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Planning Board neutral on Freeport Active Living Plan

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Planning Board neutral on Freeport Active Living Plan

FREEPORT — The Planning Board sent the Freeport Active Living Plan to the Town Council last week without a recommendation.

The board on June 25 said the council should "either accept or receive" the proposal, and also decided to make it a stand-alone plan not attached to the Comprehensive Plan.

The Active Living Task Force had hoped for a recommendation that at least urged the council to adopt, acknowledge or authorize the proposal.

"I see this as non-binding and non-committal," board member Aaron Cannan, who supports the plan, said.

The Active Living Plan is an effort to create healthy lifestyles for Freeport residents by incorporating more physical activity into their lives. The plan suggests creation of new outdoor features and amenities for activities such as biking, hiking, and walking.

But since its creation in 2012, the plan has been criticized for the possible burden it could have on taxpayers.

Task force chairwoman Anne-Marie Davee emphasized that the plan is a draft, and has added emphasis on water trails, more health benefits of physical activity, and a disclaimer about how the project would be funded.

"We will, and are, in the process of looking for grant money," Davee said.

But that drew criticism.

"Why are we out there looking for money for something that hasn't been approved yet?" Joyce Veilleux, a Freeport resident, asked.

Veilleux had other concerns about the plan, too.

She said a proposed walking path between Freeport Middle School and Freeport High School near Mallett Drive, which is intended to provide a safe way for children to walk to school, wouldn't be safe at all.

She questioned if the path would be lit or patrolled, and if it wasn't, she said the path could become a place of drug sales, alcohol consumption, and kidnapping. Veilleux also pointed out that the plan doesn't include a map of the path.

Veilluex also talked about the proposed bike lanes on Main Street, which she said would narrow what is already a busy street.

"Wouldn't the safer thing be to put our bike lanes off of Main Street?" she asked.

While some members of the task force argued that Main Street, and Freeport in general, has a near perfect safety record, one resident said that record is misleading.

Sally Leland of Freeport said many people avoid walking and biking along Main Street out of fear of being involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. She said that although Freeport has a great safety record, "it's only for people who actually go out."

Andrew Arsenault also discussed the bike lanes, saying the plan should look at improving existing lanes, instead of creating new ones. He said the task force should do "grassroots work" to fix shoulders that are breaking away along the sides of many Freeport roads.

Many of the residents opposed to the plan who were in attendance urged the board not to convey support of the plan when sending it to the council. Members of the task force wanted the opposite, asking the board to suggest it endorsed the plan.

Instead, the board adopted a neutral stance.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.