Yarmouth council holds 1st public session on draft Comp Plan

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YARMOUTH — About a dozen residents offered the Town Council feedback on the draft 2010 Comprehensive Plan at a public hearing on Oct. 7.

Town Manager Nat Tupper gave an overview of the plan and highlighted a few changes the council would like to see implemented, then opened the floor to public comment.

Resident Sharon McHold, a member of the Parks and Land Committee and the Green Infrastructure Planning Committee, said she would like the Comprehensive Plan to include more references to the Royal River and significant open spaces and natural resources. She said the river is an important part of the community and deserves mention in the executive summary and throughout the plan.

The plan includes a transition from more conventional zoning regulations and design review to form-based code. Form-based code is a more modern way to regulate zoning by considering the relationship between buildings, their uses and the public realm instead of by regulating by area, land use or design guidelines.

Main Street resident Betsy McElvein Soule encouraged the council to explain the concept more thoroughly and to provide examples for the public, while Matthew Schumacher of West Main Street complimented the council on the inclusion of the modern concept. He said form-based code is organic, dynamic and healthy.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s progressive and different.”

Schumacher also asked the council to consider expanding the historic village center to include additional sites such as the meetinghouse, the burial grounds and the corner of Elm, Main and West Main streets.

Residents of the Hickory Lane and Sycamore Drive neighborhood questioned the importance of connectivity with new developments and existing neighborhoods.

Tupper said the Comprehensive Plan is moving away from the creation of secluded cul-du-sac neighborhoods of the 1970s and toward a more open and connected downtown village concept. The plan will focus on small lots and inter-connectivity between neighborhoods and throughout the community, he said.

“It’s easier to see an integrated network system when it’s not in your neighborhood,” Tupper said.

In addition to collecting public input, the council also made a few changes to the draft plan in two prior workshops. It will present changes to the Planning Board after another public hearing.

While the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee and Planning Board proposed a voluntary advisory group to protect the historic significance of buildings in town, the council does not support a review process and would rather create an inventory and catalog process to designate historic structures. The council supports public education, guidance and inspiration for the preservation and protection of historic buildings instead of an advisory regulatory process.

The council would also like to provide incentives for developments with 10 or more lots to make provisions for affordable housing, rather than making such housing mandatory. Councilors also added language designed to help residents of all income levels stay in Yarmouth by providing assistance, fuel, social services, rental units and tax help.

The council will hold another public hearing on the draft Comprehensive Plan on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin on Main Street. The Planning Board will review all suggested changes and will present another draft to the Town Council for adoption. The plan must also be approved by the State Planning Office.

For a copy of the draft plan, visit yarmouth.me.us or contact Vanessa Farr, director of planning and development, at vfarr@yarmouth.me.us.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net