Topsham seeks Comp Plan input via online comments

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TOPSHAM — Word bubbles are not just for comic characters.

In seeking online input on its draft Comprehensive Plan update, the town is using a program that allows residents to embed comments on the pages using virtual balloons.

For example, a page in the document showing existing neighborhood centers has word balloons around the map suggesting other areas that should be added. Another commenter expressed the need for turning lanes on the outer reaches of Route 196, a street that, as it nears the center of town, is a busy commercial hub.

People are required to register an account and log in to post comments. The document can be accessed at topshammaine.com/compplan.

Comments can also be posted to large categorized boards in the lobby of the Municipal Building, 100 Main St. A board focused on the Lower Village has dueling post-it notes concerning the fate of the Frank J. Wood Bridge: “Build new bridge!!,” versus “Save our Green Bridge!!”

The ad hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee also plans to set up a table at the town’s transfer station Saturdays this fall in order to answer questions. One may be set up at the polls on Election Day Nov. 6.

The town looks to wrap up the comment period by Thanksgiving, Town Planner Rod Melanson said Tuesday. Aided by that input, the committee will spend the first months of 2019 developing a final draft, which is due to go to a Town Meeting decision that May.

“This is the ‘making sure we heard what we heard correctly’ phase of the plan,” Melanson explained. Input was gleaned from a June 23 open house, at which the boards now in the lobby were first displayed. That gathering followed a multi-day public comment session last October.

“There have been no major changes (suggested) yet to the draft,” Melanson said. “… What’s we’ve compiled thus far is in line with what we’ve heard.”

The Comprehensive Plan Committee first met in November 2016 to review the 2005 document – last updated in 2011 – and hired Maine Design Workshop as a two-year planning consultant for $87,000 last spring.

The committee holds its next meeting at the Municipal Building at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, followed by another at the same time and place on Monday, Oct. 15. The second public input session will be held at Topsham Public Library, 25 Foreside Road, at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.

A public meeting featuring a revised draft plan will occur at the Municipal Building at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Mary Kate Apicelli, Matt Nixon, Susan Rae-Reeves and Larry Fitch, all from left, are members of Topsham’s Comprehensive Plan Committee, which is updating the town’s 2005 document. Joe Feely and Jenna Godo are not pictured.

Comments on the draft Comprehensive Plan update can be posted on boards in the Topsham Municipal Building lobby, as well as online.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.