TOPSHAM — Although the town’s natural areas draft report and plan was scheduled to go to voters at Town Meeting in May, further revision of the document has delayed the vote until later in the year.
According to a statement by Natural Areas Planning Committee member Chris Dwinal, while committee members had prepared a draft of the plan and hoped the plan would be included on the upcoming Town Meeting warrant, feedback from the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee caused the membership to reconsider.
Based on that feedback, Dwinal said, “we believe that additional work is required to ensure that the implementation plan we have developed is consistent with the plan’s vision, goals and the 2005 Comp Plan. We are now targeting having the Natural Areas Plan on a possible September Town Meeting warrant.”
Rod Melanson, Topsham’s natural resource/assistant planner, said the retooling is needed primarily in the policy area. The plan currently does not recommend specific policies for implementation, but instead suggests strategies for the town to consider and evaluate, Melanson said.
“So the plan actually didn’t say the town should do these things,” he explained. “It said consider these. And one of the Comp Plan Implementation Committee’s responses to that is, ‘give us something more concrete.’ (The committee has) gone through enough of an effort in the planning to really be clear on what it is the town needs to do.”
That committee has worked with town staff and consultants to develop the plan since July 2006. Public forums on the plan were held in 2007, where participants pointed out key opportunities to protect natural resources, as well as to develop a vision for the Natural Areas Committee to include in the planning process. Open space, water quality, valued natural and cultural resources, working lands and shared values of Topsham’s natural areas were among discussion topics.
The plan has been complete since last summer, and meetings were held at that time to garner feedback. In the time since then the Natural Areas Committee has brought the plan before the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Conservation Commission.
“This is really probably two to three months’ worth of retooling,” Melanson said. “It’s not a drastic overhaul by any means, it’s really making things clear.”