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Bath to undertake annual Comp Plan updates

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Bath to undertake annual Comp Plan updates

BATH — The multi-year process of revising a Comprehensive Plan long in need of updating is now a thing of the past.

The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night for annual reviews of the plan beginning in 2011. The most recent update, which the council adopted Sept. 2, calls for a continuing planning process involving Planning Director Jim Upham, the Planning Board and a Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee. The results of the annual review will be presented to the City Council.

"I voted in favor of the Comprehensive Plan because I think it's a good plan," Councilor David Sinclair said. "But this particular piece of the plan is my favorite part."

He pointed out that circumstances change from year to year, rather than decade to decade, justifying the more frequent update.

The council also unanimously supported a preliminary agreement for the Gateway 1 Corridor Action Plan. Upham said the Gateway 1 planning process, in the works since 2004, concerns land use and transportation along the Route 1 corridor from Brunswick to Stockton Springs.

"This start-up agreement is sort of an interim stage between the planning and the real implementation of Gateway 1," Upham said, adding that the agreement commits communities to work in good faith to adopt the plan as an addendum to their comprehensive plans within a year.

During this time the communities will consider an agreement to form the Gateway 1 Corridor Coalition within a year and to start the process of implementing a set of basic actions included in the plan.

Upham said the communities that sign on will receive funding assistance to implement some of the actions in the plan. He said he intends to ask to use those funds to create a master plan for improving Route 1 in Bath to a state more similar to Front Street, which was just lauded by the American Planning Association as one of the nation's 10 "Great Streets of 2009."

"This project is extremely important to our economic well-being," as well as to the economic well-being of all the communities in the corridor, Upham said. "If we are not successful with this planning process, a group of people like us 20 years from now will be sitting in a room like this trying to figure out where the four-lane highway goes. This is a long-range plan; we're planning for the year ... 2030, and we need to be successful, because there isn't any money now, and I doubt that there will be then to build a four-lane highway after Route 1 gets so clogged up it isn't even usable. The mission is to make Route 1 usable into the future."

Stacy Benjamin, a professional planner hired by the Maine Department of Transportation to work with the communities in the corridor, said that early in the process the stakeholding communities identified problems they faced along Route 1. Among those issues were congestion; speeding; loss of image, aesthetics and open space; lack of communication and cooperation; truck noise and safety; lack of transportation choices' lack of bicycle and pedestrian safety, and conflicts between local goals and those of the DOT.

Benjamin said that if at least 12 communities sign the start-up agreement by Oct. 31, Maine DOT has set aside $500,000 in technical assistance funds that may be given to communities in the form of grants. As of Wednesday, six communities had signed on, including Brunswick and West Bath, Benjamin said.

The Gateway 1 Action Plan is available online at gateway1.org.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.