Residents get chance to craft South Portland's future

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Forum will shape Comprehensive Plan revisions

SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents will have a chance to influence the next 10 years of land use and zoning rules at a planning forum later this month.

They are invited to meet at the South Portland Community Center at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. After a brief presentation, they’ll break out into work groups to tackle the future of land use in different parts of the city and comment on proposals from the Comprehensive Plan Committee.

Planning Director Tex Haeuser said the input will help the committee refine its policies ahead of the deadline next year for the city to finish revisions to the Comprehensive Plan, which guides city policy. The state requires municipalities to update their plans every 10 years, Haeuser said.

“Committed individuals have banded together repeatedly to imagine the future and make a difference here,” Dawn Roberts, a member of the Comprehensive Plan Committee, said in an email Monday.

Few issues have driven as many people to public hearings this year as the debate around zoning and design standards in the Willard Square neighborhood.

Opposition to a proposal to build a market and cafe on the square led to a moratorium on construction that ultimately forced the developers to a different neighborhood.

The land uses proposed by the committee include rules for “Neighborhood Activity Centers,” which include village centers like Willard Square, as well as “Community Commercial Hubs” and “Neighborhood Centers” throughout the city. Each designation has its own rules about zoning, density, land use, setbacks and parking.

“There are specific policies for specific areas,” Haeuser said. “People should be interested in that.”

Last year, the committee invited residents to a forum at Southern Maine Community College to craft a vision that would guide the rest of the Comp Plan revisions.

That vision describes how the city hopes to see itself in 2035. It describes South Portland as a “desirable destination” full of livable, walkable urban neighborhoods. It stresses education, open space, diversity and a strong economic base that includes the city’s historic waterfront.

Haeuser said the land use forum is the middle stage of Comp Plan revision, and that input from residents there will influence policies drafted later on transportation, the environment and other topics.

“Everything else is affected by our policies on land use,” Haeuser said.

Aside from the Neighborhood Activity Centers, the forum also will include talks on the future land use needs of Knightville/Mill Creek, the East End waterfront, single-family neighborhoods, the Maine Mall area and the Broadway, Cottage Road and Main Street corridors.

The city is asking residents interested in attending to forum to RSVP to Haeuser at chaeuser@southportland.org.

Mario Moretto can be contacted at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.

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