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  • 15 Apr 2015 8:48 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    As the winter snow slowly inches its way back we here at MAP are excited for what the spring will bring. Particularly because we have so many exciting events and opportunities to share with our fellow planners. This year we have worked hard to expand our partnerships and make it easy for our members to tap into the resources, ideas, and people that are helping shape planning in Maine. We hope you’ll join us at one of the following upcoming events and don’t forget to visit our events page for more event listings: 

    NNECAPA Annual Conference

    First off – Maine is hosting the NNECAPA annual conference this year! The theme for the event is RESOURCE, ENGAGE, SUCCEED.  This year’s conference presentations and workshops will help planners and community activists across Maine identify and secure funding for their projects, learn techniques to work through challenging community facilitations, and navigate technical plans and documents essential to the planning process. These are but a few of the focus areas and there is still time to submit a proposal for a workshop to share your project or expertise. Find the call for sessions and mobile workshops, along with sponsorship information at the NNECAPA website. Contact Anne Krieg, NNECAPA 2015 Conference Committee Chair to learn more.

    Event Date: October 1-2, 2015

    Location: Westin Portland and remote sites

    Build Maine

    This year MAP has teamed up with the fine folks at the Congress for the New Urbanism Maine Chapter (CNU Maine), the Maine Municipal Association (MMA), and the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) to host our Annual Meeting together with the highly successful Build Maine Conference. In addition to numerous networking and professional development opportunities at the conference, our annual business meeting (3:15-5:00pm) is an important opportunity for membership to shape the year to come, through adoption of a budget, election of a new Board, and to cheer on our friends and colleagues at the awards ceremony.  

    For more information on Build Maine or to register visit the event website today!

    Event Date: May 20-21, 2015 

    • MAP Annual Meeting: 3:15 PM - 5:00 PM on May 21st 

    Location: Lewiston, ME

    Maine Downtown Conference

    Don’t miss this year’s Maine Downtown Conference held in Brunswick! The Maine Development Foundation has been around for over 35 years, serving Maine’s communities and helping to revitalize our iconic downtowns. The themes for this year’s conference are “BASICS” where you will learn about our Main Street Four-Point Approach; “BUILDING BLOCKS” that take you to next steps, communication and historic preservation; and “INNOVATION” where you will learn about leading principles and practice related to walkability, business resources, project grants, and discovering your Heart & Soul with the Orton Family Foundation! Check out the event program for more detail on conference sessions. Keynote speaker Mike Lydon, an internationally recognized planner, writer, and advocate for livable cities at The Street Plans Collaborative, will also share thoughts from his latest book, Tactical Urbanism: A How-To Guide for Government Leaders, Public Works Officials, and Citizens that details how to more quickly and strategically invest in streets and public spaces. 

    Event Date: May 1, 2015 — 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM

    Location: First Parish Church, 9 Cleveland Street, Brunswick

    Conference sessions

    Other Events

    These are just a few of the exciting events coming up this year and we haven’t even mentioned the 2015 Maine Stormwater Conference showcasing effective planning, design, maintenance, and funding approaches to address stormwater issues, the Muskie School of Public Service graduation celebrating Maine’s newest planners, a presentation hosted by Friends of Midcoast Maine featuring John Massengale discussing his latest book with Victor Dover: "Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns,” and the third session of the Community Institute taking a close look at how communities and planners can help strengthen downtowns and locally owned businesses. 

    With so much going on there are only two things left to say: we hope to see you soon and HAPPY PLANNING!


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    Milan Nevajda, Planner, Planning Decisions, Inc.


  • 15 Apr 2015 8:46 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    As of January 26, 2015 Maine DEP completed its rulemaking process to introduce major reforms to Chapter 1000 Guidelines for Municipal Shoreland Zoning Ordinances. The changes come as a response to legislation passed since 2010 calling for more options to tailor regulations to local needs and stakeholder concerns gathered through meetings held since 2011. 

    At the time of writing of this article, Plymouth is the only municipality in Maine whose ordinance has been approved by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as being consistent with the 2015 Guidelines (way to go Plymouth!). 

    REMEMBER! Municipalities that amended their ordinances since 2006 to adopt statewide standards must amend their ordinances to be consistent with the 2015 Guidelines. While the DEP Commissioner has not yet issued a deadline for making ordinances consistent with the 2015 Guidelines, there is an important reason to consider an update in your community: municipalities can make use of the flexibilities now available in the 2015 Guidelines and tailor ordinances to meet local needs. 

    If your community chooses not to adopt amendments to local shoreland zoning that are consistent with the new Guidelines, the Board of Environmental Protection has the authority to adopt the required standards for the municipality, who would then be required to administer and enforce the new regulations. Since there is time with no deadline currently looming, municipalities should take advantage of this opportunity and craft an ordinance tailored to local goals.

    There are numerous clarifications and corrections incorporated into the 2015 Guidelines. Major revisions to standards within the shoreland zone have been made to the following:

    • Nonconforming structures
    • Timber harvesting
    • Vegetation
    • Non-vegetated surfaces
    • Disability variances
    • Definitions
    • Shoreline stabilization
    • Structures and uses extending over, or located below, the shoreline

    NONCONFORMING STRUCTURES

    The new nonconforming structure expansion language has generated a lot of interest! The 2015 provisions limit the expansions of nonconforming structures based on footprint (by square footage or percentage, whichever allows more expansion) and height, instead of floor area and volume. 

    TIMBER HARVESTING

    Any ordinance that is not consistent with the 2015 Guidelines is not considered consistent with the Statewide Standards for Timber Harvesting and Related Activates in Shoreland Areas  (SWS). Compliant SWS are needed for a municipality to receive assistance from the Maine Forestry Service (MFS) for the regulation of forestry activities. Municipalities that have not amended their ordinances to comply with SWS or have a state-imposed ordinance are responsible for enforcing these non-compliant ordinances without MFS assistance. 

    REVEGETATION

    There are many changes related to clearing or removing vegetation. Among the most significant includes the 2006 shift from the 25’ by 25’ plot system to a 25’ by 50’ revegetation plot system. The old system required landowners to maintain vegetation points in any plot; while onerous on the landowner, it makes investigating violations easier on CEOs. With the new 25’ by 50’ system, the landowner must lay out plots in the area to be thinned adjacent to one another without overlap. Fewer plots are needed making it easier for the landowner, but when investigating violations this is more onerous on CEOs, who now have to match the plots that were laid out by the landowner. Regardless of which system is used locally, the provisions must preserve a certain number of saplings per plot. In addition to the plot system changes in the 2015 Guidelines require amended ordinances to include specific standards for the removal of hazardous, dead, and storm-damaged trees, including revegetation requirements. The exemptions provisions in the 2015 Guidelines have also been substantially modified. 

    RESOURCES TO HELP UPDATE YOUR ORDINANCE

    DEP is providing a variety of resources to help you successfully update local shoreland zoning ordinances to comply with the 2015 Guidelines. 

    Every year, shoreland zoning staff members present annual trainings. This year the training schedule will provide tailored options for the varying levels of experience and responsibility of local officials:

    2015 Guidelines Training Online: There will be an online training on April 23 starting at 1:00PM. Part 1 of the training will briefly cover the new provisions in the 2015 Guidelines and detail the amendment process. This training can also be viewed online at a later time. More details are available through the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

    Basic Training Online: Part 2 of the online training will be an overview of shoreland zoning basics. You may participate live at the time of the event or view the discussion online at a later time. More details are available through the DECD.

    Workshops on 2015 Guidelines: DEP staff will also be available in-person during scheduled workshops across the state. Local officials such as planning board members, in addition to code enforcement officers, are encouraged to attend:

    • Raymond, Public Safety Building: May 7 from 9:00AM to 12:00PM
    • Augusta, Florian Hall: May 28 from 9:00AM to 12:00PM, Register at 8:30AM
    • Caribou, NMDC: June 24 from 10:00AM to 12:00PM, Register by email
    • Lincoln, Region III: June 25 from 10:00AM to 12:00PM, Register by email

    Field Workshops for Code Enforcement Officers: A few field workshops will also be offered this year, some in conjunction with the above Workshops on 2015 Guidelines. The field exercises will demonstrate application of both current standards and new provisions of the 2015 Guidelines. These workshops are primarily intended for code enforcement officers.

    • Raymond, Public Safety Building: May 7 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM
    • Caribou, NMDC: June 24 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM, Register by email
    • Lincoln, Region III: June 25 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM, Register by email
    • Milbridge, Town Office: June 26 from 9:00AM to 12:00PM
    • Greenville, Town Office: June 29 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM

    TOP TIPS FROM SHORELAND ZONING STAFF:

    1. Contact shoreland zoning staff early in the amendment drafting process, and clarify: 

    a. whether you are drafting certain amendments or updating the entire ordinance to comply with 2015 Guidelines, 

    b. how soon you would like to hold a public hearing and adopt amendments

    c. who will be involved (planning board, committee, council) and who will be the appointed drafter, and 

    d. whether officials need more information about options to make decisions on the ordinance amendments

    2. Send DEP draft ordinance language for an informal review

    3. Ensure that copies of your ordinance and accompanying maps are attested by the Clerk once it is adopted locally before mailing them to your DEP representative

    4. Make clear what you are changing. If you are submitting certain amendments include the relevant warrant articles or a copy of the ordinance with tracked changes. If you are updating the entire ordinance to 2015 Guidelines, include a cover letter stating that purpose. 

    5. Your order of approval or conditional approval will be issued within 45 days. Good planning and early involvement of DEP staff members will help avoid an order of denial from the department. 

    For more information, visit the Department of Environmental Protection website and contact the department for more details. 

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

    Thanks to Stephenie MacLagan at Maine DEP for her contributions to this article.


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    Milan Nevajda, Planner, Planning Decisions, Inc.


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:17 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    A food hub is a business or organization which aggregates, distributes, and markets local food and food products to meet local and regional demand. Food hubs have been called the missing link in local and regional food infrastructure. They help local growers and producers access markets, and make local food more accessible for consumer, which includes wholesalers, retailers and institutional buyers, at scales that make sense.

    From a community perspective, food hubs connect local buyers with sellers. By replacing imported foods with local products, food hubs help increase local economic benefits from food-related industries. Research on the economic impacts of buy-local efforts has shown that money spent on local businesses generates significant economic benefit in the economy as dollars are re-circulated locally. The 2014 Maine Consumer Survey (conducted by the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service) found that consumers in Maine want to buy local food but finding it is a challenge. While almost 80% of those surveyed would purchase local food, “lack of access” was commonly cited as a reason for not doing so (24%), followed by “inconvenient” (20%). Food hubs can help resolve the access problem.

    Food hubs can take many forms, from packing sheds where growers wash and pack vegetables; processing and co-packing kitchens; cold storage facilities; and retail outlets. In addition to aggregation and processing, food hubs may also offer other consumer services, such as classroom space to host cooking, food processing, or nutrition education classes. Every hub is different, and should reflect local and regional supply and demand dynamics.

    According to the USDA, there are as many as 300 food hubs in the country, including more than 37 in the Northeast. Five food hubs are cited in Maine: Farm Fresh Connection in Freeport, a local foods marketer and distributor; Northern Girl in Limestone, a local food value-added processor serving food service firms, institutions, schools and universities, and distributors; Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative in North Vassalboro, a local foods distributor; Cultivating Community in Portland, a community food project whose programs include farm markets and a CSA (community supported agriculture) program; and Rosemont Produce Company in Portland, a local produce market.

    There are a number of other food hubs in the state at various stages of development, including the Unity Food Hub (UFH), a project of the Maine Farmland Trust. The plan for UFH includes five “spokes”: a packing facility where farmers can wash, grade, and pack vegetables for market; a processing facility for basic food processing (peeling, chopping) of vegetables; a food depot, with cold and dry storage and a pick-up site for distributors and institutions; a multi-farm CSA share; and a community space for workshops and retail sales. In Skowhegan, a dynamic food hub has already seen success in revitalizing the community read more in Skowhegan’s Food Hub: Where Support Networks Intersect. Grow L+A and the Five2Farm project are currently undertaking a feasibility study for a food hub as part of the redevelopment of Bates Mill No 5 in downtown Lewiston. The 2013 Lewiston Maine Community Food Assessment identified “availability” and “access” as challenges to food security in the community. The Bates Mill food hub aims to address those challenges while helping to revitalize the local economy. The Maine Harvest Company is proposing a food aggregation and processing facility in the Brunswick/Topsham area focusing on simple processing and freezing produce. The goal is to create greater value for producers while increasing consumer access to healthy, local foods year round.

    As these and other food hubs evolve, market analysis is critical. The recent closure of the Coastal Farms food hub in Belfast shows, the financial challenges of maintaining a hub are significant. It is not easy to get it right. A 2013 national survey of food hubs by the Wallace Center found that despite their growing popularity, food hubs face several operating challenges. These include managing growth, balancing supply and demand, accessing capital, finding appropriate technology to manage operations, negotiating prices with producers and/or customers, and finding reliable seasonal and/or part-time staff. Market studies for prospective food hubs should identify supply and demand dynamics for each of the food hub’s proposed activities. What population, income, education, and farming densities are needed to support it? What are the supply opportunities and constraints, including price considerations, for local farmers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, and processors? Finally, what is the business model for ongoing operational and capital requirements, as well as the sources of income in year one and beyond? This might include potential sources of financial assistance made available through tax increment financing (TIF) or grants.

    Food hubs offer enormous opportunity for Maine communities, consumers and producers. Demand for local food is strong, and there is a real need to improve food infrastructure and better connect Maine’s producers and consumers. Food hubs may just be the missing link in our food system, but the numbers have to work if they are to succeed in the long-term. 

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    Sarah Curran; Senior Planner, Planning Decisions, Inc.


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:16 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Maine today is enduring the birth pains of an emerging third economic era.

    During its colonial and early federal history, Maine served the function we now commonly associate with the Wild West. It was our infant nation’s frontier. Veterans of the War of Independence were often paid not in dollars but with grants of land in Maine. During this frontier era, Maine cowboys drove cattle to Boston, students at Harvard kept warm with Maine firewood hauled in coastal packets, and daily steamers connected Maine’s coastal and river villages to Boston. Benjamin Vaughn Maine’s version of Thomas Jefferson returned from Europe enamored of the ideals of the French revolution and turned his estate on the Kennebec into a veritable agricultural and industrial experiment station dedicated to developing cold hardy fruits and vegetables and water-powered machinery to equip the industrious citizen farmers flowing into this no longer war-torn region. Between 1750 and 1825, Maine’s population increased twenty-five fold, far exceeding the growth rate of the nation as a whole.

    Hardly had Maine become a state when its frontier era peaked. In 1815, the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia filled the earth’s atmosphere with volcanic dust, and the snows and killing frosts that befell Maine every month during the following “year without summer,” led many pioneers to cry, “Enough” and head across the Appalachians in search of land with less snow to endure and fewer rocks to remove. The opening of the Erie Canal and, soon after, the cross-mountain railroads turned this trickle of emigration into a flood. By the time of the Civil War, the nation’s frontier and with it the frontier attitude of boundless optimism and ceaseless change had inextricably passed Maine by.

    For the next century and a half our state’s second era Maine was transformed from a frontier into an industrial economy. Water power, a continuous flow of immigrants (primarily French Canadian), an equally continuous supply of creative tinkering entrepreneurs who invented ingenious ways to saw lumber, can fish and vegetables, cure leather, make shoes and turn pulp into paper, coupled with the ready availability of Boston and New York investment capital spawned hundreds of mills and the little communities along Maine’s rivers that both supported and depended on them. The state’s economic, demographic and even geographic structure was shaped by wave after wave of the industrial revolution begun in England.

    Just as the volcanic dust from Tambota signaled the beginning of the end of Maine’s frontier era, so the industrial bonds and tax breaks of the 1950’s that eased the migration of Maine’s textile mills to the South signaled the beginning of the end of Maine’s industrial era. The trickle of manufacturing jobs leaving the state a generation ago has today become a flood, accelerated by globalization of market competition, the ceaseless application of technology to reduce the labor component of the manufacturing process and the digital communications revolution. Declining birth rates and national restrictions on immigration have turned Maine from the welcoming recipient of thousands of nimble fingered and highly motivated workers to the oldest state in the nation. Current population projections indicate that, over the period from 2010 to 2030, Maine’s population under the age of 21 will fall by 34,000, its population age 21 to 64, will fall by 35,000 while its population age 65+ will soar by more than 150,000 an increase of 72%. In rural Maine, these unsustainable demographic trends are even more severe. In Piscataquis County, baring significant economic revitalization, the population 65+ will, by 2030, outnumber the traditional working-age (21 to 64) population.

    Maine stands today at the cusp of a third economic era. At the moment, this era is best characterized as entitlement-funded health care and the emigration of the young not sufficiently skilled or fortunate to get a job in health care. Between 2000 and 2013, total employment in health care in Maine rose by 24%. Total employment in everything else fell by 4%. Over the same period, total earnings from all jobs and self-employment in Maine rose by 46%--from $24 to $35 billion while total income from transfer payments (mostly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) rose by 123%--from $5.6 to $12.5 billion.

    Clearly this is not a sustainable economic path. If Maine’s new economic era is not to be simply the deindustrialization of what has been established over the past century and a half, we must make radical changes in the way we define and pursue the process of economic development. From a planning perspective, this means redefining the mission of our schools, restructuring the nature of our infrastructure investment. Just as the skills and infrastructure investments demanded of our frontier and industrial eras shaped our sense of place and forged our commitment to local control, so the skills and investments demanded in our third economic era must shape our plans to build community within the strictures of this newly emerging era.

    In many ways, our schools today are mirror images of the factories that characterized our largely faded industrial past big buildings where we send local resources (our children) to be processed into the necessary workers for our mills. And our infrastructure investments water, power, lights, railroads, highways and ports are reflections of what was needed to process and ship our products. As the dominance of those mills have faded, so must the dominance of those ways of ordering our public investments in education and infrastructure. Not only can we no longer afford such large fixed investments as the population using them declines, but we don’t need the results we they provide. Today’s students don’t need facts and skills to prepare them for clearly specified tasks in nearby mills, they need attitudes and experiences that enable them to better adapt to unknown challenges in unknown jobs in unknown locations. Education both the preparation of curricula and the process of instruction can no longer simply be turned over to the school factory on the hill. It must involve the active participation of educators, parents and business owners. It must be a community-wide enterprise. Instead of students passing through a fixed place for a fixed period of time and emerging with widely divergent levels of learning and experiences, we must redefine the process as encompassing many different places classrooms, laboratories, businesses, athletic fields, travel at many different times that ends only when every student emerges with demonstrated competence in whatever levels of knowledge, skills and attitudes we deem acceptable from our community-wide knowledge of the 21st century economy.

    Similarly, our investment in public capital and equipment must be made not simply on some percentage of what we did last year, but on what we collectively believe our community can achieve within the broad outlines of the realities of our regional economies. How many households do we have? Where do they work? How much income do they earn? How much do they and could they with the proper encouragement spend locally? While the economy of the future is not the industrial economy of the past, neither is it an unknowable mystery. It is largely, the economy we choose to make by the acuity of our vision, the cohesion of our community dialogue and the courage to buck the historic habit and institutional inertia of the past to look clearly at our future, decide what we want and enter deliberately on the path to achieve it. 


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    Chuck Lawton; Chief Economist, Planning Decisions, Inc.


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:15 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    As we look back and reflect on the year that was, transportation enthusiasts will undoubtedly include Maine Department of Transportation’s (DOT) adoption of a statewide Complete Streets policy as one of the signature achievements of 2014. It was the culmination of a year and a half’s worth of collaborative work between the DOT and transportation and land use stakeholders, including the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the Federal Highway Administration, National Complete Streets Coalition, GrowSmart Maine, AARP, Council of Governments, City Planners, and the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Statewide Council.

    State representative Anne Peoples of Westbrook introduced legislation calling on the state to adopt a Complete Streets policy in 2013. At the initial public hearing in March of that year, there was unanimous support for the bill. At the end of the “work session” the legislative Transportation Committee opted not to issue a resolve to the DOT to form a task force, and instead wrote a letter to the department because it seen as being less expensive and simpler. The letter asked the DOT to convene a “stakeholder group” that would report back during the 2014 legislative session. Within a month the department began assembling a task force, and by that Fall had put together a draft policy and initiated a review process. Over the following nine months, there were a combined nineteen working and public meetings and reviews by various stakeholders, culminating in Commissioner David Bernhardt’s approval on June 18th, 2014.

    While communities throughout the state have adopted local Complete Streets policies, the introduction of a State Complete Streets policy means that the DOT and its project partners on projects using state or federal funding would be required to “consider the needs of all users when planning and developing projects”. This policy applies to new construction, rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, including but not limited to bridge, highway, intersection, safety, multimodal, transit, rail, lane and shoulder widths/markings during repaving, and new capacity corridor projects.

    Each relevant project will include an analysis and documentation of how consideration of all users of the transportation system will have safe access to the completed project where warranted and feasible. A project meets the intent of this policy when the project includes proposed safe accommodations for all users, or project documentation outlines the reasoning for not providing specific accommodations, such as a scarcity of population, or where there are engineering, financial or environmental constraints.

    DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt said the Complete Streets policy sends a different message to traffic engineers: "not only are we talking about the movement of cars; we are also talking about the movement of pedestrians, we're talking about the movement of bicycles," he says. "We're talking about having bus facilities." When Main Street in Bangor was last re-built it wasn't designed as a Complete Street. "I designed that many years ago. Parts of that are 72 feet wide, but have no sidewalks.” Another example is Franklin Street in Portland (formerly called Franklin Arterial because it was designed to convey automobile traffic quickly from I-295 to Commercial Street and points west, in Portland’s downtown.) To accomplish that, many of the cross-street intersections were eliminated. Notably, the Arterial was designed without sidewalks or bicycle amenities.

    With the needs of cyclists and pedestrians now being taken into account, the potential impact on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Maine could be substantial. It signals a new commitment to connect all users - automobiles, bicyclists, and pedestrians - to the state’s many and varied destinations. However, it remains to be seen how many projects will successfully be able to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian amenities, without encountering a myriad of engineering, environmental, and perhaps most challenging of all, financial constraints. 

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    Jeremy Doxsee, Planner, Town of Brunswick


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:12 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    As this article is being written, we have not yet come to the deadline for submission of bills or bill titles for this year’s legislative session.  However, after discussions with other non-profit organizations in the state closely aligned with issues that planners face, there are a few items likely in store for the state this winter and spring that MAP will keep a close eye on. 

    Overall, the sense is that people have been “holding their breath” this fall for the results of the gubernatorial election. Now, with the start of the Governor’s second term, most expect not to see aggressive activity on bills until the dust settles (so to speak) with the Administration and this year’s legislature. 

     Among legislative items that will likely emerge in upcoming weeks, historic tax credits will receive significant attention.  A coalition led by Maine Preservation, MEREDA, Growsmart, and others plans to continue making the case that the tax credit program should remain. Other items that MAP will be watching for include Maine DOT’s newly-adopted Complete Streets Policy, in particular legislation related to the issue of pedestrian crossings. Other items include the potential for new incentives to support Comprehensive Plan implementation efforts, to prevent sprawling development, as well as rulemaking follow-up on recently passed bonds for small business loans (#3) and stormwater and wetlands (#6).

     These legislative items are based on current speculation on policy agendas for the coming weeks. MAP members can expect to see the MAP Legislative Policy Committee’s (LPC) review of this session’s bills at the January 9th General Membership meeting and in forthcoming issues of Front Page. 

    The MAP Executive Board is working to increase our partnerships with organizations like Maine Development Foundation (MDF), Growsmart Maine, The Nature Conservancy and Natural Resources Council of Maine, MEREDA, Maine Municipal Association, and others.  These relationships will be powerful tool for increasing our ability to serve planners through the legislative process in Maine. 


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    Amanda Bunker; Chair, MAP Legislative Policy Committee


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:11 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    While serving as the planner in Saco, ME (just two months ago) Peter Morelli got started on a plan following the outline of the AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities program, which aims to enhance the health and quality of life of older adults in Maine. Similar to a comprehensive plan, the planning process began with identifying issues, outlined below to assess and plan for. 

    The AARP categorized the first three issues as being related to the “built environment.” An additional five issues related to the “social environment,” which are more complex and challenging to deal with. Professionals working in the field of aging have shown that each of the issues identified by AARP is critical.  What struck Morelli, a planner, is that there is little overlap between the five “social issues” identified and the 13 target issues outlined in the state’s comprehensive planning law.

    This raises important questions: is planning missing something important by mostly confining itself to the built and natural environment? Is our profession’s (recent) passion for complete streets and quality neighborhood design attracting too much attention away from planning the social realm?

    Morelli poses this question to planners in Maine - which of the five social issues might be a good match for a town or city planning program?

    1. Outdoor spaces and buildings - Availability of safe and accessible recreational facilities
    2. Transportation - Access to safe and affordable modes of private and public transit
    3. Housing - Availability of a range of housing options that allow older residents to age in place, and resources to support home-modification programs
    4. Social participation - Access to leisure and cultural activities for older adults, and opportunities for social and civic engagement with both peers and younger residents
    5. Respect and social inclusion - Programs to promote ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as multi-generational interaction and dialogue
    6. Civic participation and employment - Access to employment and volunteer activities for older adults, and opportunities to engage in policy-making relevant to their lives
    7. Communication and information - Access to technology that helps older people connect with their community, friends and family
    8. Community support and health services - Access to homecare services, health clinics and programs that promote wellness and active aging    

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    Peter Morelli, Director, AARP Maine


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:10 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Beginning with Habitat (BwH), a collaborative program of federal, state and local agencies and non-governmental organizations, is a habitat-based approach to conserving wildlife and plant habitat. Since its inception in 2000, the goal of the program has been to maintain sufficient habitat to support all native plant and animal species currently breeding in Maine. BwH compiles and integrates habitat information from multiple sources (principally interpretation of aerial photographs), and makes it accessible to towns and other organizations, in the form of maps and accompanying information depicting and describing various habitats of statewide and national significance found in the town. BwH was designed to help local decision makers with their land use planning efforts, so that they can develop a plan that balances future development with conservation.

    Since 2000, BwH has met with and provided information to more than 140 cities and towns and 35 land trusts and regional planning commissions in Maine. Many have incorporated the information received from BwH into comprehensive plans and local ordinances.

    Three primary maps undefined Water Resources & Riparian Habitats, High Value Plant & Animal Habitats, and Undeveloped Habitat Blocks & Habitat Connections undefined form the core of the BwH. Supplemental information is provided on additional maps. According to BwH, the “information in these maps is the best available, but does not represent a comprehensive inventory of every town or all important habitat areas. The agencies and organizations that provide this information gather new data continuously, but BwH also relies on local knowledge to help fill information gaps and provide supplemental data.”

    Therein lies a problem for local towns that have adopted regulatory controls to protect water resources, plant and animal habitats, and undeveloped habitat blocks and corridors based on BwH data. The maps were intended to be used as guides by towns to identify the probable existence of valuable habitat. They were not meant to function as regulatory tools confirming the presence of a resource or delineate boundaries thereof. It was the intent that Towns would, over time, and in conjunction with private property owners, field-verify habitat and resource boundaries.

    As planners can attest, in the development review process private property owners and developers often look to local planning departments for guidance on zoning laws that reference BwH habitats and resources. Maps of deer wintering areas provide an illustrative example. The BwH map for the southern half of Maine shows probable deer wintering areas, but does not indicate if they are of low, moderate, or high value. The value is based on vegetative cover and the extent of deer use, which can only be confirmed in the winter, and requires evaluation over multiple years. Often development projects are initiated in early spring, before the construction season begins. Assessing deer wintering assets can therefore lead to unforeseen delays for developers, as well as unanticipated costs.

    Ideally, Towns would have adequate resources and staffing to field-verify BwH habitats and resources. Towns would also be able to advise developers and land owners accordingly. In reality, municipalities and local planning officials operate under constrained resources and austere budgets, which places the onus to evaluate and define a property’s protected resources and habitats on land owners. Town staff and developers all too often are forced to “muddle through” such issues on a case-by-case basis. The application of local zoning standards based on BwH maps raises questions about the rights and obligations of private property owners, town governments, and the state in protecting natural resources. The debate will undoubtedly continue undefined as will the work of planners undefined to better define and map local valued natural resources.    

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    Jeremy Doxsee; Planner, Town of Brunswick


  • 15 Jan 2015 8:09 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    At GrowSmart Maine Summit 2014, GrowSmart released Making Headway in Your Community, a workbook to facilitate local action and guides users to a searchable website that provides connections with Maine community success stories and local, regional, statewide and even national resources to assist communities in identifying goals and completing on-the-ground projects. This new tool is useful for both taking on a specific project and for deciding “what’s next” following the update of a municipal comprehensive plan.

    What do you love about your hometown; an easy commute to work, safe neighborhoods, nearby hiking trails and restaurants?   What do you wish you could improve; a livelier downtown, thriving farms, efficient transportation choices and more small businesses on Main Street?

    Where do you begin when you want to make a difference?  Who could you work with? How does it all flow together? 

    Making Headway in Your Community presents a way to work through these conversations and connects communities with the best available resources to help get them started and assist them through the process.  By engaging local officials, town board members and citizens, Making Headway in Your Community provides the foundation for discussions and decisions about the future of a community, as well as a structure to manage and connect strategic actions at the local level. It’s about making a difference in a community by defining what a community wants, who wants to work to make it happen, and who has the expertise and ideas to help the community get there.

    There are four core principles, which are the focus of Making Headway in Your Community:

    Smart Design:  Rehabilitating buildings for a mix of uses and using best practices in energy efficiency while investing wisely in public infrastructure and land conservation  will bridge the natural and built environments by making downtowns desirable and vibrant while strengthening rural areas and reducing carbon footprints.

    Community Connections: Leadership development opportunities, well-designed public spaces and multiple transportation options allow for a wide range of people to connect as they live, work, shop, learn, explore and recreate downtown.

    Local Economy: Attracting and assisting entrepreneurs and business owners while strengthening key business sectors that add value to Maine’s environment and communities will create sustainable employment and investment opportunities.

    Healthy Communities: Access to local foods, walking trails and bike paths, attractive gathering places, sidewalks and street trees encourages active lifestyles and wellness while supporting the local economy.

    GrowSmart Maine wants to help ensure a strong future for Maine communities.  Making Headway in Your Community combines a workbook with online resources valuable to begin the process of planning for a community’s future. The clearinghouse of resource organizations is paired with local success stories overseen by the Maine Downtown Center, a program of the Maine Development Foundation. 

    Planners, this is a great tool to use with community planning efforts. Non-profits, government and quasi-government agencies consider signing on as resource organizations.

    Everyone, post success stories! Visit the GrowSmart Maine website to learn more about the workbook at www.growsmartmaine.org/mhyc and about the resource clearinghouse at www.growsmartmaine.org/wheretostart

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    Lynne Seeley, Consultant and Nancy E. Smith, Executive Director, GrowSmart Maine

  • 15 Jan 2015 8:08 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    On the eve of Halloween, while many in Maine were busy planning their costume designs and face-paint colors, another kind of planning was underway in Camden. On this day The Friends of Midcoast Maine launched the inaugural session of The Community Institute (TCI). The first session, entitled “Streets, Places and People” attracted dozens interested in learning more about shaping their communities through place-making, design, and community action. The Community Institute model contains three components: topic-specific instruction from accomplished planners and other professionals, a leadership component, and a hands-on component.

    Attendance at the session was diverse: thirty individuals from government, the private sector, and the public came to learn in a living laboratory. Executive Director of Friends of Midcoast Maine and The Community Institute Jane Lafleur received approval from the local Board of Selectmen to use a Public Landing parking lot as the site where participants would learn about place-making, leadership development, demonstration projects and shared spaces, and other lessons in community planning. The goal was to provide hands-on instruction on transforming (waterfront) parking lots into vibrant spaces that could be replicated in other communities after learning about these concepts and ideas in the classroom.

    The site is a busy, town-owned parking lot that serves fishermen and lobstermen, windjammer and day sailor cruise sales, the harbor master’s shack, a seasonal food cart, public restrooms and the Chamber of Commerce office, as well as the front and back doors to area officers, galleries and restaurants. Traffic was rerouted during the session so that access to the lot and the water would not be interrupted.

    Public notice of the project was issued in advance to inform the community of the attempts to improve the lot. Two on-line responses were received criticizing any change to the parking lot; questioning the timing of the session in October, suggesting a better test for a redesign would be in the busy summer months; and expressing concern over attempts to make Camden look like another place.

    Attendees learned about Camden’s public process and plans for the lot from The Community Institute and Town representatives. The purpose was not to build one of the plans but to create a shared space using leadership and place-making tools, together with the supplies that were made available. Many materials were donated or loaned by area businesses and individuals. Donations to support the session exceeded $12,000 in value. Following the initial introduction to the context and an overview of the tools that could be used to succeed in place-making, the class toured the site and began drafting a plan.

    Lessons Learned

    In addition to survey results provided on the FMM website, the following lessons are shared here for other communities and planners wishing to undertake their own place-making project:

    Lesson 1: Start early on the project so community leaders, business owners and community members have a chance to hear about what is going on. Get permission from all interested parties and ask for their advice. They may choose to observe, participate or criticize, but at least they are involved.

    Lesson 2: Involve the community in procuring the materials. Beg and borrow from businesses, residents, friends and neighbors. Involve community groups, committees and schools.

    Lesson 3: Allow for creativity. Stock pile chalk-paint, moveable tables and chairs, temporary paint colors, seating, tables, games and things to do. Let it sit at the site and people will create games and activity areas. Say yes to all ideas and let the group design and redesign.

    Lesson 4: Develop a plan with the group but…

    Lesson 5: Allow for changes, modifications, new ideas and a totally different outcome. It will be better than that with which you started. Allow for feedback, discussion, changes, and new ideas and let the place change and evolve. You won’t regret it, guaranteed!

    Lesson 6: Activate the site with games for all ages, entertainment, music, food, photo booths, colorful materials, and community art….things for people to see and do.

    Lesson 7: Keep it up for a few days at least. This can be difficult with borrowed materials that you have responsibility for but try to let people get used to it.

    Lesson 8: Take lots of photos of people having fun, before, during and after construction.

    Lesson 9: Invite the kids, from pre-schoolers to teenagers and let them linger.

    Lesson 10: Have fun! This is all about building a better community that suits all of us. It is not about making your community like another one, it about making your community YOURS.

    To learn more about this session or about The Community Institute, e-mail or call 207 236-1077. 

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    Jane LaFleur; Executive Director, Friends of MidCoast Maine & The Community Institute


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