Topsham Comp Plan feedback embraces safer streets

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TOPSHAM — A public input session at Topsham Public Library drew about 60 people and helped guide the town staff as it updates its 2005 Comprehensive Plan.

The ad hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee first met in November 2016 to review the document – last updated in 2011 – and hired Maine Design Workshop as a two-year planning consultant for $87,000 last spring. The plan update is on schedule for a Town Meeting vote in May 2019.

The committee is reviewing the feedback received with an eye toward editing the draft update where appropriate, Town Planner Rod Melanson said Tuesday. Most comments were “extremely positive,” he added.

“Right now we’re refining the plan based on the public input,” he said. “The advantage of doing the (June 23) open house was that people got to discuss things. There are a lot of concepts here that are pretty unfamiliar.”

Staff last month presented a “big ideas document,” which stemmed from an earlier public input series in October 2017, along with recommended actions on a large board, onto which residents placed colored stickers representing support or opposition. 

Safer streets and the establishment of a bicycle and pedestrian committee were among more popular sentiments, along with greater access to nature and open space, Melanson said.

Illustrative plans, or “visionary schemes of development” around town were also posted for comment, the planner added. A roundabout at Routes 196 and 201 did not garner much favor, nor did a parking garage at Topsham Fair Mall.

A park in the Lower Village, long sought after by residents, was “definitely a resounding positive redevelopment scheme,” Melanson said. “… That’s still something that we’re working on.”

The draft is available at topshamaine.com/compplan. On the horizon is a website link that will lead residents to a version of the document that can be commented upon online.

“Embedded within the document you (will be able to) write a bubble comment,” Melanson explained.

“We’re on track,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work done, and we’ve got a lot to do, but so far … there seems to be some good support for most of what we’re talking about. We will provide some scrutiny on where we’re finding some of the negative reactions. Those will be more important for us to focus on … to really get that right.”

The Comprehensive Plan Committee meets the second Monday of each month, and on the fourth as needed. Meetings are open to the public, and take place at the Municipal Building, 100 Main St., at 6 p.m.

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.