North Yarmouth aims to celebrate assets with town 'brand'

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NORTH YARMOUTH — It’s a town where others began, and one many people drive through on their way to somewhere else.

But North Yarmouth’s burgeoning effort to create a town brand is geared toward making the community better known as one rich in history, things to do and see, and places to do business. A town where it’s worth spending time.

The effort is the result of several town committees, elected officials and other residents working toward a common goal.

The idea came to resident Brian Sites when he was chairman of the town’s now-dissolved Safe Bike and Walkways Committee, and later expanded to include North Yarmouth’s other committees and initiatives.

“We saw this as an opportunity to say, ‘Look, let’s take this branding concept, let’s apply it in a much larger sense, and use it as a means to unify the town behind a set of organized themes that are prevalent,” Sites said in an interview Nov. 11.

“It was more of a need that was arising across the town in general,” he said, adding that “you want it to be more community-oriented than committee oriented. To be more inclusive that way.”

In this year’s annual Town Report, Sites noted that as North Yarmouth changes and grows, “a town brand will assist town government, committees and local organizations to identify and distinguish (the town) as a unique community in the region. The town brand reflects the personality of the people, the natural assets, the local businesses, and the venerable history.”

The brand reflects three principles – the town’s history, community and commerce – and celebrates assets such as parks, scenic roads, river access, historic sites, entrepreneurial spirit and civic engagement, Sites wrote in the Town Report.

Speaking about local commerce, Sites said, “It really is amazing how many small businesses there are in North Yarmouth.” About 250 have been identified through the town’s business association, he added.

“How do you make that more visible, how do you attract different types of businesses to the community so they can be part of the economic development and really bolster (our) tax base,” which helps ease the economic burden on residents.

One way of showcasing the town’s assets is by placing signs at three sites: Wescustogo Park off Route 231, the Chandler Brook Preserve off North Road and Old Town House Park off Route 9. The signs have the town’s branding logo, a map of North Yarmouth’s parks and trails and a historic anecdote about the parcel.

The signs will also later show town business logos, Sites said.

The extent or pace of development has been a major issue in town in recent months. Voters on Nov. 3 were faced with two questions.

The first, backed by the Board of Selectmen and Economic Development and Sustainability Committee, called for redeveloping the now-closed North Yarmouth Memorial School as a municipal and community campus, selling the Town Hall for housing or commercial development, and creating a municipal sewer system on the school property to help facilitate new development.

The second, stemming from a citizens’ petition, opposed that plan, and called for  plans for the sewer system to be halted; rebuilding Wescustogo Hall as stipulated in a 1997 agreement with the town; maintaining and possibly renovating the Town Hall; seeking proposals for the school building; getting citizen feedback on the aforementioned proposals; and sending any plans for the school to a town vote.

Question 2’s proponents said they did not oppose development, but rather the extent as proposed in Question 1.

Question 2 passed 812-637, defeating Question 1, which failed 935-526.

A starting point

The brand’s tagline is “Start Here.”

“We want businesses to Start Here: to establish commercial enterprises in a town that is filled with entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes,” Sites wrote. “We want families to Start Here: to join a community that honors green space and supports great local services, such as our schools.”

The concept is also about showing that North Yarmouth looks to the future while honoring its past and highlighting its present assets, and establishing “a local identity with a broad appeal beyond our town borders,” according to Sites.

In the Nov. 11 interview, he noted that North Yarmouth’s distance from major thoroughfares like Route 1 and Interstate 295 can be a disadvantage. But on the upside, the town is centered between several other communities and natural resource areas, he said.

When he moved to town four years ago, Sites started noticing from his North Road home how many avid bicyclists go through town.

“I saw the advantage of attracting more people to town, and potentially having some businesses gel as a result of having  more of this type of activity in the town,” he said.

“You want (people) to start their rides here, you want them to come here and start their runs … their kayak rides,” Sites added. “Whatever it is, you want them to come and start here and promote the town as a starting point.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

North Yarmouth’s “Start Here” branding logo.

Brian Sites is one of the North Yarmouth residents spearheading the town’s branding effort. Signs like the one shown here, at Wescustogo Park along Route 231, are methods being used to market the town’s assets.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.