Forum will lay open four chapters in Cape Elizabeth comp plan

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The town will be holding a public forum to discuss a draft of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan on Tuesday, Oct. 30 beginning at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The forum will be hosted by the Comprehensive Plan Committee and will focus on chapters within the plan, including Existing Land Use, Future Land Use Plan, Regional Coordination and the Implementation Plan. Comments on the entire draft will be welcome as well.

The four aspects of the plan to be reviewed Oct. 30 are chapters that have not been discussed at previous forums, according to Town Planner Maureen O’Meara.

The full draft is available on the town website

Work on the updated Comprehensive Plan began back in 2016, when the Comprehensive Plan Committee was formed. The document was last updated in 2007, and one of the town’s goals with the most recent rewrite was to include more public participation in the process.

To help with that, Judy Colby-George of the Yarmouth-based company Spatial Alternatives was hired as the public participation consultant. 

O’Meara said Colby-George put together “a whole program” for public outreach over the last two years, including an online forum that O’Meara said generated over 200 responses.

A postcard was also mailed to residents that included a link to an online survey designed to gather information on why residents choose to live in Cape Elizabeth, their satisfaction with living there, and their planning priorities for the future, as well as other topics.

The town held two other public forums on the topic in January and June as well. According to O’Meara, it has spent roughly $40,000 on the Comprehensive Plan process.

O’Meara said one of the resident responses that rose “to the top” was a desire for more sidewalks in town. It is a change, she thinks, that could ultimately lead to lower local obesity rates. 

“I think it’s a trend across the country, where people are looking for opportunities to travel by (ways) other than a car,” she said. 

She added that more sidewalks would provide a safe way for people to travel on foot or bicycle.

O’Meara also said, however, that the town’s Future Land Use Plan, which she called “the core of the document,” will remain largely unchanged.

That section of the 2007 plan involved updating a lot of ordinances, she said, which is why she thinks it should be kept the same, though there could be opportunities to “tweak” it.

“We think that what we’ve got is pretty good,” she said.

Another issue that arose while drafting the updated plan is what O’Meara called Cape Elizabeth’s “increasingly acute affordable housing situation.”

The town has always struggled with affordable housing, she said, and though the town has mandatory requirements and is creating more affordable units, the total number remains a “very small amount.”

She acknowledged though lack of affordable housing is also a problem in other nearby communities, the lack of diverse types of housing in Cape Elizabeth, such as multi-family units, compounds the issue.

Having an older population in Cape also exacerbates the need, she said. Some elderly people want to transition out of single-family homes but don’t have affordable alternatives. 

The draft also outlines key findings regarding population and demographics in town, including the conclusion that Cape Elizabeth’s population continues to grow at a steady rate of 2 percent per decade, which is expected to continue.

It also states Cape Elizabeth’s population is aging “more rapidly than the rest of Cumberland County.”

According to the document, between 2000 and 2015, the town’s population of residents who are over 80 has increased by almost 80 percent, and the population of children under the age of 5 has decreased by nearly 50 percent.

And, O’Meara said although the Comprehensive Plan may identify challenges the town faces, it is intended to provide direction rather than solutions to specific questions.

“I think people need to understand the Comprehensive Plan is (a) big-picture document,” she said.

She also said the Comprehensive Plan Committee’s work is scheduled to be complete at the end of December.

The committee will then present the draft to the Town Council, which will decide under which process the plan will be reviewed. 

“We’ve been going piece by piece,” O’Meara said. “Now is the opportunity to see all of the pieces together.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

The Cape Elizabeth 2019 Comprehensive Plan Committee will hold a public forum Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss the Comprehensive Plan. 

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