Topsham seeks members for Comp Plan update panel

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TOPSHAM — With completion of its “Back to the Future” series of workshops, which paved the way for updating the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the town now seeks members for a committee tasked with the update process.

The workshops, which began last October and concluded March 9, “ended up being better than expected, in regards to attendance and the dialogue that was created with the community,” Planning Director Rod Melanson said in an interview April 22.

The meetings – usually attended by between 40 and 80 people – were put on by the Topsham’s planning and community development offices and the Topsham Public Library.

The gatherings were held to open up discussions on major subjects related to town planning purposes. The first, community economics, introduced an underlying theme that appeared at later meetings – how to make smart, affordable, sustainable investments to create a more prosperous environment for the residential and commercial sectors, Melanson said.

“Where and how we develop matters” was a discussion that continued in subsequent meetings, including those focused on Topsham’s historic and rural heritages, the planner said.

Successful planning and enhancement of Main Street and commercial and residential neighborhoods at the core of the community in turn conserve Topsham’s rural heritage, Melanson said.

“When we create a vibrant downtown, we’re less likely pushing that residential impact off to the rural area that we’re trying to protect,” he added.

A transportation system that promotes bicycling and walking in town was another subject discussed, he said. New or enhanced streets may be planned with an eye toward incorporating all users, and not just motor vehicles.

The 2005 Comprehensive Plan was last updated five years ago.

“We’re looking for … a committee that is able to update our Comp Plan,” Melanson said, noting that the current plan is “still very valid. The visions and the goals we can update, but … I don’t foresee any major changes from the last planning effort that was done. I see enhancements.”

“It’s a big check-in with the community to make sure that we still have the same goals, and strategize to meet those goals,” he added.

The town seeks volunteers for the committee who are not already on a formal committee. Those who are interested in topics related to comprehensive planning are encouraged to reach out to the Planning Office at 725-1724.

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.