2017-09-29 / Front Page

Update: Cape comp plan

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – A resident-powered committee is working on updating the vision for Cape Elizabeth outlined in the forthcoming 2019 Comprehensive Plan and needs the public’s help to create that vision.

The comprehensive plan, which is required by the state to be updated every decade, is a document that serves as a guide for the development of Cape Elizabeth for the next 20 years. It looks into and makes recommendations about things like housing, transportation, public facilities, fiscal capacity, recreation and open space, marine, water, natural and agricultural resources and land use, which Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said is the plan’s “main focus.”

The committee, chaired by Timothy Thompson,includes Peter Curry,Elizabeth Goodspeed, Kevin Guimond and Harvey Rosenfeld, as well as Councilors Penelope Jordan and Sara Lennon and school board member Susana Measelle Hobbs and planning board member Victoria Volent. Committee members have met at least monthly since January to work on the plan, which was last updated for 2007 and have set up several ways for people to have their voices heard.

Two consultants have been hired for the project: Judy Colby-George of Spatial Alternatives in Yarmouth to help with public outreach and Kelly Myers of RKM Research in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to develop a public participant survey, which O’Meara said will tentatively be placed on the town’s website (capeelizabeth.com) Monday, Oct. 2.

The survey is one part of the overall plan for public outreach underway right now.

“Judy has come up with a two-year public participation plan. There’s multiple things we are doing to connect with people in a number of ways,” O’Meara said.

The first effort of the committee was to have a table at Strawberry Fest in June.

“We got some great feedback at that,” O’Meara said.

Another part of Colby-George’s communication plan, O’Meara said, is an online portal, launched two months ago, for residents to give input about the plan. Aside from posting comments, every two weeks individuals have a chance to weigh in on a discussion topic. The most recent topic was on job creation. Other topics have focused on what people love about Cape Elizabeth, the most pressing challenges during the next 20 years and thoughts on several draft chapters.

“People are really spending the time reading the chapters and commenting on them. It’s really gratifying,” O’Meara said of the portal, which can be accessed on the town website.

Colby-George said public forums will be held in the future, but those dates have not been set yet.

“Generally I like to focus on as many ways for the public to get involved in the process, so you can get a wide variety of comments that both those online opportunities and face to face opportunities give you,” said Colby-George, who did mapping work for Cape Elizabeth’s last comprehensive plan and has worked on plans in Bar Harbor, Cumberland, Falmouth, Mars Hill and Yarmouth.

Measelle Hobbs said the feedback is important to form a plan that works for the community.

“The more input the community puts in the better, so we can come up with a plan that’s best for all,” she said at a school board meeting earlier this month.

Further along in the process, the committee will host public forums on the plan and meetings with neighborhood and resident groups will take place. Until then, the committee will focus on drafting updates to the 2007 plan’s 16 chapters. On Monday, the group discussed the chapters that deal with economy and housing. At its Oct. 23 meeting, the committee may tour the public works facility as well as review chapters dealing with housing, transportation and public facilities.

“The committee has put all the public participation stuff into place and now they are doing the hard work of review draft chapters on the plan,” O’Meara said.

The goal is to have a draft plan to the council by mid-December 2018 at which point the council will accept the document and spend the early part of 2019 reviewing and eventually adopting the plan.

A decade since it was put into place, the town has been able to implement many of the recommended items in the 2007 comprehensive plan. According to a memo sent from O’Meara to former town manager Michael McGovern in August 2016, 78, or 85 percent, of the 92 recommendations in the plan have been implemented or are being acted on. The remaining 14 recommendations were either no implemented or part of longterm priorities that have not been moved forward yet.

Colby-George said it is important to have the type of conversations about community identity the comprehensive plan update process brings up.

“It is important and useful for the community to have these opportunities and places to discuss who they are and who they want to be in the future,” she said.

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