Topsham taps consultant for Comprehensive Plan update

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TOPSHAM — The town has hired the planning consulting services of Maine Design Workshop to help update its 2005 Comprehensive Plan.

The company will guide the ad-hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee, which first met in November 2016, in reviewing and updating the existing plan, and help engage the public in data analysis.

The committee unanimously recommended MDW to the Board of Selectmen, which, in turn, voted this month to hire the company, according to Planning Director Rod Melanson.

Although the town had budgeted $70,000 for the work, it is paying MDW $87,000. The committee determined that the company’s proposed work scope, compared to the three other proposals, “would produce not only a better planning process, but a better product for the town,” Melanson explained.

MDW proposed going beyond regular public input workshops in order to integrate demonstration projects, design charrettes and multi-media campaigns – elements that made the company top choice. The company also calls for developing a branding or marketing approach to spread awareness about its planning efforts, according to Melanson.

The graphic and content qualities of previously adopted comprehensive plans in Lewiston and Londonderry, New Hampshire, also impressed those involved in Topsham’s process, Melanson said.

More information on the process can be found at topshammaine.com.

The Comprehensive Plan Committee will further refine the project scope, but MDW’s responsibilities include project coordination; gathering, analysis, mapping and reporting of data; public engagement and outreach; public design charrettes; and production and presentation of the Comprehensive Plan document.

The process could take 18 months, with final planning and public input taking place in fall 2018. Residents could vote on the updated plan at Topsham’s May 2019 Town Meeting.

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.