Topsham Comp Plan update sails toward 2019 decision

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TOPSHAM — With a vote on the Comprehensive Plan update expected at Town Meeting next May, officials said public input so far has been good.

The draft plan has been available at topshammaine.com/compplan for edits by residents, and the document has been vetted at several meetings, the latest at Topsham Public Library on Oct. 6.

Another public review meeting is to be held at the library, 25 Foreside Road, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8. Further public meetings are scheduled monthly at Town Hall through next spring.

The ad hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee first met in November 2016 to review the 2005 document – last updated in 2011 – and hired Maine Design Workshop as a two-year planning consultant for $87,000 last spring.

It’s been a year since the town held a five-day public charrette, and “people are getting their comments in,” committee Chairman Larry Fitch said Monday, estimating that about 500 people have participated in the process in some way.

Those are good numbers, he noted, given that planning isn’t always the most fun activity in the world.

“People have been very upbeat about this,” Fitch said. “They like what they see.”

Some comments have been editorial in nature – something should be rewritten in order to be made clearer – but “nobody’s been coming at this saying, ‘I don’t like that,'” Fitch noted. “… Nobody’s found anything disturbing.”

Affording many opportunities for the public to weigh in could be a testament to the support the plan has so far received, he said.

“That was our goal from the outset,” Fitch explained, noting Maine Design Workshop’s success in engaging the community. “It was important to us as a committee that people be engaged … and that this be residents of the town of Topsham’s plan, not the Comprehensive Planning Update Committee’s plan.”

“I think people have realized that we’re open to listening,” Fitch added, noting that it’s clear from the input that residents want to gather more, and foster social connections.

“People … want an opportunity to weigh in, they want an opportunity to talk things through with their neighbors in ways that are not adversarial,” he said. “I think this has given people a chance to do that.”

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

Mary Kate Apicelli, left, Matt Nixon, Susan Rae-Reeves and Larry Fitch are members of Topsham’s Comprehensive Plan Committee. Joe Feely and Jenna Godo are not pictured.

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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.