of the toolkit is to help stakeholders create demonstration projects that show how easy and cost effective it can be to make the built environment more supportive of a healthy lifestyle.  Stay tuned for additional updates on this innovative project!  

    --Jim Tasse, Assistant Director, Bicycle Coalition of Maine & Carl Eppich, former NNECAPA President and PACTS Senior Planner. Contact Carl for more info: 207-774-9891.



  • 20 Feb 2017 8:14 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The Maine Association of Planners is proud to represent planners and others involved in planning across this great state. One of the best contributions we can make to support planning is to connect and support our professional planning community. 

    Maine is a big state and the planning community is a busy bunch. The Planner Profiles series gives us a chance to meet each other and learn about our skills, interests, and experiences online.

    Meet Jamel Torres, Transportation and Land Use Planner, Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission:


    HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION? 

    Four, including 1.5 years in the Public Health field.

    CURRENT JOB

    Transportation & Land Use Planner, Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND

    I grew up in Denmark, ME, which is a small town in western Maine with a year-round population just under 1,200 people. I attended the University of Vermont (UVM) where I earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Studies and minored in Geospatial Technologies. In 2012 I graduated from the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine with a Master’s degree in Community Planning & Development. I currently live in Freeport with my fiancé.

    WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING? 

    After graduating from UVM, I began searching for a practical way to use my background in environmental studies and geospatial technologies. I have always been interested in how communities are designed and planned so I decided to pursue a graduate degree in planning. I soon realized I could incorporate my interest in the environment and mapping into a profession in the field of community planning and development.

    WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE? 

    That is a tough question since I have only been a professional planner here in Maine, however, having worked in several different regions in the state I think the diversity of communities across Maine makes planning here unique. For example, in York County (Maine’s second most popular County) populations range from around 1,500 people in the Town of Newfield to around 21,000 people in the City of Biddeford. The wide range of planning issues facing rural communities compared to the more urban communities is fascinating. Additionally, the diversity of issues facing inland communities compared to coastal communities is unique to coastal states like Maine. There is never a dull moment!

    WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK? 

    I find it truly rewarding to engage the public on planning and development issues that will impact the future of their communities. Public participation is very important in planning and it is intriguing to witness community members engaging in the planning and decision making process.

    WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK? 

    One of the most challenging aspects of being a planner in Maine is facing the classic attitude of “we want things to stay exactly the way they are; there is no need for any change here.” This can be very challenging because most planners think creatively and work to develop innovative solutions to long-term problems. Changing the status quo can be critical to improving communities within the scope of the planning profession so when I encounter strong resistance to change, it can make my work very challenging.

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR DREAM PROJECT – WHAT KIND OF PLANNING WORK WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED WITH? 

    I think it would be really interesting to work on expanding passenger rail service to urban areas such as Lewiston-Auburn, Augusta-Waterville, and Bangor-Brewer. I think there is an interest in more passenger rail service in Maine and it would be great to be a part of that effort. Additionally, I would like to be involved in the ongoing planning for commuter passenger rail service between Brunswick & Portland and Saco-Biddeford & Portland. As the Portland commuter traffic continues to increase it will be important to provide a more efficient option for commuting.

    WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE? 

    I would say customer service is one of my main strengths. I find that having a friendly personality goes a long way in planning, especially when tough decisions are being made. In terms of planning, I feel most experienced in GIS mapping, transportation planning, and community engagement.


  • 20 Feb 2017 8:03 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    If your town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) reviews and acts on Conditional Use Permits (CUP) or Special Exceptions as part of the development review process, think again!  You may want to move that responsibility to the Planning Board where it really belongs.

    I am going to water down a very in depth court case for you that may have future ramifications on how your town boards operate with regards to the approval process.

    An inn in the Town of Camden sought approvals to expand the facility by adding more rooms and parking spaces.  The process in Camden required this expansion to seek a Special Exception Permit.  In Camden, special exceptions go to the Board of Appeals to be heard on the zoning portion of the project to determine if they can expand.  Once the applicant received the permit from the ZBA they needed to go before the Planning Board in order to obtain Site Plan Review approval. 

    Prior to the applicant going to the Planning Board and after receiving the ZBA approval for the special exception, one of the abutters, Susan E. Bryant, appealed the ZBA’s decision granting the special exception permit to the Superior Court. The court (Knox County, Billings, J.) affirmed the ZBA’s grant of the Special Exception Permit. Bryant appealed the Superior Court decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  Although Bryant’s appeal from the grant of the preliminary Special Exception Permit was expressly provided for in the ordinance, in review of the appeal the court said the following: “we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court and remand for dismissal of Bryant’s complaint because the decision of the ZBA was not a final action subject to appellate review in the courts, and the matter is not justiciable.”

    Bryant filed the appeal based on the language in the ordinance that says: “An appeal may be taken from any decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Superior Court within 45 days after the decision . . ..” As you may know, all ordinances dealing with ZBA appeals have this type of language. The Superior Court upheld the ZBA approval and Bryant appealed the decision to the Law Court.  The Law Court review indicated the above highlighted statement in their findings.  Essentially, the court believes that the administrative permitting process by all local boards must be exhausted prior to any appeal being sent to the court(s). 

    Because of this decision the Chief Justice asked the Regional Organization of Municipal Attorneys (ROMA) to put together a study group and develop some new clarifying language in the state law as to when a court appeal can be taken.  Both Alex Jaegerman for the town of Yarmouth and myself, Lee Jay Feldman, on behalf of Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission (SMPDC) were invited to be part of this study group and help correct this situation.  Legislation is being submitted for this session that will clarify when an appeal can be taken.  The language will clarify that an appeal to the court(s) cannot be heard until ALL permitting on an application has been heard by a town and its boards. 

    This case and the process is very complicated.  If you would like to review the 15 page decision or discuss the case more in depth with me I would be happy to discuss it.  Lee Jay Feldman Director of Planning, SMPDC:  207-571-7065.  The decision can be found at this link: http://courts.maine.gov/opinions_orders/supreme/lawcourt/2016/16me27br.pdf.

    -- Lee Jay Feldman, Director of Land Use and Planning, Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission and Alexander Jaegerman, FAICP, Director of Planning and Development, Town of Yarmouth


  • 22 Oct 2016 9:44 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    With every edition of Front Page, MAP highlights the "comings and goings" of planners through Bytes 'N Pieces. In this edition, we would particularly like to recognize Planning Decisions, Friends of Midcoast Maine, and their respective staff. Both organizations closed their doors this fall after providing decades of service to Maine communities. The good news is that they will continue this service in new ways!

    Planning Decisions closed its doors as of the end of September 2016. MAP would like to acknowledge and appreciate the firm for its more than 30 years of service to planning and economic development in Maine. Here is a look at where the smart folks behind Planning Decisions are headed:

    • Mark Eyerman, former President, has begun a new business named PlanME, LLC and he will continue to work on his favorite community planning projects under this new name. 
    • Frank O’Hara, former Vice President, has also begun a separate business and will continue to provide public policy and housing consulting. 
    • Charles “Chuck” Lawton, former Chief Economist, still writes a column for the Maine Sunday Telegram. Chuck will continue to provide economic consulting and research. 
    • Sarah Curran, recent past president of MAP and former Senior Planner, has moved to the Maine Development Foundation. Sarah is currently working on the northern Maine Forestry project for them. 
    • Rebecca Wandell, former Senior Project Analyst & Business Manager, has moved to the Scarborough School Department. 
    • Milan Nevajda, former Planner, moved to California some time ago but don’t be surprised to see him back in Maine in the future.
    After 16 years of serving midcoast communities with community development, planning and smart growth issues, Friends of Midcoast Maine (FMM) has shut its doors. We are pleased to announce that The Community Institute has been passed on to Lift360 in Portland Maine. Lift360 works state-wide to "strengthen leaders, organizations and communities" and is a perfect fit for The Community Institute. To stay informed about The Community Institute and other programs available, visit www.lift360.org and sign up for the enewsletter in the upper right hand corner of the home page. FMM's Executive Director Jane Lafleur has joined Lift360 as a senior staff member providing community development and community engagement assistance and is managing The Community Institute as well as the Leadership in Action Breakfast Series.

    Jim Fisher returned to Maine in September following an 11 month Peace Corps Response assignment in Aracataca, Colombia (see www.madfisher.info/Colombia for details). He is now serving as the District Coordinator for the Downeast Public Health Council in Hancock and Washington Counties.
  • 22 Oct 2016 9:23 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Overview 

    Over the past year, the Maine Association of Planners (MAP) and GrowSmart Maine have been engaging planners, as well as municipal board members and decision-makers, on the issue of comprehensive plans (“comp plans”) and how they are working for Maine communities. This effort came together to try to better understand the current challenges communities face in developing and implementing their comprehensive plans. 

    At both MAP’s Annual Meeting and Conference in May 2016, and the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) Convention in October 2016, MAP and GrowSmart partnered to hold panel discussions in which planners and planning board or comp plan committee members shared insights, ideas, and sometimes “war stories” from their recent comp plan experiences. The resulting panel and audience discussions have been informative, and this article will share some of what has been learned so far. 

    The MAP Conference panel sessions posed questions on how communities get through the comp plan process and subsequent implementation, as well as what resources there are for planning and implementation. Panelists included a range of planning perspectives, including town planners, planning consultants, regional planners, and state planners. The MAP sessions were summarized in MAP’s Front Page article, The Challenge of Comprehensive Planning in Maine from July 2016.

    The MMA Convention panel similarly discussed ‘what happens after the comp plan is completed’, how can towns ‘own the process’, and what resources there are for comp planning. Panelists at MMA represented “citizen planners” (planning board, comp plan/implementation committee, and council perspectives), as well as regional planning and planning consultant perspectives. At sessions for MAP and MMA, many audience members also added their own astute comments on what they heard as well as what similar experiences or insights they had. 

    Challenges

    Facilitating the discussion of current challenges for comp plans has become particularly important given the significant changes over the past decade and longer. On top of the significant impact of national economic and housing downturns since the early 2000’s, dramatic changes to the Maine law surrounding the State review of comp plans around 2007, the “dismantling” of the former Maine State Planning Office in 2011, and the continued cuts and elimination of grant funding to support planning and implementation have created a whole new set of challenges for comp plans that is seems the planning community is finally prepared to fully discuss and evaluate. 

    As communities across Maine struggle with the frustration of dwindling local and state resources for comp plan development and implementation, and even just seeing the value of a comp plan (e.g. what good is growth management if there is no growth), it is time for the planning community to revisit and rethink how we will approach comp plans moving forward. Interestingly, despite the challenges and dwindling resources, the state Municipal Planning Assistance Program office notes that there has not been a large drop in the number of comp plans being submitted on a yearly basis. Some towns are motivated by the remaining “incentives” at the state level such as requirements that a municipality have a current state comp plan consistency finding to be eligible for certain grants. Some are simply open to the notion that comp plans can, in fact, be a valuable tool in visioning and directing their community’s future. All are subject to frustration with the length of time and amount of effort needed even to update a town’s comp plan. 

    Throughout these discussions, there appeared to be an overarching theme to the challenges Maine communities face in creating, updating and implementing comp plans: in many ways, it still comes back to rural versus urban, or resources versus no resources. Some planners have remarked how the model comp plans and public outreach processes that seem to be most touted now are difficult to translate for smaller, rural Maine communities; it can be difficult to imagine how to achieve such planning without the funds to support consultants or extensive public outreach efforts. In small, rural communities, there are often not enough volunteers for a committee and there are no planning staff, and certainly the requirements of growth management incites the question of a comp plan’s purpose. Larger urban or suburban communities face different challenges, no less significant; the need to involve and appeal to a more diverse range of community interests, the continuous pull of other local planning or development priorities (both in terms of time invested and funding), and certainly the impacts of growth (which usually have regional implications). 

    Success Stories from the MMA Session 

    The communities of Gardiner, Falmouth, and of Washington County were represented in the MMA session’s discussion, bringing stories of how these towns successfully navigated their recent comp plan process and are dealing with implementing their plans. Gardiner has so far enjoyed a good amount of success in implementation due to the number and diversity of community members who were involved during the plan development stage. Public participation during the planning stage was also echoed as critical to Washington County communities, whose planning efforts were often driven by interest in accessing funding for moving specific initiatives or projects forward (e.g. grant eligibility requirements).

    Though Gardiner can speak to a fair amount of success in transitioning into implementation, they noted struggles with being constantly diverted from comp plan implementation to the “hot topic of the month”, as well as the need to educate new community members or new council members about the plan. Both Gardiner and Falmouth have an implementation committee; Falmouth’s committee, the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, attributes implementation success to its clear role as an “implement of the town council”, recommending implementation priorities to the council and reporting to the council on progress and actions.

    During audience discussion several other communities noted some of their lessons learned: involve the “nay-sayers” in the community from the start of the planning process and get their buy-in; try to distill planning outcomes to the most important goals or objectives for the community, create focus with planning “sound bites”. The issue of community members becoming overwhelmed or exhausted by the comp plan process came up in discussion (and was similarly discussed at the MAP sessions). This appears to be a challenge to which communities of all size are susceptible. Suggestions included not getting bogged down in data crunching and inventorying, finding local “specialists” or assistance to take on specific sections of the comp plan (could include regional planning agencies or area college students), and dividing up sections of the comp plan amongst subcommittees or other town groups to work on and bring back to the planning committee. 

    Perhaps the biggest take-home message is reflected in how Gardiner, Falmouth, and other communities have found success in their implementation efforts: successful and timely implementation depends largely on good community outreach and participation during the comp plan’s development. When your community members have been involved in putting together the plan, they “own” the outcome and are supportive (or at least aware) of projects to be funded and implemented. 

    New Approaches 

    Insights and discussions from the comp plan sessions seem to indicate a growing trend for towns to “own the process,” find ways to adapt the comp plan process, and also create a final plan that meets its needs. Overall, this speaks to how communities and planners are looking to “shake off the old” and embrace new, creative approaches to comp planning, in order to find success given the current fiscal and regulatory realities. 

    At the MAP session last spring, it seems that several Maine communities have sought to avoid getting stuck in the same old “formula” of developing or updating a comp plan that will pass state review. It was noted that there are certain required sections or planning elements, but they are not required to have equal treatment or priority for each town. The state’s required planning elements (e.g. land use, economy, natural resources, housing, etc.) should also not be seen as a set of boundaries for a comp plan but just as a minimum – communities may find there are other needs that should be addressed in their comp plan. 

    Communities can sometimes feel overwhelmed by getting through just the required planning elements, or even that certain elements are less relevant to them (rural towns may struggle with finding appropriate strategies for economy or housing). Yet panelists at both the MAP and MMA sessions attested to how towns or community members, after first resisting the need to include all the planning elements, typically came out of the process confessing a new appreciation of the unexpected and meaningful benefit of going through it all. At the MMA session, Gardiner spoke to their experience of going through the Orton Family Foundation’s Community Heart & Soul™ process and how this unique and intensive community planning process enhanced their comp plan process; they focused on creating a plan for their community, not for managing growth, and their creative and thorough community outreach, both broad-based and targeted, was the means to that end. 

    Falmouth emphasized that allocating work and plan development to committee volunteers and not town staff (or a consultant, in communities that don’t have planning staff) is also an important part of creating community ownership of the comp plan – this can apply to non-committee members participating in the planning, individuals or groups that have a more vested interest in specific aspects of the plan. 

    Reflections 

    Ultimately, reflecting on these sessions tends to lead to these “take-homes” for comprehensive plans in Maine: 

    (1) When it comes to writing or updating a comp plan, each town must endeavor to create a public process and ultimately develop a comp plan that is uniquely their own – which is very much achievable within the construct of the state’s requirements of the Growth Management Act. Do what’s needed and best for your own town, make it meaningful to your community, and make sure the vision and actions will lead you to protect what’s important and bring about positive change (or growth as the case may be).

    (2) Lessons learned from successful comp plan processes all point toward the tremendous importance of community participation. Although it represents the bulk of the time and effort needed for a comp plan process, community participation is ultimately what determines the value and success of a comp plan and its implementation. It can be challenging not to get really overwhelmed or bogged down in public participation, but skimping on the necessary public input only creates the likelihood for public resistance when the plan is ready to be adopted or implemented. 

    (3) When it comes to implementing a comp plan, resources are often scarce, progress can at times be slow, but perhaps we all need to consider that, in the words of one veteran planning consultant, the mission is not to implement a comp plan, but to create the vision and chart the course for long-term implementation. We all strive for that feeling of “checking off boxes”, but in the context of Maine’s fiscal realities, communities need to continue to focus on positive achievements (big or small) that don’t break backs or budgets. 

    Through all of this year’s discussions, the question that has not yet been fully vetted is: Is the Growth Management Act and its requirements for state review appropriate for all Maine towns? Criticisms tend to stem from the fact that there are dwindling resources to develop and implement comp plans, and there are few communities in Maine these days that actually have growth pressures – as we all know, many towns are bearing the burden of continued loss of population and jobs. Still, these recent comp plan discussions have revealed Maine’s planning community continues to rethink and revitalize how we approach comp planning and learn to adapt to the current environment.

    It is the hope of both MAP and GrowSmart Maine to continue to learn more from Maine communities about their comp plan challenges and insights, and ultimately to help shepherd in any support and changes needed for comp planning in Maine. For now, perhaps helping to develop a better system for planners and communities to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t will better serve to create success and even save Maine towns time and money.

    --Amanda Bunker, Land Use and Community Planning Consultant, Maine Association of Planners Executive Board

  • 22 Oct 2016 8:49 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. ~unknown

    The MAP Board is dreaming big! We had a retreat in July and then finished it off in September. Yes! It took two days to finish the agenda. We are literally all over the MAP. We are reviewing everything we do and discussing some things we don’t. If you want us to decide everything, then by all means sit on the sidelines. If not, join one of the committees or volunteer for the short projects--we would love to hear from you.

    MAP Board Retreat Overview

    The purpose of the board retreat was to review and provide comment on the entire MAP organization and process. We reviewed many topics which we could break down into themes. The four most strategic themes that arose out of the retreat are professional development and conference planning, membership levels and finances/budget, legislation and policy development, and awards program. Each theme was assigned to a “Champion” from the Board. The Champions were chosen based on their current chair role and association with the theme. They are tasked with chairing a small team of people who would be key partners in researching and providing a recommendation to the full Board and membership for their assigned theme.

    Outcomes

    Each work group will include volunteer members who want to actively engage in brainstorming a theme goal, as well as identifying strategies, resources, action items, and measurements of success. Each work group will deliver a presentation during the February 2017 Board meeting highlighting their goal and proposed “way forward” in achieving the theme goal.

    Read on and CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING TO HELP!

    We look forward to hearing from you  as we make the most of this brainstorming.

    Themes, yes there are some. They are:

    Theme #1 - What do we want to improve about our professional development and conference planning? (Existing Champions = Amanda Bunker, Misty Parker, Carol Eyerman)

    Theme #1 Goal - Redesign the  program so that it provides for the educational needs of both professional and citizen planners.  Things to consider: 

    • It's MAP’s 50th in 2018! The same year NNECAPA is in Maine. We need help planning!
    •  Membership benefits review/upgrade
    • Workshop brainstorming
    • Strategic partnership building
    • Annual scheduling of events

    Theme #2 Can we redesign our membership levels and finances/budget so that we can provide more professional development? (Existing Champions = Amanda Lessard, Phil Carey, Amanda Bunker, Misty Parker, Carol Eyerman)

    Theme #2 Goal = Redesign the membership levels and finances/budgeting to improve programming.

    • Review current levels
    • Set financial and budgetary goals
    • Set 3 to 6 year budget

    Theme #3 - Be more proactive in our approach to legislation. (Existing Champion = Jamie Francomano)

    Theme #3 Goal = Create a mechanism by which MAP is proactively suggesting legislation.

    • At the MAP general assembly of May 20, 2016 in Waterville the Board asked for suggestions where we might focus our legislative attention--the most popular option was the subdivision law.  What can MAP do to address this?
    • Create a legislator forum

    Theme #4 - How can we make the awards program part of our marketing? (Existing Champions = Amanda Lessard, Lynne Seeley, Carol Eyerman)

    Theme #4 Goal = Create a program so that the MAP awards  are highly publicized and recognized by the public.

    • Review the current program and add/improve/update it

    Here is to another good year and thank you for the support!

    --Carol Eyerman, AICP, MAP President

  • 14 Oct 2016 9:16 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Municipal planners are often in the position of navigating multiple goals: creating growth in their communities, ensuring all residents have access to opportunities, and maintaining the ecological integrity of natural resources. This goal to balance economic, social and environmental needs is the essence of sustainability. Small communities are often cited as lacking the fiscal resources, knowledge and political willingness to adopt policies that promote sustainability in comparison to larger cities, yet they are usually assessed using policies relevant to large municipalities such as public transportation and brownfield redevelopment.

    In Planning for Sustainability in Small Municipalities: The Influence of Interest Groups, Growth Patterns, and Institutional Characteristics., we ask (1) Do smaller municipalities adopt policies and programs that promote sustainability? (2) If so, why do some municipalities do so more than others? We address these questions by analyzing land-use and subdivision ordinances in all Maine municipalities for the presence of eight policies and programs that are appropriate for small communities and promote environmental, economic, and social well-being. We then use statistical tests to analyze theories of policy adoption. Our paper’s main contribution is to bring attention to the potential role of smaller communities in sustainability planning and to illustrate the importance of assessing planning efforts in these municipalities in ways relevant to their size and context.

    We found that small municipalities with strong environmental interests, higher growth, and more formal governments (compared to the town meeting form of government) were more likely to adopt sustainability policies. Our results suggest that strengthening institutional characteristics that build capacity within small municipalities, such as citizen boards, professional planners, and sustainability workshops aimed at citizens could increase the adoption of sustainability policies. In summary, we found that smaller municipalities do adopt policies that contribute to sustainability goals. To ignore these efforts is not only to overlook and hence misunderstand the complete picture but also to miss opportunities to celebrate and promote the initiatives that small communities make.

    The paper is published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. Individuals who do not have access to academic journals can email Vanessa Levesque to receive a personal copy by email.

    Citation: Levesque, V. R., Bell, K. P., & Calhoun, A. J. K. (2016). Planning for Sustainability in Small Municipalities: The Influence of Interest Groups, Growth Patterns, and Institutional Characteristics. Journal of Planning Education and Research.

    --Vanessa Levesque, Assistant Director and Lecturer, Sustainability Dual Major, University of New Hampshire


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