North Yarmouth selectmen mull hiring planning consultant

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NORTH YARMOUTH — The town may launch a search for a temporary planning consultant.

The Board of Selectmen, which discussed the matter Aug. 16, will review an amended request for proposals submitted by Town Manager Rosemary Roy at one of its upcoming meetings.

Meanwhile, the town is also looking to hire an architect to explore building a new Wescustogo Hall at North Yarmouth Memorial School.

Selectman Alex Carr noted that the proposed planning consultant, budgeted at $25,000, would have two purposes: developing a plan for tax increment financing districts, and “supporting the effort of the Comprehensive Plan that (the Greater Portland Council of Governments) and our committee is working on,” according to a video of the meeting posted at townhallstreams.com.

He said the scope of the work, as described in the draft of the planning consultant RFP presented that night, needed to be “narrowed down” to facilitate the Economic Development and Sustainability Committee’s request to explore TIF development.

Discussions about a master planner should come at another time, Carr argued.

Roy said she believes “what needs to come out of this is ‘what does the town have, what’s workable, what do we really want to do?’ You talk about TIFs, but if you don’t have the commercial industry to come in here, you might as well forget about TIFs, because you have to have that commercial piece.”

The manager added that she considers North Yarmouth to be at a turning point – “Do we stay rural, or do we grow a little? Do we help our economic stability?”

“That’s the Comprehensive Plan, and that’s a master plan,” Carr responded. “That’s fine, but that’s another argument, and this consultant needs to identify TIF districts to us.”

Selectman Anne Graham advocated for an objective consultant to determine whether TIFs will work in town.

“I don’t think that (master planning is) necessarily what we want this person to do,” Graham said. “We just want them to asses where we’re at, and what we need to do to move forward. And then the Comprehensive Plan people do their work.”

After sending requests for estimates to five architects to explore a new Wescustogo Hall, Roy said she had heard back from two and was still reviewing their references.

“They’re two good candidates,” she said. “I think they’ll be well within the framework of our budget.”

The Board of Selectmen last month voted 3-1 in support of a nonbinding resolution to rebuild Wescustogo Hall, a centerpiece of the community destroyed by fire nearly three years ago.

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

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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.