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Yarmouth's new planner welcomes public participation

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Yarmouth's new planner welcomes public participation

YARMOUTH — The new director of planning and development says she is looking forward to working with the Planning Board and the public to make the town more accessible for bicyclists and walkers.

Vanessa Farr came to Yarmouth in April. She replaced Dawn Emerson, who served as the town planner for five years. Farr moved to Cumberland from Providence, R.I., and is originally from Ontario, Canada.

Most recently, Farr was the planner in Somerset, Mass. She received a bachelor's degree in environmental studies from the School of Urban and Regional Planning, Waterloo, Canada. She also studied planning theory and urban transportation planning at Brooks College, Oxford, England.

Prior to moving to the East Coast, Farr worked in Michigan as an associate planner and focused on transportation in the non-motorized sector at the county level. She managed technical and staff support, helped to form committees, and worked with the National Park Services and the Nature Conservancy.

In Yarmouth, Farr said she will focus on the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan, the Route 1 corridor changes, and strengthening the design guidelines and zoning ordinance language.

She said while she will offer assistance to the final stages of the Comprehensive Plan, the hard work was completed by the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee. Over the summer the plan will be available for review, and throughout the fall there will be public hearings as the Planning Board moves toward plan adoption.

In addition to assisting with the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan, she said she will use her experience as a land use coordinator to help create a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community.

The newly developed designs for the Route 1 corridor will provide a lane for bicyclists, will promote clean air and less idling by removing traffic lights and implementing roundabouts, will slow traffic and allow for pedestrian walkways, and will create streetscaping, trees and bushes to define the travel lanes.

"I question if plans and applications are sustainable," Farr said. "Does it have balance socially, environmentally and economically?"

She said the Route 1 corridor design guidelines can also be updated to create a downtown atmosphere.

"Along Route 1 there is an opportunity for landscaping, development, parking and walkways that will fill in under-utilized land and create space for new businesses," she said.

She said if businesses were more easily accessible, people could walk to more stores using connecting roads or paths, creating a linear space with a Main Street or village feel.

"The goal for a suburban landscape would be to develop a network that would allow travel on roads other than Route 1," Farr said. "And, with mixed use growth, businesses with residences above could become small communities with shared parking spaces."

Another project before the board, Farr said, is small wind energy for individual residences. She said there will be a recommendation before the Town Council in June, and the ordinance will soon be on the town's Web site for public review.

In addition to working on town planning projects, Farr said her goal is to encourage public participation with the planning process. She said creative projects that involve children and their parents can create a sense of ownership in the community.

"What I can do is provide the public with the opportunity to learn and participate in the planning process," she said. "I can focus on public education, outreach and and involvement. It is as important to get the message out, as it is to receive feedback."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net.
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