• 20 Feb 2017 8:03 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    If your town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) reviews and acts on Conditional Use Permits (CUP) or Special Exceptions as part of the development review process, think again!  You may want to move that responsibility to the Planning Board where it really belongs.

    I am going to water down a very in depth court case for you that may have future ramifications on how your town boards operate with regards to the approval process.

    An inn in the Town of Camden sought approvals to expand the facility by adding more rooms and parking spaces.  The process in Camden required this expansion to seek a Special Exception Permit.  In Camden, special exceptions go to the Board of Appeals to be heard on the zoning portion of the project to determine if they can expand.  Once the applicant received the permit from the ZBA they needed to go before the Planning Board in order to obtain Site Plan Review approval. 

    Prior to the applicant going to the Planning Board and after receiving the ZBA approval for the special exception, one of the abutters, Susan E. Bryant, appealed the ZBA’s decision granting the special exception permit to the Superior Court. The court (Knox County, Billings, J.) affirmed the ZBA’s grant of the Special Exception Permit. Bryant appealed the Superior Court decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.  Although Bryant’s appeal from the grant of the preliminary Special Exception Permit was expressly provided for in the ordinance, in review of the appeal the court said the following: “we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court and remand for dismissal of Bryant’s complaint because the decision of the ZBA was not a final action subject to appellate review in the courts, and the matter is not justiciable.”

    Bryant filed the appeal based on the language in the ordinance that says: “An appeal may be taken from any decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Superior Court within 45 days after the decision . . ..” As you may know, all ordinances dealing with ZBA appeals have this type of language. The Superior Court upheld the ZBA approval and Bryant appealed the decision to the Law Court.  The Law Court review indicated the above highlighted statement in their findings.  Essentially, the court believes that the administrative permitting process by all local boards must be exhausted prior to any appeal being sent to the court(s). 

    Because of this decision the Chief Justice asked the Regional Organization of Municipal Attorneys (ROMA) to put together a study group and develop some new clarifying language in the state law as to when a court appeal can be taken.  Both Alex Jaegerman for the town of Yarmouth and myself, Lee Jay Feldman, on behalf of Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission (SMPDC) were invited to be part of this study group and help correct this situation.  Legislation is being submitted for this session that will clarify when an appeal can be taken.  The language will clarify that an appeal to the court(s) cannot be heard until ALL permitting on an application has been heard by a town and its boards. 

    This case and the process is very complicated.  If you would like to review the 15 page decision or discuss the case more in depth with me I would be happy to discuss it.  Lee Jay Feldman Director of Planning, SMPDC:  207-571-7065.  The decision can be found at this link: http://courts.maine.gov/opinions_orders/supreme/lawcourt/2016/16me27br.pdf.

    -- Lee Jay Feldman, Director of Land Use and Planning, Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission and Alexander Jaegerman, FAICP, Director of Planning and Development, Town of Yarmouth


  • 22 Oct 2016 9:44 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    With every edition of Front Page, MAP highlights the "comings and goings" of planners through Bytes 'N Pieces. In this edition, we would particularly like to recognize Planning Decisions, Friends of Midcoast Maine, and their respective staff. Both organizations closed their doors this fall after providing decades of service to Maine communities. The good news is that they will continue this service in new ways!

    Planning Decisions closed its doors as of the end of September 2016. MAP would like to acknowledge and appreciate the firm for its more than 30 years of service to planning and economic development in Maine. Here is a look at where the smart folks behind Planning Decisions are headed:

    • Mark Eyerman, former President, has begun a new business named PlanME, LLC and he will continue to work on his favorite community planning projects under this new name. 
    • Frank O’Hara, former Vice President, has also begun a separate business and will continue to provide public policy and housing consulting. 
    • Charles “Chuck” Lawton, former Chief Economist, still writes a column for the Maine Sunday Telegram. Chuck will continue to provide economic consulting and research. 
    • Sarah Curran, recent past president of MAP and former Senior Planner, has moved to the Maine Development Foundation. Sarah is currently working on the northern Maine Forestry project for them. 
    • Rebecca Wandell, former Senior Project Analyst & Business Manager, has moved to the Scarborough School Department. 
    • Milan Nevajda, former Planner, moved to California some time ago but don’t be surprised to see him back in Maine in the future.
    After 16 years of serving midcoast communities with community development, planning and smart growth issues, Friends of Midcoast Maine (FMM) has shut its doors. We are pleased to announce that The Community Institute has been passed on to Lift360 in Portland Maine. Lift360 works state-wide to "strengthen leaders, organizations and communities" and is a perfect fit for The Community Institute. To stay informed about The Community Institute and other programs available, visit www.lift360.org and sign up for the enewsletter in the upper right hand corner of the home page. FMM's Executive Director Jane Lafleur has joined Lift360 as a senior staff member providing community development and community engagement assistance and is managing The Community Institute as well as the Leadership in Action Breakfast Series.

    Jim Fisher returned to Maine in September following an 11 month Peace Corps Response assignment in Aracataca, Colombia (see www.madfisher.info/Colombia for details). He is now serving as the District Coordinator for the Downeast Public Health Council in Hancock and Washington Counties.
  • 22 Oct 2016 9:23 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Overview 

    Over the past year, the Maine Association of Planners (MAP) and GrowSmart Maine have been engaging planners, as well as municipal board members and decision-makers, on the issue of comprehensive plans (“comp plans”) and how they are working for Maine communities. This effort came together to try to better understand the current challenges communities face in developing and implementing their comprehensive plans. 

    At both MAP’s Annual Meeting and Conference in May 2016, and the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) Convention in October 2016, MAP and GrowSmart partnered to hold panel discussions in which planners and planning board or comp plan committee members shared insights, ideas, and sometimes “war stories” from their recent comp plan experiences. The resulting panel and audience discussions have been informative, and this article will share some of what has been learned so far. 

    The MAP Conference panel sessions posed questions on how communities get through the comp plan process and subsequent implementation, as well as what resources there are for planning and implementation. Panelists included a range of planning perspectives, including town planners, planning consultants, regional planners, and state planners. The MAP sessions were summarized in MAP’s Front Page article, The Challenge of Comprehensive Planning in Maine from July 2016.

    The MMA Convention panel similarly discussed ‘what happens after the comp plan is completed’, how can towns ‘own the process’, and what resources there are for comp planning. Panelists at MMA represented “citizen planners” (planning board, comp plan/implementation committee, and council perspectives), as well as regional planning and planning consultant perspectives. At sessions for MAP and MMA, many audience members also added their own astute comments on what they heard as well as what similar experiences or insights they had. 

    Challenges

    Facilitating the discussion of current challenges for comp plans has become particularly important given the significant changes over the past decade and longer. On top of the significant impact of national economic and housing downturns since the early 2000’s, dramatic changes to the Maine law surrounding the State review of comp plans around 2007, the “dismantling” of the former Maine State Planning Office in 2011, and the continued cuts and elimination of grant funding to support planning and implementation have created a whole new set of challenges for comp plans that is seems the planning community is finally prepared to fully discuss and evaluate. 

    As communities across Maine struggle with the frustration of dwindling local and state resources for comp plan development and implementation, and even just seeing the value of a comp plan (e.g. what good is growth management if there is no growth), it is time for the planning community to revisit and rethink how we will approach comp plans moving forward. Interestingly, despite the challenges and dwindling resources, the state Municipal Planning Assistance Program office notes that there has not been a large drop in the number of comp plans being submitted on a yearly basis. Some towns are motivated by the remaining “incentives” at the state level such as requirements that a municipality have a current state comp plan consistency finding to be eligible for certain grants. Some are simply open to the notion that comp plans can, in fact, be a valuable tool in visioning and directing their community’s future. All are subject to frustration with the length of time and amount of effort needed even to update a town’s comp plan. 

    Throughout these discussions, there appeared to be an overarching theme to the challenges Maine communities face in creating, updating and implementing comp plans: in many ways, it still comes back to rural versus urban, or resources versus no resources. Some planners have remarked how the model comp plans and public outreach processes that seem to be most touted now are difficult to translate for smaller, rural Maine communities; it can be difficult to imagine how to achieve such planning without the funds to support consultants or extensive public outreach efforts. In small, rural communities, there are often not enough volunteers for a committee and there are no planning staff, and certainly the requirements of growth management incites the question of a comp plan’s purpose. Larger urban or suburban communities face different challenges, no less significant; the need to involve and appeal to a more diverse range of community interests, the continuous pull of other local planning or development priorities (both in terms of time invested and funding), and certainly the impacts of growth (which usually have regional implications). 

    Success Stories from the MMA Session 

    The communities of Gardiner, Falmouth, and of Washington County were represented in the MMA session’s discussion, bringing stories of how these towns successfully navigated their recent comp plan process and are dealing with implementing their plans. Gardiner has so far enjoyed a good amount of success in implementation due to the number and diversity of community members who were involved during the plan development stage. Public participation during the planning stage was also echoed as critical to Washington County communities, whose planning efforts were often driven by interest in accessing funding for moving specific initiatives or projects forward (e.g. grant eligibility requirements).

    Though Gardiner can speak to a fair amount of success in transitioning into implementation, they noted struggles with being constantly diverted from comp plan implementation to the “hot topic of the month”, as well as the need to educate new community members or new council members about the plan. Both Gardiner and Falmouth have an implementation committee; Falmouth’s committee, the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee, attributes implementation success to its clear role as an “implement of the town council”, recommending implementation priorities to the council and reporting to the council on progress and actions.

    During audience discussion several other communities noted some of their lessons learned: involve the “nay-sayers” in the community from the start of the planning process and get their buy-in; try to distill planning outcomes to the most important goals or objectives for the community, create focus with planning “sound bites”. The issue of community members becoming overwhelmed or exhausted by the comp plan process came up in discussion (and was similarly discussed at the MAP sessions). This appears to be a challenge to which communities of all size are susceptible. Suggestions included not getting bogged down in data crunching and inventorying, finding local “specialists” or assistance to take on specific sections of the comp plan (could include regional planning agencies or area college students), and dividing up sections of the comp plan amongst subcommittees or other town groups to work on and bring back to the planning committee. 

    Perhaps the biggest take-home message is reflected in how Gardiner, Falmouth, and other communities have found success in their implementation efforts: successful and timely implementation depends largely on good community outreach and participation during the comp plan’s development. When your community members have been involved in putting together the plan, they “own” the outcome and are supportive (or at least aware) of projects to be funded and implemented. 

    New Approaches 

    Insights and discussions from the comp plan sessions seem to indicate a growing trend for towns to “own the process,” find ways to adapt the comp plan process, and also create a final plan that meets its needs. Overall, this speaks to how communities and planners are looking to “shake off the old” and embrace new, creative approaches to comp planning, in order to find success given the current fiscal and regulatory realities. 

    At the MAP session last spring, it seems that several Maine communities have sought to avoid getting stuck in the same old “formula” of developing or updating a comp plan that will pass state review. It was noted that there are certain required sections or planning elements, but they are not required to have equal treatment or priority for each town. The state’s required planning elements (e.g. land use, economy, natural resources, housing, etc.) should also not be seen as a set of boundaries for a comp plan but just as a minimum – communities may find there are other needs that should be addressed in their comp plan. 

    Communities can sometimes feel overwhelmed by getting through just the required planning elements, or even that certain elements are less relevant to them (rural towns may struggle with finding appropriate strategies for economy or housing). Yet panelists at both the MAP and MMA sessions attested to how towns or community members, after first resisting the need to include all the planning elements, typically came out of the process confessing a new appreciation of the unexpected and meaningful benefit of going through it all. At the MMA session, Gardiner spoke to their experience of going through the Orton Family Foundation’s Community Heart & Soul™ process and how this unique and intensive community planning process enhanced their comp plan process; they focused on creating a plan for their community, not for managing growth, and their creative and thorough community outreach, both broad-based and targeted, was the means to that end. 

    Falmouth emphasized that allocating work and plan development to committee volunteers and not town staff (or a consultant, in communities that don’t have planning staff) is also an important part of creating community ownership of the comp plan – this can apply to non-committee members participating in the planning, individuals or groups that have a more vested interest in specific aspects of the plan. 

    Reflections 

    Ultimately, reflecting on these sessions tends to lead to these “take-homes” for comprehensive plans in Maine: 

    (1) When it comes to writing or updating a comp plan, each town must endeavor to create a public process and ultimately develop a comp plan that is uniquely their own – which is very much achievable within the construct of the state’s requirements of the Growth Management Act. Do what’s needed and best for your own town, make it meaningful to your community, and make sure the vision and actions will lead you to protect what’s important and bring about positive change (or growth as the case may be).

    (2) Lessons learned from successful comp plan processes all point toward the tremendous importance of community participation. Although it represents the bulk of the time and effort needed for a comp plan process, community participation is ultimately what determines the value and success of a comp plan and its implementation. It can be challenging not to get really overwhelmed or bogged down in public participation, but skimping on the necessary public input only creates the likelihood for public resistance when the plan is ready to be adopted or implemented. 

    (3) When it comes to implementing a comp plan, resources are often scarce, progress can at times be slow, but perhaps we all need to consider that, in the words of one veteran planning consultant, the mission is not to implement a comp plan, but to create the vision and chart the course for long-term implementation. We all strive for that feeling of “checking off boxes”, but in the context of Maine’s fiscal realities, communities need to continue to focus on positive achievements (big or small) that don’t break backs or budgets. 

    Through all of this year’s discussions, the question that has not yet been fully vetted is: Is the Growth Management Act and its requirements for state review appropriate for all Maine towns? Criticisms tend to stem from the fact that there are dwindling resources to develop and implement comp plans, and there are few communities in Maine these days that actually have growth pressures – as we all know, many towns are bearing the burden of continued loss of population and jobs. Still, these recent comp plan discussions have revealed Maine’s planning community continues to rethink and revitalize how we approach comp planning and learn to adapt to the current environment.

    It is the hope of both MAP and GrowSmart Maine to continue to learn more from Maine communities about their comp plan challenges and insights, and ultimately to help shepherd in any support and changes needed for comp planning in Maine. For now, perhaps helping to develop a better system for planners and communities to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t will better serve to create success and even save Maine towns time and money.

    --Amanda Bunker, Land Use and Community Planning Consultant, Maine Association of Planners Executive Board

  • 22 Oct 2016 8:49 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. ~unknown

    The MAP Board is dreaming big! We had a retreat in July and then finished it off in September. Yes! It took two days to finish the agenda. We are literally all over the MAP. We are reviewing everything we do and discussing some things we don’t. If you want us to decide everything, then by all means sit on the sidelines. If not, join one of the committees or volunteer for the short projects--we would love to hear from you.

    MAP Board Retreat Overview

    The purpose of the board retreat was to review and provide comment on the entire MAP organization and process. We reviewed many topics which we could break down into themes. The four most strategic themes that arose out of the retreat are professional development and conference planning, membership levels and finances/budget, legislation and policy development, and awards program. Each theme was assigned to a “Champion” from the Board. The Champions were chosen based on their current chair role and association with the theme. They are tasked with chairing a small team of people who would be key partners in researching and providing a recommendation to the full Board and membership for their assigned theme.

    Outcomes

    Each work group will include volunteer members who want to actively engage in brainstorming a theme goal, as well as identifying strategies, resources, action items, and measurements of success. Each work group will deliver a presentation during the February 2017 Board meeting highlighting their goal and proposed “way forward” in achieving the theme goal.

    Read on and CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING TO HELP!

    We look forward to hearing from you  as we make the most of this brainstorming.

    Themes, yes there are some. They are:

    Theme #1 - What do we want to improve about our professional development and conference planning? (Existing Champions = Amanda Bunker, Misty Parker, Carol Eyerman)

    Theme #1 Goal - Redesign the  program so that it provides for the educational needs of both professional and citizen planners.  Things to consider: 

    • It's MAP’s 50th in 2018! The same year NNECAPA is in Maine. We need help planning!
    •  Membership benefits review/upgrade
    • Workshop brainstorming
    • Strategic partnership building
    • Annual scheduling of events

    Theme #2 Can we redesign our membership levels and finances/budget so that we can provide more professional development? (Existing Champions = Amanda Lessard, Phil Carey, Amanda Bunker, Misty Parker, Carol Eyerman)

    Theme #2 Goal = Redesign the membership levels and finances/budgeting to improve programming.

    • Review current levels
    • Set financial and budgetary goals
    • Set 3 to 6 year budget

    Theme #3 - Be more proactive in our approach to legislation. (Existing Champion = Jamie Francomano)

    Theme #3 Goal = Create a mechanism by which MAP is proactively suggesting legislation.

    • At the MAP general assembly of May 20, 2016 in Waterville the Board asked for suggestions where we might focus our legislative attention--the most popular option was the subdivision law.  What can MAP do to address this?
    • Create a legislator forum

    Theme #4 - How can we make the awards program part of our marketing? (Existing Champions = Amanda Lessard, Lynne Seeley, Carol Eyerman)

    Theme #4 Goal = Create a program so that the MAP awards  are highly publicized and recognized by the public.

    • Review the current program and add/improve/update it

    Here is to another good year and thank you for the support!

    --Carol Eyerman, AICP, MAP President

  • 14 Oct 2016 9:16 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Municipal planners are often in the position of navigating multiple goals: creating growth in their communities, ensuring all residents have access to opportunities, and maintaining the ecological integrity of natural resources. This goal to balance economic, social and environmental needs is the essence of sustainability. Small communities are often cited as lacking the fiscal resources, knowledge and political willingness to adopt policies that promote sustainability in comparison to larger cities, yet they are usually assessed using policies relevant to large municipalities such as public transportation and brownfield redevelopment.

    In Planning for Sustainability in Small Municipalities: The Influence of Interest Groups, Growth Patterns, and Institutional Characteristics., we ask (1) Do smaller municipalities adopt policies and programs that promote sustainability? (2) If so, why do some municipalities do so more than others? We address these questions by analyzing land-use and subdivision ordinances in all Maine municipalities for the presence of eight policies and programs that are appropriate for small communities and promote environmental, economic, and social well-being. We then use statistical tests to analyze theories of policy adoption. Our paper’s main contribution is to bring attention to the potential role of smaller communities in sustainability planning and to illustrate the importance of assessing planning efforts in these municipalities in ways relevant to their size and context.

    We found that small municipalities with strong environmental interests, higher growth, and more formal governments (compared to the town meeting form of government) were more likely to adopt sustainability policies. Our results suggest that strengthening institutional characteristics that build capacity within small municipalities, such as citizen boards, professional planners, and sustainability workshops aimed at citizens could increase the adoption of sustainability policies. In summary, we found that smaller municipalities do adopt policies that contribute to sustainability goals. To ignore these efforts is not only to overlook and hence misunderstand the complete picture but also to miss opportunities to celebrate and promote the initiatives that small communities make.

    The paper is published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. Individuals who do not have access to academic journals can email Vanessa Levesque to receive a personal copy by email.

    Citation: Levesque, V. R., Bell, K. P., & Calhoun, A. J. K. (2016). Planning for Sustainability in Small Municipalities: The Influence of Interest Groups, Growth Patterns, and Institutional Characteristics. Journal of Planning Education and Research.

    --Vanessa Levesque, Assistant Director and Lecturer, Sustainability Dual Major, University of New Hampshire


  • 13 Oct 2016 10:03 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    MAP is pleased to congratulate the following Maine projects on receiving Honorable Mention Awards at the 2016 NNECAPA conference:

    • Route 1 Falmouth Maine - Implementation of a Plan (presented to Theo Holtwijk)
    The Route 1 Falmouth Maine project was chosen to receive an Honorable Mention Award because it represents determination to implement a planning project that started in 2002 and took 14 years to complete. It demonstrates the patience that is required to make long-lasting community change. The central theme of the Route 1 project is the transformation over time of a suburban commercial "strip" into a walkable, mixed-use, denser village center.
    • AARP Maine - Emerging Issue (presented to Lee Jay Feldman)
    The AARP Maine program was chosen to receive an Honorable Mention Award because it represents an emerging issue. It is based on work by the World Health Organization and the national level AARP. No state has gone further with the program than Maine. While the model program elsewhere is largely an urban one, AARP Maine has adapted the age-friendly program to better fit the issues of small towns and cities and rural communities. The implementation includes a how-to book and a small grant program. An emphasis on low-cost and no-cost programs is one of the distinctions of Maine's program versus the international versions.
  • 13 Oct 2016 9:44 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Although I try to attend annual meetings of MAP and NNECAPA regularly, I have missed several over the past few decades. I was either too busy, uninspired or otherwise found an excuse not to attend.  The NNECAPA Annual Planning Conference held in early September was one of the most inspiring I have attended in years.  Kudos to the planning committee for the obvious good thought and planning that went into this event.

    “Planning and the Arts-Community Drama” successfully combined the world of planning with the arts community by highlighting the economic connections, the success stories, the risks and the realistic challenges facing our communities.

    I never had heard the story of the Portsmouth African Burying Ground and work of planners, community members, property owners, historians and federal, state and local officials to honor a long forgotten and neglected burying ground in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, buried by pavement, sewer and water lines, driveways and dirt. I was inspired by the 15 years of care taken to build community understanding of the significance of this area, and the obligation to honor the past in a caring and reverent manner. With years of research, community engagement, and learning the stories of those who lived and worked in Portsmouth hundreds of years before, the community successfully and caringly integrated the arts into that forgotten and previously abandoned burial ground.  The place is now a cemetery, a working street and a park. The city adopted a program of “enhanced maintenance” that appeals to everyone’s pride and responsibility and creates the place that tells the story of the past with passionate art in a living burial ground. 

    Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation's advocacy organization for the arts, presented the data that connected the work of our communities and the arts to the economic impact they make. No one should ever underestimate the value the arts bring to all of us and our economic and social well-being. The numbers are impressive and should be used by planners to bring more art into our communities to make better places for people. 

    Have you heard about the Phoenix Dump with rotating arts exhibits, or the Rusty Musicians who join in with the Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore or the video of the riverfront projected onto a blank public wall in Brattleboro Vermont?  We learned about the Portland Police Department that integrates arts and equity with the Thin Blue Lines project.  Who would have thought that the art at work project could bring police officers closer to each other, their communities, and their work? We learned about the International Sculpture Symposium and the Downtown Pianos project in Nashua NH.  These are just a few of the dozens of examples that inspired me.

    In another session we learned of the Portsmouth Master Plan and character based zoning. Portsmouth used a comprehensive public engagement process and an innovative plan format to make their Master Plan more useable, attractive and appealing to community members with the view that the robust engagement of all sectors of the community and the new plan format would change the way planning is viewed and incorporated into the community to make Portsmouth the best place for everyone. 

    PS21,  Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century, works to bring community members into the planning world and presents ideas and encourages discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth, N.H.   Their goal is to support the creation of a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and walkable community compatible with the principles of smart growth, the historic nature of Portsmouth, and the context of the 21st century.

    I have attended dozens of workshops in my professional planning life over the past 35 years.  This was one of the best.  If the arts inspires us all, NNECAPA certainly used the arts to inspire me!

    --Jane Lafleur, Senior Consultant, Lift360

    Image credit: Brownie Camera Guy via Flickr Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/JGggUm

  • 13 Oct 2016 9:10 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    While aerial images are not new -- throughout history cameras have been placed on hot air balloons, kites, pigeons, airplanes, rockets, and satellites -- the recent proliferation of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or “drones,” has made the ability to capture aerial images more accessible than ever. New, more lenient FAA regulations (Small UAS Rule 14 CFR part 107) only reinforce the notion that drones will soon become ubiquitous. 

    At the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) we’ve been following this technology closely and experimenting with a UAS in some of our projects. The following are a few highlights of how we’ve used it.

    Road Corridor Fly-Overs

    For road construction projects, a “fly-over” video the length of the study area can be a useful visual aid in public meetings. Since a UAS can be pre-programmed to fly a specific path, it’s possible to shoot an identical video of a project both before and after completion. GPCOG conducted a fly-over of the Route 1 corridor in Falmouth to showcase the results of an $11M improvement project. Prior to the flights, the town had taken pictures of the corridor from atop the Fire Department’s ladder truck.   

    Traffic Behavior and Analysis

    A GPS-enabled drone can hover in place over an intersection, or parking lot, for 15-20 minutes at a time (battery life is the limiting factor). The video can then be played back at two to three times the speed to highlight traffic flow and behavior. We prepared this type of video for the Town of Bridgton at one of their Main Street intersections. 

    Orthoimages

    A UAS can be programmed to fly a grid, at a specific altitude, over a predefined area. Along this grid it takes a picture every few seconds. The images can then be uploaded to a software program that stitches and georeferences them to create up-to-date high quality orthoimages (usually 3-6 centimeters per pixel). GPCOG teamed up with the Maine Geological Survey (MGS) in Scarborough to generate an orthoimage of Pine Point, Western, and Ferry beaches at low tide. The resulting aerial basemap (stitched from 900+ images), is being used by the MGS to study erosion and the effectiveness of recent beach nourishment efforts. Read more about this project


    Oblique (Side Angle) Images

    The dexterity of the aircraft allows for a nearly infinite number of angles, scales, and elevations for images (or video) that previously remained elusive. Take a look in the real estate section of the newspaper and you’ll be sure to find a few examples.

    Panoramic Images

    A UAS can also be programmed to fly to a specific spot, take a picture, rotate 15 degrees, take a picture, rotate another 15 degrees, and so on. Afterwards, the images can be stitched together to create high quality panoramas. We used this feature to take panoramic pictures of coastal bluff erosion at several sites in Casco Bay for the MGS. 


    3D Visualizations

    The same software programs that generate orthoimages are also delving into the world of 3D visualizations. While 3D is a new frontier for UAS, and the results sometimes vary, with some patience and trial and error it’s possible to generate realistic 3D visualizations of local sites. 


    Promotional Videos

    The view from above is not one we see often and can be quite dramatic. Municipalities and booster groups can use aerial videos (and images) to highlight the compelling aspects of their communities. 

    These are just some examples of the many possible applications of drones in our profession. If you have any questions regarding GPCOG’s UAS program feel free to contact Rick Harbison at rharbison@gpcog.org

    --Rick Harbison, Planner & GIS Specialist, GPCOG

    Video and images courtesy of GPCOG

  • 13 Oct 2016 8:51 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The Maine Association of Planners is proud to represent planners and others involved in planning across this great state. One of the best contributions we can make to support planning is to connect and support our professional planning community. 

    Maine is a big state and the planning community is a busy bunch. The Planner Profiles series gives us a chance to meet each other and learn about our skills, interests, and experiences online.

    Meet Mark Eyerman, Owner of PlanME, LLC:


    HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION? 

    My first “planning job” was in 1970 so with time off for some travel I guess you’d say about 45 years.

    CURRENT JOB

    Owner of PlanME, LLC and soon to be former President of Planning Decisions, Inc.

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND

    I grew up in northeastern PA in Wilkes-Barre, a city of about 75,000 that is now probably less than 50,000. It was the center of the anthracite coal industry. My family was in the commercial roofing business and my nephew still is. After working summers in the family roofing business I decided I wanted to do something else. I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) to study architecture and graduated with a degree in the Building Sciences.

    WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING? 

    In my junior year at RPI we were given a design problem to design a new bank – it was a real situation. But the design program did not make sense in the context of the location and the site – what the bank wanted wasn’t a good idea for the City. They wanted a “suburban” design with parking in front of the building on a downtown site where all of the buildings were located right behind the sidewalk. So I designed what I thought they should want and didn’t do very well on the project. That was when my interest in community planning as opposed to buildings started.

    WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE? 

    The key thing from a planning perspective is that Maine is a home rule state. This gives local communities a great deal of freedom and flexibility to do creative planning. Sadly over the past 20 years there have been some well-meaning, but misguided efforts by the state to limit local authority. Many planners do not recognize the importance and power of home rule to planning. In addition, the Town Meeting form of local government combined with the situation where all land in the “organized territory” is in a local community and there is no county government or meaningful regional planning makes addressing larger scale issues difficult.

    WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK? 

    Seeing local people “get it” especially municipal officials.

    WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK? 

    Maine is a state that too often looks backward not forward. Too many people involved in planning at the community level are “gray hairs” who often want things to stay the same or be like it was 20 or 50 years ago. It is difficult to get communities to really think about what we want the community or region or state to be 10 or 20 or 50 years in the future. A second challenge relates to density. A more compact, higher density pattern of development is the foundation for many of the things that both planners and some of the public say we want. You cannot have bus service or walkable neighborhoods or neighborhood/community commercial centers or schools that kids can walk or bike to and so forth without a compact settlement pattern. But too many are afraid of higher density or even the density of people that historically existed in our town and village centers. We mislead ourselves when we think of density in terms of households or housing units per acre when we should be thinking in terms of people per acre. As household size has declined over the past 40 years, the density of our communities measured in people has decreased. Today in most/many communities 50-60% of households have only one or two people. So we need to help people think in terms of people density and how we increase that where it is appropriate.

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR DREAM PROJECT – WHAT KIND OF PLANNING WORK WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED WITH? 

    Sprawl in southern and coastal Maine continues to be the primary pattern of development although there has been some resurgence of development within some of our core cities such as Portland, Biddeford, maybe Waterville. This is the life-style of the middle-aged population. The key issue facing Maine is how we create communities other than Portland that are attractive to educated, skilled 20 somethings--the so-called millennials. I think it would be fun to think about what it would take to create three or four other “communities” that are attractive places for the under 35 population to live and work. This means housing, jobs, education, recreation, entertainment, an entire life-style that appeals to younger people that are essential to the future of Maine.

    WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE? 

    Innovative community planning.


  • 18 Jul 2016 10:27 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Two sessions on comprehensive plans were presented at Maine Association of Planners' (MAP) May 20, 2016 Annual Meeting and Conference in Waterville.

    Our intention was to follow up and expand on a recent Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (NNECAPA) session, in which the highest quality comprehensive plan (“comp plan”) adoption and implementation efforts by the City of Burlington, VT provided the headliner. Reflecting on their own cash strapped towns and cities, several Maine planners told us, in effect, “This ain’t Burlington!” While the sophistication and finish detail of that award-winning comp plan may provide inspiration to planners in some of Maine’s larger communities, other MAP members related to us their experiences in small communities as state and local resources for comp planning have dwindled.

    Questions Presented: How does the value of comprehensive planning or the meaning of informed growth translate in a community with very tightly constrained human and financial resources? If a local comp plan has been adopted is the community able to implement the plan? What strategies are working? What changes are needed?

    A morning session featured some lively debate on the relative utility of tools available for the implementation of comp plans. Panelists included municipal and regional planners as well as representatives from the consultant and former state planning ranks. An experienced planner in the audience offered the following unabashed praise: “This is the most refreshing discussion on comprehensive planning that I have heard in years.” Thank you--it’s an acquired taste!

    One particularly interesting exchange made me wonder if a personality test is not at the heart of debates over statutory requirements for local comp plans, as provided for in Chapter 187 of the Growth Management Act and the related Comprehensive Plan Review Criteria Rule that is the measuring stick used by the Municipal Planning Assistance Program (“MPAP”) in assessing completeness and of comp plans and consistency with the Act.

    Two planners told the audience that the best practice in many cases may be to “ignore the statute,” but it was quickly revealed they themselves had done so in very different ways. The first planner had set aside time over the course of a few weeks to “fill in the blanks,” such as demographic information, required for a finding of consistency with the Act by the MPAP--using the data, materials and technical assistance provided for free by MPAP. The second had spent years sometimes fighting and sometimes literally ignoring the requirements and challenged the logic of requiring time-sensitive demographic information in a work product intended to last 10-12 years at a minimum.

    The first planner’s community had clearly benefitted by the completion of a comp plan and the updated finding of consistency, including enhanced eligibility for funding assistance on grant projects. The second planner, however, had at least equaled the output of any Maine municipality over the same time period in the implementation of the “unfinished” local comp plan, attracting new employers and outside funds for large infrastructure projects without wrapping up those last few pesky chapters of the local comp plan. Underpinning exchanges like these was an informative discussion and it is my hope and expectation that many of us left the room with a better understanding of what success might look like in future amendments to the Growth Management Act or in other changes to put comp planning on surer footing in Maine.

    A third planner noted how helpful it had been for her to marshal that same statutory requirement for the inclusion of exhaustive demographic detail in comp plans. In her community, it seems, the presence of those experiencing persistent poverty might otherwise have been edited out of the plan.

    The afternoon session featured an example of a community mustering innovation and resources for a comp planning effort that might turn heads even in the Green Mountain State. And that would be Maine’s own City of Lewiston, with its relatively large and extraordinarily diverse population, a budget of approximately $80,000 and the graphic design expertise of consulting firm Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative (TPUDC), the same group hired to prepare Burlington’s comp plan. The comp plan that is nearing completion in Lewiston (and eventual adoption by the City Council, hopefully) could provide new benchmark in the level of public participation in the drafting of a comp plan and accessibility of the finished product.

    What is unique about the plan itself is the crisp graphical presentation of data and the prevalence of “plain English” throughout the text. The very readability of the document has brought about new challenges. An unusually large number of volunteer board members, business owners and residents are actually reading it! There has been a prolonged and steady flow of public comment on the comp plan, making it difficult to round up and synthesize so many contributions.

    Another feature of the Lewiston comp plan process, as described by City Planner Dave Hediger, was a well-run, well-attended series of charrettes for residents and others who feel a connection to the City. Each full-day event focused on a specific theme and provided many open time blocks for participants to drop in and have their say. More information on the Lewiston Comprehensive Plan: http://www.lewistonmaine.gov/index.aspx?nid=603.

    Judy East, Executive Director of the Washington County Council of Governments (WCCOG), provided a perfect counterpoint to the report from Lewiston. She has created and is effectively marketing a suite of web-based, customized mapping tools for use by the many small, understaffed communities in their region. Judy was quick to credit Tora Johnson of the University of Maine at Machias for the GIS backbone of the site and funding assistance provided through GROWashington-Aroostook, a regional planning project. Please check out WCCOG’s online mapping module here: www.wccog.net/local-comprehensive-planning.htm.

    Judy’s presentation was also notable for the bumper crop of grants she and Planner Crystal Hitchings have brought in for current projects. Sources of funds include the Brownfields program, the Genesis Foundation and even the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Who knew that AARP funds a grant program that can be used to support local comp plan efforts? It took someone like Judy to figure that out!

    Phil Carey, Interim Director of the MPAP also joined the afternoon panel. Phil provided an up-to-date rundown of the comp planning tools MPAP maintains as well as examples of state-administered funding assistance for which the rules and eligibility requirements provide incentives for creating and updating local comp plans current. Phil also provided a reminder that access to resource packets for comp planning projects is provided on MPAP’s site: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/municipalplanning/comp_plans/planning_data.shtml.

    --James P. Francomano, Planning & Development Director, Town of Rockport


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