Cape Elizabeth begins work toward new Comp Plan

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council has started the process of developing a new Comprehensive Plan.

Councilors held a workshop Monday, Aug. 29, to discuss the plan, which was last updated in 2007. They also discussed the process for hiring a new town manager, following Mike McGovern’s announcement last week that he is resigning.

Creating a new Comprehensive Plan for the town is one of the council’s goals for 2016.

“I thought our existing Comprehensive Plan was out of date,” Chairwoman Molly MacAuslan, who suggested the goal, said.

Councilors on Monday discussed a draft charge for a new comprehensive planning committee, which will consist of nine members. Members will include two town councilors, one School Board member, one Planning Board member, and five members of the public.

Councilors Jessica Sullivan and Sara Lennon volunteered to be on the committee, but no appointments were made Monday.

The council is scheduled to discuss the draft charge again Sept. 12 and approve it. Committee members will be appointed in December.

Councilors on Monday said it’s important to have members who are passionate about the work and will work well together. The commitment for a committee member will be two years.

“This is a very big deal and I think it deserves the tremendous attention it’s received in the past and what’s been set up here,” Sullivan said.

Over the two-year process, the comprehensive planning committee will meet monthly, conduct surveys, hold public forums, and draft the plan. According to a memo written by Town Planner Maureen O’Meara, the new plan will have “a more robust public participation process than with the 2007 plan.”

The Town Council also wants to hire a public participation consultant, although on Monday some councilors said they were confused about what the consultant’s role would be. Some thought the consultant would market the plan and inform residents of it, and others thought the consultant’s role would be to lead public meetings and engage residents.

Councilors said they will further discuss what kind of consultant they want when they approve the draft charge.

The total budget the council is allotting for the planning committee is $55,000, most of which will be spent on the consultant and surveys.

Because the plan is being completely recreated instead of updated, it will require a lot more time and work, which concerned Lennon.

“Can we do this in a much more streamlined way?” she asked. “Do we have to start this thing from scratch?”

Sullivan said it’s important to put in the time to create the new plan.

“I don’t think you can shortcut anything,” she said. “It’s not fair to the town.”

MacAuslan agreed, saying that if the plan were only updated it might not be relevant in as little as five years. She said she wants the new plan to “reflect the changes of the past five to six years and anticipate the needs of the next 10 years.”

Having a strong and timely Comp Plan is important, MacAuslan said.

“This particular document is critical to the future of the council and the town,” she said.

Town manager search

The council on Monday also discussed the process for finding Town Manager Mike Govern’s successor.

McGovern announced on Aug. 22 that he will retire Dec. 31 after 31 years as town manager, and the council wants to hire a consultant to lead the search for his replacement.

“It is our intent to have the council serve as the search committee, supported by a professional recruitment firm,” MacAuslan said.

A request for proposals is available on the town website. The Town Council will be accepting proposals until Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. and hopes to review the proposals Sept. 12 or 13.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.