HAMPDEN, Maine — The town’s legal counsel has issued an opinion upholding the validity of the town’s 2001 comprehensive plan, which lays the legal framework for the community’s zoning and land use regulations.
Town Council Chairwoman Janet Hughes said Wednesday that the conclusion reached by Bangor attorney Thomas Russell was a relief.
“The implications were huge,” she said, adding that without a comprehensive plan in place the town would have been unable to enforce its ordinances, among other things.
Though the town completed an overhaul of the plan in 2010, the updated version was deemed invalid earlier this year because it was not properly adopted under the rules set forth in the town charter, according to stories previously published in the Bangor Daily News.
That’s because although planning board members served on the committee formed to update the plan, the full panel did not weigh in on the changes.
At Russell’s recommendation, town councilors reinstated the 2001 version of the plan, which had not been officially repealed.
The 2010 version has come under fire from residents who said the plan could infringe on their property rights. A core group committed to ensuring the 2010 plan never moves forward since has organized as the Hampden Area Landowners Association, or HALO, and has hired a Portland attorney, David Crocker, to challenge the validity of the 2001 comprehensive plan.
Crocker, who has been involved with the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center and with the most recent Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative, said Wednesday that he has received a copy of Russell’s legal opinion and is analyzing it.
Crocker said he plans to issue a written response in the near future.
In the meantime, the Town Council has appointed the Citizens Comprehensive Plan Committee to review the controversial 2010 plan and make recommendations for changes, Hughes said Wednesday.
The group’s first meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at the municipal building, Hughes said. She said the group is scheduled to submit its recommendations to the Town Council in early September.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Hughes said, adding that the town has hired Rothe Associates of Hallowell to facilitate the process.