Harpswell to update Comprehensive Plan

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HARPSWELL — Emerging trends driven by climate change, including sea level rise and invasive species, are among issues town officials would like addressed in a new Comprehensive Plan.

At their July 24 meeting, the Board of Selectmen endorsed moving ahead with a new Comp Plan, at the recommendation of Town Planner Carol Eyerman and Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee Chairman Burr Taylor.

The plan will act as a baseline guide for the town and how it develops, offering a blueprint on the direction of town policy on everything from marine resources to road networks. 

In a July 8 memo to selectmen, Eyerman and CIPC members said many aspects of the town’s 2005 plan are out of date or inconsistent with current goals. 

In particular, the CPIC said problems unaddressed in the current plan include school use, climate change and sea level rise, public transportation, economic development, road repair and maintenance, and inconsistencies with zoning designations for rural and growth areas. 

CPIC members also wanted a clearer, more accessible plan.

It should take about two years to complete the rewrite, Eyerman told selectmen. She recommended establishing a new committee at the end of the fiscal year to start working on the plan.

The town will have to hire a consultant and prepare preliminary documents for the process at an estimated cost of between $25,000 and $30,000, Eyerman noted in the memo.

Although endorsing the concept of a Comp Plan rewrite, selectmen expressed concern that a new drafting committee might work at cross-purposes with the current group. 

Taylor told selectmen his group’s work would be completed by the time the committee drafting the new plan begins its work. 

“The chances of it competing with the other committee are minimal,” he said, adding that a new Comp Plan would “supersede” the CPIC. 

Selectmen Elinor Multer, Richard Daniel and Kevin Johnson all voiced support for moving forward with a plan, but Multer cautioned residents not to take the plan that emerges as anything more than an advisory document. 

“People are kind of fond of throwing the Comprehensive Plan into the argument if they don’t like something,” Multer said, “as if it were law and you couldn’t do anything that didn’t totally accord with it.”

“The more the town understands what it is and what it isn’t,” she said, “the better off I think we’ll be.”

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.