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TOPSHAM — In an attempt to get the public involved with its Comprehensive Plan update process, the town hopes to show planning can be fun.
The town will host “Find, Meet, Plan Your Topsham” – a long weekend of public sessions and roundtable discussions at the former Lower Village fire station at 1 Green St. – from Oct. 19-23.
Along with helping to hammer out a path for Topsham’s future, participants will enjoy a block party, live music, a bean supper, outdoor movie and other family-friendly attractions.
The ad hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee, which first met in November 2016, “really wanted to focus on a different style of public engagement, to get input about a vision for Topsham,” Town Planner Rod Melanson said in an interview Oct. 5.
The committee hired Maine Design Workshop as a two-year planning consultant for $87,000 this spring. The plan update could go to a Town Meeting vote in May 2019.
“This committee has put an amazing amount of time and effort into doing something very different,” Melanson said of the public input process, noting the assistance from other departments in readying the fire barn and the lot for the event.
Parking will be closed in the fire barn area during the event, and the adjacent lower part of Green Street will be partially closed. Event parking will be across Main Street at the site of the Bowdoin Mill Island parking lot, and on street parking will be available along Elm and Main streets.
An event kick-off will be held Thursday, Oct. 19, with a bean supper at 5 p.m. and a “hands-on workshop” from 6-8:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 20, will see three roundtable discussions: on streets and mobility from 9:30-10:30 a.m., arts and culture from 11 a.m. to noon, and “mom and pop” economic development from 3-4 p.m. A historic lantern walk will be held from 6-7 p.m., and “Wonder Woman” will be screened outdoors 7:30-9 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 21, offers a “pop-up library” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a roundtable discussion on open spaces and trails from 10-11 a.m., a block party and music from 1-6 p.m., food trucks from 4-7:30 p.m., and a planning check-in and conversation from 6-7:30 p.m.
An artisan market will be held Sunday, Oct. 22, from 1-5 p.m., and things wrap up the following day with a planning presentation 6-7 p.m. and an open house and refreshments from 7-8 p.m.
Sponsorships are covering the event’s less-than-$2,500 cost, Melanson said.
Noting the desire to attract residents to a party-like event he said, the comprehensive plan update process “shouldn’t have to be a dry meeting in a municipal building (with) a PowerPoint, and everybody is half falling asleep.”
With Maine Design Workshop onsite all five days, “people can just walk in and share their thoughts about what we’re talking about,” he added. “The hope is that we receive a very broad spectrum of residents that share – perhaps folks that haven’t in the past – so that we can craft a comprehensive plan that really speaks to the input we received.”