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  • 28 Oct 2017 12:36 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    With every edition of Front Page, MAP highlights the "comings and goings" of planners through Bytes 'N Pieces.
    • Sean Gambrel has joined the City of Bangor’s Planning Department as a Planner & Historic Preservationist. Sean previously worked with the City as GIS Administrator and is excited to be back in the planning field after several years focused solely on GIS. 
    • City of Rockland community and economic development director/ acting city manager Audra Calder-Bell resigned to take the job of Town Manager in Camden, Maine. 
    • Jamel Torres joined the Town of Scarborough's planning department. 
    • Jen Boothroyd has departed HCPC and is now working for Eastern Maine Health Systems in Brewer.
    • The Bethel Area Age Friendly Initiative received $5,100 for a fall prevention and home safety program for seniors through AARP. 
    • The Orton Family Foundation and JB Lafleur Consultants (Jane Lafleur) are joining together to Grow Community Heart & Soul in Maine. Over the coming year, Lafleur and the Orton Family Foundation staff will be working together to launch a three-pronged strategy to Grow Community Heart & Soul in Maine. This strategy includes: 1) outreach to Maine’s towns and small cities through a series of regional outreach workshops, in collaboration with regional partners; 2) the creation of additional Heart & Soul training curricula focused on “Getting Ready for Community Heart & Soul”; and, 3) direct Community Heart & Soul coaching in towns. Lafleur will continue to coach those already in-process (the 4 towns making up the Mahoosucs Region, and Bucksport and Rockland as well as several new communities). We have already received initial interest from two regions to host these outreach workshops and we look forward to hearing from more regions and communities who would like to host an informational session and possibly host follow up “Getting Ready for Community Heart & Soul” follow-up sessions. If you would like further information, please contact Jane Lafleur at jblafleur@jblafleurconsultants.com or call (207) 691-0971.
    Do you have planning news to share with Maine planners? Email info@meplan.org to be included in our next edition of Bytes N Pieces.
  • 28 Oct 2017 12:03 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    "Engaging the Community for Stronger Economies, Healthier Places" with keynote speaker Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Ph.D., executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) was held in Brunswick on September 14. Dr. Lukensmeyer kicked off the day-long workshop with reflections on the state of civility today. Weber Shandwick, a large media/communications firm, has done a Survey on Civility in the U.S. every year for the past seven years. When they did the survey near the end of 2016 they found that 75% of Americans say that incivility in the country is now at a crisis stage. NICD launched an initiative to revive civility, encouraging residents and policy makers nationwide to commit to civility. Dr. Lukensmeyer announced that Maine is one of four states where NICD is focusing resources, with more to come in 2018.

    A panel session followed the keynote, highlighting Maine-based civic engagement initiatives with Anne Ball of the Maine Downtown Center, Tara Hill from Maine Cancer Foundation, Nancy Smith of GrowSmart Maine, and Jane Lafleur, principal of JBLafleur Consultants. Each described the program they work with to engage community members or constituencies. They were respectively the Maine Main Street Program, Collective Impact, Making Headway in Your Community and coaching Community Heart & Soul.

    The afternoon was filled with interactive learning stations, focused on introducing practical tools for civic engagement:

    • Ayumi Horie, a Portland-based artist engaged participants in conversation about how art can create deeper connections to place and bridge differences. She shared examples of three collaborative projects, including Portland Brick, a collaborative public art project where city sidewalks were repaired with bricks made from local clay and stamped with past, contemporary, and future memories of Portland. 
    • Kate Howe of Better Yet Studios demonstrated tools for
    •  creating creative, participatory brand experiences. 
    • Addy Smith-Reiman introduced The Complete City, a mapping project of Portland Society for Architecture (PSA). Through The Complete City, PSA distributed 5,000 maps to Portland citizens, inviting them to draw what they love--and don’t love--about Portland, and to describe what they wish were different and want to see happen in our city. All of the maps were uploaded to the PSA website, and a curated selection of submissions was featured at SPACE Gallery. The project helped to highlight and elicit discussion from residents about the challenges and opportunities of growth in Portland. 
    • Alex Denniston provided a mini-workshop on Design Thinking as a tool for creative problem solving. Design Thinking begins with conversation and empathetic listening to understand people’s needs and identify solutions to tough problems. Round table participants experimented with the approach by designing the perfect vacation for a fellow attendee. The approach can be used to address much larger and messier challenges faced by planners. 
    • Three staff from Orton Family Foundation offered sessions about engagement. Sara Lightner discussed the challenge of listening bias when collecting and analyzing stories from residents. Sara provided insight on how we can strive to be objective listeners without letting our own bias, thoughts, or opinions affect how we interpret a story. Leslie Wright provided practical tips for working with the media to spread the word about community engagement activities. One takeaway—it is okay to say “I’m busy now, can I call you back?” in response to a reporter so you can prepare comments and organize your thoughts. Caitlyn Davison introduced Community Network Analysis, a tool for planning outreach and engagement activities in a way that ensures all residents have the opportunity to get involved. 
    • Developer Mike Lyne led a mobile workshop to discuss the engagement challenges and successes to develop Brunswick Station, a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development and the adjacent Amtrak station. 
    • Two communities that are using the Orton Family Foundation’s Community Heart & Soul model for community development shared ideas for low-tech engagement methods, from beer coasters to block parties. These were Mahoosuc Heart & Soul (Bethel, Newry, Woodstock and Greenwood) and Bucksport Heart & Soul
    • Dana Rae Warren demonstrated techniques for interviewing for storytelling. 
    The day closed with an exciting announcement and opportunity for Maine towns. Orton Family Foundation and JB Lafleur Consultants (Jane Lafleur) are joining together to Grow Community Heart & Soul in Maine. Over the coming year, Lafleur and the Orton Family Foundation staff will be working together to launch a three-pronged strategy to Grow Community Heart & Soul in Maine. This strategy includes outreach to Maine’s towns and small cities through a series of regional outreach workshops, in collaboration with regional partners; the creation of additional Heart & Soul training curricula focused on “Getting Ready for Community Heart & Soul”; and direct Community Heart & Soul coaching in towns. 

    The Community Institute demonstrated that there is incredible creativity in Maine when it comes to civic engagement, and that there are many resources for planners to tap into when thinking about how to engage residents.

    --Caitlyn Davison, associate, Orton Family Foundation

  • 26 Oct 2017 2:26 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    Sea-level rise, greater frequency and severity of coastal storms and ongoing pressure for real estate development in flood-prone locations have raised the stakes for coastal planning. Recent disasters in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico suggest that the flood insurance program is not sustainable and Flood Insurance Risk Maps may give many residents and businesses a false sense of security.


    The Maine Coastal Program has published a planning tool called the Flood Resilience Checklist that leads municipal governments through a series of considerations for preparedness, response and recovery. Municipalities that complete the process will have a much better idea of what they can do to become more resilient. The process can reveal steps to earning points in the Community Rating System, thereby reducing flood insurance costs.

    Considerations fall into five categories: Risk and Vulnerability, Critical Infrastructure and Facilities, Community Planning, Social and Economic Vulnerability and the Natural Environment. Checklist formatted questions are primarily yes/no, though in many cases the underlying facts are more complex. Municipalities may have detailed information and plans for high priority locations and nothing for other areas. Plans may exist, but are obsolete, inadequate or incomplete.

    The process is at least as important as the product. Planners need to assemble a municipal team that includes emergency responders, public works, community leaders and residents. Ideally the team will be enabled to address gaps that they uncover. Improved information sharing, prioritization of action items, integration of plans and other benefits can ensue.

    This tool is available online as a PDF. HCPC has created a spreadsheet with the same questions to facilitate for data entry and analysis. 

    If you are interested in applying the Flood Resilience Checklist to your community or would like to learn more, please contact your Regional Planning Organization or Maine Coastal Program: Peter.A.Slovinsky@maine.gov or (207) 287-7173. You can also download a one page information sheet about the checklist here.

    --Jim Fisher, PhD, MRP, AICP 

  • 26 Oct 2017 2:13 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    The Maine Alliance for Smart Growth (formerly the Maine Downtown Alliance) is a program of GrowSmart Maine that:

    1. Connects Mainers with each other, resources and expertise

    2. Coordinates community engagement for greatest value to communities while maximizing collaboration and minimizing redundancy

    3. Advocates on significant policy issues important to downtowns across the state. 

    It is a network of communities, individuals, businesses and organizations with a proven interest in promoting and supporting economically and culturally vital downtowns as places with businesses and jobs, community and cultural events resulting from long range vision and design, and strategic public and private investments. 

    The Maine Alliance for Smart Growth is guided by a steering committee comprising town and city representatives, business, non- profits, and agencies which collectively provide expertise in policy areas such as urban planning, transportation and broadband, historic preservation and real estate, strategic business development, collaborative community engagement, strategic investments in public infrastructure, combating sprawl while conserving natural areas, and impacts of a changing climate. 

    The Maine Alliance for Smart Growth is open to all Mainers and does not end at Maine’s coastline, but extends into the Gulf of Maine to inhabited islands. The Alliance recognizes the interdependence of downtowns with the natural areas surrounding them, working farms and forests, open space and waterfront. 

    Maine is a place rich with local leaders and innovators full of community spirit. The Maine Alliance for Smart Growth makes it possible for these people to connect with each other, and share policy area expertise and capacity building resources. Want to be a part of this? We invite individuals, communities, businesses and non-profits to be a part of this network supporting Maine downtowns and the rural areas surrounding them. 

    GrowSmart Maine is pulling together a Members' Advocacy Workshop on Dec 6th in Hallowell. Our plan is to review 2017 and develop strategies for 2018 advocacy, at both state and federal levels. Those who join the Alliance will be invited to attend.

    Check it out online: Maine Alliance for Smart Growth AND there’s more…… 

    Explore the online searchable inventory of resources and community projects at Making Headway in Maine. As with the Alliance, this online resource connects community members with their peers and local, regional, and statewide resources. Post a project to share with other communities and post your organization as a resource available to assist Mainers in your area. 

    --Nancy Smith, executive director, GrowSmart Maine

  • 26 Oct 2017 1:00 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    One rainy evening this past spring I was at a birthday party for a friend and a woman I’d just met at the seltzer cooler asked me what I do for work. I stumbled around trying to explain I’m a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) consultant and what that entails. This is not unusual; I often wish we could come up with an easier definition for TDM. Even when we spell the words out it still makes people scratch their heads, including for many of us in the planning world.


    What the Heck is TDM Again?

    So, quick review: Transportation Demand Management is an alternative to going through the time-consuming and exorbitantly expensive – not to mention environmentally degrading - process of widening roads or building new ones to deal with additional vehicle traffic, with the subsequent result of “induced demand” that fills up that new supply in very little time. 

    Instead, TDM practice employs a little Yankee frugality and ingenuity to fix and manage our existing roads better and reduce the demand on them in the first place. 

    We can do that a number of ways but most boil down to three things: 

    1. Reducing the number of drive-alone automobile trips to work and other destinations – for example, say co-workers Ben and Jeff carpool the 45 minutes each way every day from where they live in Hamden to where they work in Pittsfield 

    2. Staggering trips over different time periods, to avoid peak driving times – e.g., Jennifer’s workplace offers flextime and so she takes an early morning ferry from the island where she lives and then drives to work, arriving at 7am 

    3. State-of-the-art transportation system and operations management – for example: 

    • the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System’s (PACTS) work with local municipalities to improve timing of traffic signals on high-traffic corridors (other regional planning organizations and municipalities are likely doing similar work across the state) 
    • prioritizing traffic signals for public transit 
    • sharing maintenance equipment between municipalities to speed up repairs, like traffic signal outages 
    These are key for enabling the safe and efficient movement of goods, services and people across the state and beyond. They also engage individual Mainers, businesses and local communities in strategies that make us more economically vibrant and sustainable for the long-term. 

    Most folks will just want the road widened, not knowing about induced demand. But with a never-ending backlog of many millions of dollars in current infrastructure maintenance and improvement projects and the climate-changing impacts of transportation emissions, Maine simply can’t afford to widen or build more roads. Through good dialogue with the people in our communities and by putting diverse practices to work locally and regionally, the fiscally conservative aspects of TDM have legs across the political spectrum. 

    Yeah, but… What Does That Really Look Like in Planning? 

    We do Transportation Demand Management work from various angles and many of you likely engage with it through local land use and transportation planning – including: 

    • bicycle and pedestrian or transit plans and implementing infrastructure improvements for each 
    • studying and implementing traffic system improvements 
    • encouraging density and mixed-use development in village or downtown areas when updating local comprehensive plans or village master plans 

    Really, most planning processes somehow involve at least a hint of TDM. (It’s a little horrifying to admit but I worked in transportation planning and promotion for almost five years before I really understood the sister field of land use planning – and its impact on everything I was striving for in terms of TDM.) 

    The other examples of Transportation Demand Management-related land use and transportation planning I’d like to discuss here are: 

    • Reducing or removing off-street parking minimums and creating parking maximums for new development or site renovations
    • Strategic management of public on-street and off-street parking resources
    • Required TDM Plans during the site review process for new development and commercial and institutional uses 

    Enabling Density Via Parking Reform – Bigger Picture TDM 

    As planners we are forward-thinking folks about this but just to be clear: the more densely we can develop the heart of our communities – including vibrant open spaces and gathering places - the friendlier and more viable it is for people to walk, bike and use current or future public transportation to reach local destinations. Reducing or removing requirements for off-street parking and introducing parking maximums are 

    a significant strategy for permitting this needed density. 

    Density and reduced parking, in turn, lead to greater economic development returns. By ditching antiquated parking standards - and the poor revenue we get from land used for parking - our communities build wealth through more productive land uses like housing and businesses. 

    Parking often ends up being the linchpin for effective TDM work. I was speaking at the Maine Climate Conference recently and a member of the audience from a rural area asked for advice about ways to improve their local comprehensive plan. I suggested facilitating growth in village areas and removing parking minimums. Someone joked that parking isn’t really relevant to folks living out in the country. “I understand where you’re coming from,” I said. “But if I put a Dollar General in your community, will you require me to put in a standard number of spaces, even if they’re not really needed?” 

    To build local support to reduce or remove parking minimums and create parking maximums, we also have to be better at managing our current local parking resources – both on-street and off. Some examples are: 

    • If you have on-street parking and it’s more than 85% full (one space open per block), starting to charge for parking or making adjustments to existing prices – and if the municipality is using intelligent meters, price can be changed based on time of day to ensure 85% capacity; 
    • Encouraging and establishing shared parking agreements – e.g. a local company that leases some private residential parking for day-time use; 
    • Providing wayfinding and real-time messaging about space availability on-street and online - to help visitors find local parking resources that might not be on principal streets. 
    • Spending revenue from parking directly and visibly on improvements in our village or downtown areas – e.g., through beautification projects like flower planters that are also sidewalk furniture. 

    Planners Making Parking Reform Happen in Maine 

    The good news is that practitioners like you in communities across the state are on it. As Carol Eyerman, our NNECAPA Maine State Director and MAP President shared recently, “The Town of Topsham reduced its off-street parking minimums last year and also allows for an “alternative plan,” (standards here) permitting developers to do their own parking assessment and alternate plan for parking and defend it to the Planning Board.” 

    This is a great start. It still puts the burden on the developer, so a complete removal of parking requirements and the addition of parking maximums would be good next steps as the town becomes more comfortable with the results. 

    Ethan Croce, the Community Development Director for Falmouth, shared several pieces the town implemented a few years ago to reduce off-street parking and loading requirements. “Some of these are bolder than others,” Ethan reported, “but they include: 

    • Reduced parking requirements for office and retail uses from 5 spaces to 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor area; 
    • Reduced parking requirements for attached dwelling units from 2.5 spaces to 1 space per dwelling unit; 
    • Allowed the Planning Board to reduce off-street parking requirements for any use if the Board determines there is available on-street parking nearby; 
    • Expanded the allowance for shared parking. The ordinance formerly required shared parking lots to be within 100 feet of each establishment sharing parking. That distance was expanded to allow shared parking lots within 1,300 feet of each establishment; 
    • Removed the requirement to provide off-street loading berths associated with non-residential uses. Instead, the Planning Board has the flexibility to determine where and how loading may occur. This can include, without limitation, in an existing parking lot, drive aisle, on-street, etc.” 

    “The Windham Town Council is in the midst of looking at draft ordinance language that removes all off street parking and loading bay requirements in town,” shared Town Planner Ben Smith. “The parking changes are part of a larger package of ordinance changes they are going to send to the Planning Board soon to implement the vision of the 21st Century Downtown Plan.” 

    “Rather than making an either/or decision that involves whether we adopt a Character/Form Based Code (FBC) [draft ordinance language here] or a more modest/incremental set of changes [draft alternate language here],” Smith reported, “the Town Council is leaning toward a 2-track approach with potential adoption of both the incremental changes and the FBC as options for developers to consider. In this vision, a developer would have the ability to pick either set of rules to design to in the short term and then a after a year or so, the FBC would become the only set of rules going forward.” 

    “Either option leaves parking up to the developer – no minimums required,” Smith continued. “I hope that we’ll have these changes voted on by the Council before the end of the year.” 

    Every once in a while as planners, we run into a project where parking isn’t provided (or doesn’t end up getting built) where it might actually be useful. Jim Fischer, formerly of the Hancock County Regional Planning Commission and now working as an independent planning consultant at Jim Fisher Regional Population, Health and Planning reached out to share the following experience. “I worked on a local impact analysis for a proposed visitor center in Ellsworth, including provisions for some parking. The site also would have likely promoted bicycling and transit use.” Fisher reported. 

    “The project never received funding to move forward and I wish it had. We have subsequently extended the Sunrise Trail to High Street, but not created any parking for it. As a result, the folks arriving by ATV and snowmobile are slipping into corners of other parking lots and hoping not to be a problem for the business owners.” (Note, the Bureau of Parks and Lands could seek formal shared parking agreements with local businesses that might ease the problem and encourage collaboration – and patronage - between ATV and snowmobile clubs and area commercial interests.) 

    However, it’s more common for us to build too much parking – sometimes even when removing parking minimums. This brings us to the value of parking maximums. Since developers generally don’t have the time or money to do their own parking analysis, they pull ready-made parking numbers from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Parking Generation manual – which even ITE recognizes needs updates and additional data from rural, suburban and urban contexts. It’s the classic “the standard made me do it” situation. Of course, one size does not fit all and so we often end up with parking excess. 

    We may have a stellar example of a municipality that is using parking maximums out there in Maine and I just don’t know of it yet (please let MAP know if you do!) One modified example of a maximum can be found in the City of Portland. Portland has reduced some of its parking minimums, at least on the Peninsula, but still generally has off-street parking requirements. This proviso, however, is also part of its land use code: “Developments proposing to exceed minimum parking requirements by 10% or more must demonstrate through a parking analysis that the amount of parking is appropriate for the proposed use of the site.” City of Portland Code of Ordinances, Land Use Chapter 14, Sec. 14-526 

    Specific Transportation Demand Management Plans 

    That’s enough parking discussion for now – let’s talk about site-specific Transportation Demand Management plans. Individual sites in a community don’t exist in a vacuum on their own but many people in the community might see them as just that. As planners, you are the heroes that see the full picture – the developers’ goals for a particular project and the broader community context and vision for growth. 

    In addition to other site planning considerations, such as architecture, location of the building on the site, and integration with the surrounding neighborhood, we can also request an applicant develop a vehicle trip-reduction or TDM plan to reduce the site’s traffic and parking impacts. 

    In the City of Portland, a Transportation Demand Management Plan and its subsequent implementation is required under the land use ordinance (see sidebar) in order to reduce the impact of vehicle trips to sites of a particular size. As part of these plans, the applicant follows the city’s technical standards, establishing trip reduction targets and employing strategies to reach them, such as: 

    • restricting parking, raising the cost of parking, offering preferential parking for carpools and/or offering parking cash-outs to encourage multi-modal trips
    • offering public transit, bicycling and car/vanpool subsidies and cash incentives 
    • offering the federal public transit, vanpool and bicycle commuting fringe benefit
    • marketing TDM to relocated and new hires
    • offering a company account for use of the local car share for daytime trips
    • connecting employees with GO MAINE, the statewide commuter assistance program, and the Emergency Ride Home benefit 
    • making on or near-site infrastructure improvements like sidewalks, crossings, bicycle and transit facilities to improve multi-modal access to the site 

    The ordinance is applied to diverse site uses. For example, in recent months I’ve worked on the TDM plan for the Baxter Academy of Science & Technology – a charter high school with 60 staff and growing to 400 students that is moving from its original location near the waterfront to the Bayside neighborhood. Another example is for a commercial office space, like the TDM plan for the WEX global headquarters I’m working on, to facilitate the company’s move from out near the mall in South Portland to the Portland eastern waterfront. 

    Similarly, it’s been a great experience helping update the TDM plan for the St. Lawrence Arts Center to build a new 400-seat addition without adding on-site parking, since it was originally built as a neighborhood church to which Munjoy Hill residents walked. The St. Lawrence is an excellent example of leveraging TDM efforts to help with transit expansion. Under the conditional rezoning agreement and TDM plan, the venue will pay the Greater Portland Transit District (METRO) $70,000 per year for extended bus service from downtown to the East End. This will serve both patrons and the larger community. 

    TDM planning is showing up elsewhere as well. PACTS and the City of South Portland developed a TDM plan for Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) to provide more transportation choice for commuting students and also to mitigate the impact of student driving and vehicles on South Portland’s East End. Among the key recommendations were a number regarding improving access to transit. From all appearances current bus ridership is solid and this was echoed by Tex Hauser, Planning & Development Director of the City of South Portland. 

    Alex Jaegerman has brought his TDM experience as Planning Director for the City of Portland to his work as the Director of Planning & Development in Yarmouth – requiring TDM plans as part of the site review process for Tyler Technologies’ expansion and the new Patriot Insurance location. “In practice it’s a soft requirement for now, but we’ve done it,” Jaegerman shared. “We’ll need to circle back around with them as part of the Certificate of Occupancy.” 

    Having the capacity to monitor the plans and insist on a good faith effort at implementing them is one of the trickier pieces for municipalities. Part of that has to do with the fact that the developer is required to submit the plan, but it’s the tenant who must implement it. Another issue is staff time and capacity for follow up. For a number of years the Department of Public Works monitored the plans in Portland and now they’ve moved to the Planning Division for more concerted oversight. 

    Senior Planner Nell Donaldson has been tasked with reviewing where existing plans stand and helping further their implementation. “The city has built a strong foundation and this is a good time for advancing the TDM Program and moving the ball forward. We’re seeing more and more development and people are more open to doing things a little differently. There’s also interest and support here at City Hall,” Donaldson said. 

    “However, at the heart of it, we still need to find time to dedicate staff resources to really make it work well.” Donaldson reports. “Ultimately a private-public partnership like a Transportation Management Association (TMA) would most likely serve all of us better – both on the city and the private sector side.” (Note: The Greater Portland Council of Governments is currently exploring the feasibility of a local TMA, which can act as a broker for services like implementation help for TDM plans, improved transit service, parking management and employer shuttles. TMAs also often work best if driven primarily by local businesses.) 

    Sharing the TDM Love 

    Another avenue for municipalities, planning organizations and private sector planners to show TDM leadership is via promotional efforts, like those of GO MAINE - the statewide commuter assistance program funded and administered by the Maine Turnpike Authority, with additional funding from the MaineDOT. GO MAINE recently threw down the marketing gauntlet with its pilot Way 2 GO MAINE Commuter Challenge, a three week build-a-new-habit campaign that ran this October 1st-21st. (Full disclosure: I was contracted to help develop and deliver the challenge.) 

    Organizations across the state pitted their workplace against others for how many of their employees carpooled, took the bus or train, or bicycled or walked to work over those twenty-one days. Team champions at employers offered simple encouragement to engage their co-workers and tracked their organization’s progress on the Way 2 GO MAINE leaderboard online. Participating employees joined GO MAINE if they weren’t members already (which also gives them access to the Emergency Ride Home benefit), logged their trips, received incentives and posted photos of their commutes on social media - competing for the most alternate transportation trips recorded, most new GO MAINE members and most team spirit. 

    A number of businesses jumped right in – for example, Tyler Technologies (required to do a TDM plan in Yarmouth as mentioned above) won 1st Place for Most Greener Trips for medium size organizations. However, municipalities and regional planning organizations also gave a great showing. The City of Portland won Most New Members in the large organization category and the Greater Portland Council of Governments was 2nd in New Members and 3rd in Greener Trips – plus it submitted an amazing video for Most Team Spirit. 

    “The City of Portland’s active participation in Way 2 GO MAINE helps us show the city is truly committed to our larger TDM work and that we’re walking the talk,” Nell Donaldson reported. 

    The Touchy-Feely Part to All This 

    This summer I finally decided to come up with an elevator speech to describe my TDM work. I did some writing and brainstorming and talking with folks and came up with, “I help people have happy commutes.” That sounds pretty sentimental for a technical field. However, enabling happy commutes is at the heart of this work. It’s what I’ve loved about it for years and what feeds me most. As planners we have the chance to help people and businesses and communities navigate transportation choices, use their own creativity to make them work and watch them bask in the many benefits – financial savings, social connection, reduced environmental impacts and improved health. 



    Sarah Cushman, a sustainable transportation consultant and former master-certified auto mechanic, is always looking for sensible solutions to help folks save money and comfortably get around via public transportation, sharing vehicles, on foot and by bicycle. You can reach her at sarah@sarahcushman.com or (207) 200-1910.


  • 26 Oct 2017 12:41 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Ten years ago, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford the rent on their San Francisco apartment.  Knowing that a design conference was coming to town and every hotel room was booked, they bought three air mattresses, set up a basic website with pictures of their apartment, and booked their first three renters for $80 each.  From those humble beginnings, Airbnb was born —a company now valued at around $30 billion. The huge success of Airbnb has inspired other tech-based ventures to enter the short-term rental (STR) arena—including VRBO, HomeAway, and more eclectic ventures such as Oasis, which hand-picks attractive homes in hot destinations, and Getaway, which specializes in renting out tiny homes.  These and other such tech ventures have certainly uberized the lodging industry.  They have also created new challenges for land use planners and government officials. 

    STRs located in areas zoned for residential uses, for example, can create land use conflicts in neighborhoods where residents have a certain expectation of quietude and familiarity.  These emerging uses can also raise zoning compliance concerns because STRs effectively convert single-family dwellings into commercial lodging establishments, which are often prohibited in residential districts.  Even when lodging establishments are allowed side-by-side with residences, the standards that apply to residential dwellings are typically much less rigorous than those that apply to lodging establishments.  Consequently, unregulated STRs can change the character of a neighborhood and raise public health and safety concerns arising from insufficient safety, noise, trash and septic disposal, and traffic controls.  An influx of STRs can also exacerbate long-term rental housing shortages, drive up housing costs, disrupt local hospitality industry markets, burden law enforcement, and enable discriminatory rental practices. 

    As a result, municipalities and states around the country—and, indeed, around the world—have begun to regulate these new ventures.  For local officials seeking a solution to the land use issues STRs present, this sampling of regulatory approaches can serve as a springboard.

    The Free Market Approach

    Cities and towns have been relatively slow to impose regulatory regimes on STRs.  A 2016 study from R Street Institute, a D.C.-based free market think tank, examined STR laws in the 59 largest U.S. cities to determine which cities had enacted a legal framework for regulating STRs, whether legal restrictions had the effect of curbing STRs, what tax-collection obligations were placed on these ventures, how burdensome the licensing regime was, and how hostile the enforcement regime was.  Of the cities surveyed, 38 had no legal framework in place for short-term or vacation rentals at the time of the study.  And, of the 21 cities that had a legal regime in place, only 14 specifically referenced STRs.2 

    Although the R Street survey does not give much insight into the motivations behind local decisions as to whether or not to regulate STRs, it is not inconceivable that some governments have taken a deliberate free market approach to the STR phenomenon.  Indeed, Arizona enacted a state law last year that preempts its cities, towns, and counties from totally banning STRs, although it allows local governments to narrowly regulate these uses based on nuisance-type considerations and to impose taxes on such ventures.3 

    If your city or town is considering a free market approach to STRs, bear in mind that non-action might not establish a hands-off regulatory policy, since most zoning ordinances are structured to prohibit any uses that are not expressly permitted.

    Zweckentfremdungsverbot (“Ban on Wrongful Use”)

    At the other regulatory extreme, some governments have imposed outright bans on STRs.   To address Berlin’s housing shortage, for instance, the city senate implemented a “zweckentfremdungsverbot”—that is, a total “ban on wrongful use.”  The law provides that homeowners cannot rent out more than 50% of their homes or apartments without first obtaining a city permit.  Homeowners have found, however, that permits are nearly impossible to obtain.4  While several court decisions challenging the Berlin law in recent years seem to have lessened the permitting burden, a landmark ruling in June 2016 upheld the ban itself as constitutional.  The ruling came just a week after the European Commission warned European Union governments that total bans on sharing economy services should only be used as a “measure of last resort . . . if and where no less restrictive requirements to attain a legitimate public interest objective can be used.”5

    A little closer to home, New York State enacted a law in October 2016 that imposed fines of up to $7,500 for illegally listing a property on rental platforms such as Airbnb.  Airbnb sued, arguing among other things that the law violated its free speech rights.  The company ultimately dropped the suit, however, after New York City—its largest market in the U.S.—agreed to enforce the law only against homeowners and tenants, not Airbnb.6  

    If your city or town is contemplating a broad ban on STRs, consider that such bans may encourage an underground rental market and are generally very difficult to enforce.  Total bans also tend to be a lawsuit magnet:  While the municipality may ultimately prevail, it might have to contend with a costly legal battle.

    Juste Milieu

    There is a rich middle ground between the “free market” and “total ban” methods of regulating STRs.  The approaches taken by officials in Galveston, Portland, and Rockland are just three such examples.

    Galveston, TX:  Pay (Taxes) to Play

    Galveston, Texas, has adopted a modest regulatory framework that involves almost no restrictions on STRs.  The city allows such rentals in all of its zoning districts except for its detached single-family unit residential zone.  Owners must register their rentals and either pay a $50 fee per rental unit or collect hotel occupancy taxes.  Rentals that “create or cause any perceptible noise, odor, smoke, electrical interference, or vibrations that constitute a public or private nuisance to neighboring properties” are prohibited.  But, because STRs are expressly excluded from the city’s definition of commercial lodging, they are not subject to any of the city’s rules for lodging establishments.7  

    Portland, ME:  Caps, and Fees

    After months of debate, officials in Portland, Maine, recently adopted a comprehensive regulatory scheme for STRs.  The new rules, which will go into effect on January 1, 2018, impose a ban on non-owner-occupied STRs of single-family dwellings, and restrict the number of STRs in non-owner-occupied multi-family buildings relative to the number of units in such buildings.  There will also be a city-wide cap of 300 rental units in non-owner-occupied buildings.  The new rules require annual inspections, limit STRs to five per homeowner, and impose a registration fee ranging from $100 for the first unit to $2,000 for the fifth unit.  Finally, the rules restrict the number of renters per unit to two per bedroom plus two more in other areas of the unit.8

    Rockland, ME:  A Board Decision

    Several years ago, city officials in Rockland, Maine, adopted a rigorous licensing and permitting scheme for STRs.  The regulations allow STRs in both owner-occupied and non-owner-occupied residential dwellings, but require Planning Board approval of the rental of an entire single-family dwelling or any unit within a duplex or multi-family dwelling.  Homeowners of single-family dwellings and duplexes must provide for adequate management responsibility, liability insurance, and parking.  Owners of multi-family dwellings must also comply with building, fire prevention, and life safety codes.  Before approving an STR application, the Planning Board must consider a host of factors, including the location and character of the site and adjoining property, traffic hazards and vehicular circulation, signage and lighting, and compatibility with existing uses.9

    PRACTICE POINTERS

    Local officials and planners considering ways to regulate STRs in their communities have no shortage of models.  But building a successful STR regulatory framework for your community should be founded on the following considerations:

    1.      Know your community.  STRs have different impacts on different communities.  A seaside resort village might be concerned about the impacts of STRs on its established hospitality industry and may wish to impose rules that creates a level playing field between traditional lodging establishments and emerging STR enterprises.  A city with a shortage of affordable housing, on the other hand, might instead focus on regulations that prevent conversion of long-term rental properties.  Don’t cut and paste:  Draft a regulatory scheme based on local policies that address the adverse impacts of STRs on your community.
    2.      Know your stakeholders.  Regulating STRs will inevitably affect stakeholders with competing objectives.  Identify your stakeholders early, then reach out and find out how they will be affected by various regulatory schemes. 
    3.      Know your capacity.  Any regulation of STRs raises the specter of the paper tiger.  Evaluate your in-house technical expertise and your budget to determine how licensing and registration requirements will affect your administrative staff and what regulations your code enforcement officer can reasonably enforce.  And don’t adopt rules that your community cannot enforce.

    If you have questions or need help with developing a regulatory approach to STRs that is customized to address your local circumstances, the municipal attorneys at Drummond Woodsum would be happy to help.  Please contact Aga by email (adixon@dwmlaw.com) or phone (207-253-0532).

    REFERENCES

    1.       Katie Benner, Airbnb Sues Over New Law Regulating New York Rentals, N.Y. Times (Oct. 21, 2016).
    2.       Andrew Moylan, R Street Policy Study: Roomscore 2016: Short-term Rental Regulations in U.S. Cities, R Street (Mar. 2016).
    3.       See S.B. 1350, Arizona 52nd Legis., 2nd Reg. Session 2016, available at https://apps.azleg.gov/BillStatus/GetDocumentPdf/442340.
    4.       Deanna Ting, Short-Term Rental Ban in Berlin for Airbnb and Others Appears to be Eroding, Skift (Sep. 11, 2017).
    5.       European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: A European Agenda for the Collaborative Economy, at 4 (Feb. 2, 2016).
    6.       Benner, supra.
    7.       See Galveston, TX, Code § 2.352.A.3 & Definitions; Galveston, TX, Short-Term Rental Ordinance, Ch. 16, Art. VI, available at https://library.municode.com/tx/galveston/codes/code_of_ordinances.
    8.       See Portland, ME, Code Ch. 6, Art. VI, available at https://www.portlandmaine.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1070.


    9. See Rockland, ME, Code Ch. 11, Art. II, available at http://www.ci.rockland.me.us/vertical/sites/%7BDE9EDD66-EFF4-4A6B-8A58-AA91254C1584%7D/uploads/OA_41_STR_01-11-16_Version.pdf

    --Aga (Pinette) Dixon, Drummond Woodsum

    Aga Dixon focuses her legal practice on public finance and municipal and land use matters.  Before joining the law firm of Drummond Woodsum, Aga was a senior planner at the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LURC) where she coordinated comprehensive planning projects, rulemaking initiatives, and regulatory reviews of significant and controversial development projects.  Since then, Aga has assisted municipal clients with drafting, enacting, and enforcing ordinances that address local concerns and achieve planning objectives.


  • 26 Oct 2017 12:24 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 Carl Eppich, Senior Transportation Planner at PACTS/GPCOG:


    HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION? 

    16 years

    CURRENT JOB

    Senior Transportation Planner at PACTS/GPCOG

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND

    I grew up in Southern New Hampshire near Exeter and spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house in Maine in Port Clyde. Maine to me was a slower paced natural wonder. We would sail Penobscot Bay hitting remote coves and undeveloped islands all the way to Acadia. It was wild to me and somewhat is still. Growing up I spent a lot of time outside and developed a real appreciation for not just the natural environment, but also the human landscape. Why are farms and fields in one place up against forests, and villages, towns and cities along rivers or the ocean in others? I loved all kinds of places but also knew places I didn’t like such as the suburban highway strips and isolated subdivisions. I was also interested in how money and economics worked--how cities are economic engines. With these interests, in high school and college I focused my studies on civilization (politics and history), environmental studies, and economics ultimately majoring in environmental and resource economics.

    WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING? 

    In the early 1990's while in college I worked in Portsmouth, NH and then Washington, DC for the League of Conservation Voters. Then I went to work in business development for a number of tech companies in the late 1990's. One of the companies had a CAD/GIS related product and my interest in human developments in towns and cities was awakened. The problem solving power of GIS led me to planning, and I held early positions with SMRPC and the Town of Kennebunk. At the same time in the early 2000's, I started taking classes at the Muskie School of Public Service and ultimately earned a master’s degree there. I have been at PACTS for 10 years now…time flies.

    WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE? 

    Maine is a complex place quite isolated and with frontier-like gepgraphically. That reality solidified a stead-fast cultural preference for “local control” which acts like a sea-anchor in the 21st Century. By that I mean we don’t really live in isolated municipalities anymore. We live regionally in a global world. This presents an interesting challenge with land use decisions still made at the local level that effect people from far beyond the borders of a city/town geography. The present and future is regional and that is why I chose to work at the regional level.

    WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK? 

    Working with people in many diverse communities, both urban and suburban/semi-rural, and working to improve their futures. In planning we work with very complicated issues that may be similar from place to place, project to project, but are always unique at the time and the place. We are not only facilitators of problem solving and data understanding, but also teachers who have to repeat the lessons over and over. It can be discouraging but I see progress now with 15+ years in the business.

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

    Planning and building a region-wide off-road separated bicycle “highway” network that connects people with our world class natural place. I also would like to do more to extend separated bicycle ways into urban areas, by trading car lanes for bikes and e-Bikes. It is a huge portion of the solution to avoiding motor vehicle congestion and addressing health issues including obesity. The Netherlands and Denmark have demonstrated and documented this reality.

    WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE? 

    Working in Maine is an expertise all on its own! But seriously, being able to develop cost effective transportation projects and plans to finance them would be my niche. Unfortunately, most of this financing happens at the local municipal level, and there is not much innovation in thinking in this area--leveraging development projects for transportation improvements--although some communities are beginning to have more open minds.


  • 07 Sep 2017 8:28 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    In the spring of this year the Executive Members from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont planning associations, and Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (NNECAPA) held a retreat to discuss how our four organizations are organized and what alternatives we should look at.  For more information on the retreat please see Chapter and States Exploring Organizational Options by the NNECAPA Executive Committee.

    The retreat resulted in a very productive discussion about the deficiencies each organization is currently struggling with and what options we could collectively explore to provide better service to our members. A quick overview of the results of the retreat can be found here: Proposals Discussed to Reorganize Planning Associations in the Region by the NNECAPA Executive Committee. At the end of the retreat a Task Force was created to dive deeper on the options and questions raised and come back to the membership of all four organizations prior to the NNECAPA business meeting and the state association fall meetings.

    The Task Force's living draft white paper of their research and discussions thus far is available here: Proposals for Reorganization of NNECAPA and State Planning Associations. The white paper and its findings will be a central part of discussions at the NNECAPA Business Meeting on Friday, September 8th at 8:15AM. Please keep in mind this is the beginning of a discussion that will be continued at meetings in each state this fall for a full discussion by all four organizations.

    If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me or any of your state association presidents: marchants@nashuanh.gov.

    -- Sarah Marchant, AICP, NNECAPA President

    OCTOBER 2017 UPDATE: A presentation and discussion about the NNECAPA and state associations reorganization will take place at Topsham Town Offices on November 3, 2017 from 12:00 to 2:00pm. This will be a chance to talk to Sarah Marchant, NNECAPA President. More info: http://meplan.org/event-2694118.

  • 19 Jun 2017 11:23 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    It has been nearly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court, in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, invalidated a municipal sign ordinance that imposed different size, quantity, and length-of-display requirements on different types of temporary signs.  The Court reasoned that, because the sign ordinance classified signs into different categories on the basis of their messages—such as directional, political, and ideological signs—and subjected each category to different restrictions, the ordinance was unconstitutionally content based.  By many accounts, the Reed decision called into question the constitutionality of virtually every municipal sign ordinance in the country.  So, what has happened since then?

    As anticipated, Reed set off a flurry of First Amendment litigation that obliged lower courts to draw the line distinguishing constitutional and unconstitutional sign regulation with greater precision—and, in some instances, to revisit their prior decisions.  The Fourth Circuit, for example, recently reconsidered a city code that applied to private and secular flags and emblems, but exempted governmental and religious flags and emblems.   Five years prior, the court had upheld the validity of a sign ordinance with similar exemptions but, “[n]ow informed by the Supreme Court’s directive in Reed,” the court concluded that such an ordinance was unconstitutional.

    Post-Reed courts have also revisited decisions concerning anti-panhandling ordinances, now concluding that such ordinance are constitutionally problematic because they “target[ ] anyone seeking to engage in a specific type of speech, i.e., solicitation of donations.”   In Cutting v. City of Portland, Maine, the First Circuit invalidated Portland’s panhandling ordinance, which provided that “[n]o person shall stand, sit, stay, drive or park on a median strip . . . except that pedestrians may use median strips only in the course of crossing from one side of the street to the other.”   While the Court found the ordinance to be content neutral and subjected it to a less rigorous level of judicial scrutiny, the Court nonetheless noted that the ordinance imposed “serious burdens” on speech because it prohibited virtually all activity on median strips (areas deemed to be traditional venues for free speech) and concluded that it was “geographically over-inclusive with respect to the City’s concern that people lingering in all of [its] median strips—no matter which ones—pose a danger to those passing by.”

    Reed has also stirred up the dust in areas of sign regulation that were thought to be settled.  A Tennessee district court, for instance, concluded that a state statute distinguishing between on-premises and off-premises signs was unconstitutional.   This decision appears to be in the minority, however.  Indeed, the majority of courts that have considered commercial billboard bans post-Reed have concluded that Reed does not uproot precedent upholding on-premises/off-premises regulatory distinctions.

    Of course, some sign ordinances have survived First Amendment challenges following Reed.  In Peterson v. Village of Downers Grove, for example, a federal district court upheld a sign code placing type and quantity restrictions on wall signs, noting that the ordinance “is wholly indifferent to any specific message or viewpoint [and] applies to all signs, regardless of their message or content.”

    Perhaps less predictably, Reed has become a central force in shaping court decisions concerning governmental regulation of speech in contexts other than temporary signs.  Thus, Reed has been cited as the basis for invalidating a statute prohibiting politically-related robo-calls.   It has been used to uphold a city ordinance regulating unattended donation collection boxes.   And it has been key to deciding a challenge to a federal law that requires producers of sexually explicit materials to collect information demonstrating that their performers are not minors.

    There certainly seems to be no end in sight to free speech litigation following Reed.  In this litigious environment, municipal planners and officers should continue to tread carefully when drafting or implementing any ordinance provision that limits expression.  Surely, any sweeping ban on speech—whether vis-à-vis a sign ordinance or otherwise—is likely to have constitutional infirmities.  But even governmental regulations that appear not to touch on speech rights at all (think: exempting holiday decorations from permitting requirements, or licensing requirements for street performers) could trigger First Amendment concerns if the regulations unduly restrict free speech or treat certain speech preferentially.  To minimize litigation risk, ask if your ordinances completely ban any form of speech or expression?  Do they give preferential regulatory treatment to a message, a speaker, or a category of speech?  Do they exempt certain types of expression from permitting?  Do they encourage arbitrary enforcement?  If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, seek out an expert to help you assess whether your regulatory regime passes constitutional muster.

    -- Agnieszka (Pinette) Dixon, Drummond Woodsum


    Aga Dixon focuses her legal practice on public finance and municipal and land use matters. Before joining the law firm of Drummond Woodsum, Aga was a senior planner at the Maine Land Use Planning Commission where she coordinated comprehensive planning projects, rulemaking initiatives, and regulatory reviews of significant and controversial development projects. Aga has done extensive legal research on the intersection of government regulation and free speech rights, and has advised municipal clients on how to draft sign regulations that achieve planning goals and are constitutionally sound.


    References:

    1- Cent. Radio Co. Inc. v. City of Norfolk, Va., 811 F.3d 625, 633 (4th Cir. 2016). 

    2- Id. at 634. 

    3- Thayer v. City of Worcester, 144 F. Supp. 3d 218, at n.2 (D. Mass. 2015); see also, e.g., Homeless Helping Homeless, Inc., v. City of Tampa, Florida, 2016 WL 4162882 (M.D. Fla., Tampa Div., Aug. 5, 2016) (slip copy); McLaughlin v. City of Lowell, 140 F. Supp. 3d 177 (D. Mass. 2015); Norton v. City of Springfield, 806 F.3d 411 (7th Cir. 2015); Browne v. City of Grand Junction, 136 F. Supp. 3d 1276 (D. Colo.2015). 

    4- Cutting v. City of Portland, Maine, 802 F.3d 79, 81-82 (1st Cir. 2015). 

    5- Id. at 89. 

    6 - See Thomas v. Schroer, --- F. Supp. 3d ---, 2017 WL 1208672 (W.D. Tenn., Mar. 31, 2017) (holding the State of Tennessee Billboard Act an unconstitutional, content-based regulation of speech). 

    7 - See, e.g., Geft Outdoor LLC v. Consol. City of Indianapolis & Cty. of Marion, Indiana, 187 F. Supp. 3d 1002, 1016 (S.D. Ind. 2016) (summarizing cases). 

    8 - Peterson v. Vill. of Downers Grove, 150 F. Supp. 3d 910, 919 (N.D. Ill. 2015). 

    9 -See Cahaly v. Larosa, 796 F.3d 399 (4th Cir. 2015). 

    10 - See Recycle for Change v. City of Oakland, 856 F.3d 666 (9th Cir. 2017). 

    11 - See Free Speech Coalition, Inc., V. Attorney General United States, 825 F.3d 149 (2016).


  • 19 Jun 2017 10:50 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    “New Ruralism” has been a project initiative of the Northern New England Chapter of APA (NNECAPA) for five years.  Maine Association of Planners has been participating through the work of Mark Lapping and Lynne Seeley.

    In May, the Northern New England Chapter of APA (NNECPA) New Ruralism project was the subject of one of the workshops at the 2017 APA National Conference in New York City.  Over 100 planners and others attended the workshop.  The focus of the workshop was on sharing 9 of the “stories” from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, highlighting the rural renaissance that has been happening in Northern New England.  

    Northern New England is a leader in local food system planning, has growing success in the energy sector, provides countless examples of creative entrepreneurism to grow the local economy, has demonstrated success in balancing preservation of vital natural resources and economic opportunity, and finds innovative ways to address the sometimes unique social services needs in rural communities. The goal was to share New England stories of rural communities that are working hard to meet the needs of their residents, demonstrating leadership with creative approaches to modern challenges. 

    The session was facilitated by the long-time Chair of the APA’s Small Town and Rural Division (STaR), Chad Nabity.  Presenters included Peg Elmer Hough, former Professor of Land Use Law and Policy at Vermont Law School, Jo Anne Carr, Director of Planning and Economic Development in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and Lynne Seeley, a community planning consultant in Maine.

    --Lynne Seeley, Planning Consultant


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