Bath Comp Plan elicits few comments; on its way to Augusta
BATH — After no public comment – or attendance – during the Comprehensive Plan portion of Tuesday's Planning Board meeting, the plan will soon be sent to Augusta for state review.
City Planner Jim Upham collected four public comments received about the plan throughout the previous week, and those comments and Planning Board responses are posted on the city's Web site. Upham said on Wednesday that he planned to bring the document to the Maine State Planning Office for review by early next week.
A plan that is certified by that office, Upham said, receives extra points when it applies to the state for funds such as community development block grants.
"It's important to be able to explain to the granting agencies that we have done proper planning," Upham said.
The planner pointed out that the Bath Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee had a broad representation of the community. "I think that the committee has done a really great job, and that could be one reason (for the lack of public comment)," he said.
Upham added that "the plan doesn't make radical changes. ... The city is working very, very well. We've got a hotel coming ... the downtown is healthy."
Among the four comments was one submitted via e-mail from Bath Iron Works. The comment expressed disappointment that Bath is preparing a plan for economic development that includes "contingency planning for the future possibility of BIW shrinking or closing."
The comment stated that BIW is not trying to send that kind of message to its employees, nor is that scenario part of its plan. BIW does not object to the idea of wanting economic diversity, the comment said, adding that "It would at least seem more balanced to also include a statement that Bath should plan for BIW's continued operations/future growth and support planning/economic development efforts with that goal in mind."
Upham said "the board felt that it would be irresponsible of the city not to have a plan for what would happen if its major employer shut down. That's not sending a message; it's just good planning. ... We want Bath Iron Works to be there; we want them to be employing people. But in the unforeseen situation where they're not there any longer, we need to figure out what we ought to be doing."
Another comment, offered at a public meeting held on the plan on March 10, stated that the city should focus on development of a river walk from the train station to the Coal Pocket area on Commercial Street.
Another e-mail comment said that "although there are several references throughout the document about philanthropic gifts, it would be nice to see a statement that notes the importance of philanthropy not only for the economic impact but how the contributions improve the quality of life in a community."
The fourth comment, also via e-mail, expressed praise for the plan and suggested establishment of a teen center to give youths a place to go on weekends and to participate in various activities, as well as a place – perhaps connected to the center – where rock and jazz musicians can play. The Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark on Summer Street might meet both criteria.
That comment also favored a large industry that deals with computers, a place besides BIW for college graduates to find a job.
"The board thought that they were all good comments," Upham said, "but they think that the plan probably covers these items."
The Planning Board will ultimately hold an official public hearing, after which the Comprehensive Plan will go before the City Council for adoption.