Residents of Cumberland should be aware that key provisions of the town’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan are being abandoned. Specifically the town has already abandoned the growth cap of 45 homes per year in favor of a system allowing for up to 80 homes per year (despite surveys showing a strong majority support for a growth cap). Now up for consideration is the elimination of our four-acre Rural Residential district, and a recommendation that the town mandate “clustering” subdivisions to preserve important natural areas and farmland.
A Comprehensive Plan is meant to target where, and how much growth you want, while preserving, through zoning and other means, the natural features and less-developed areas of town. From what I am reading, the revisions seem to be about eliminating barriers to growth, and weakening rural protections.
Citing “changing circumstances” as a need to rewrite the 4-year-old plan, the town issued a report issued by a council-selected Comprehensive Plan Update Committee. The recommendations are being forwarded – seemingly unedited, despite public concerns raised at a Nov. 14 meeting – to the Planning Board for a Dec. 17 public hearing, and finally for full council consideration on Dec. 23.
Seventeen residents spent 46 months writing a Comprehensive Plan that urged preservation of our rural character and agricultural lands, a plan that spoke of sustainability and moderate growth. These findings were supported by public opinion surveys, and the final recommendations were written to inform future decisions, not to be cast aside.