After 5½ years, Hampden’s comprehensive plan approved in 5½ minutes

Posted March 22, 2012, at 9:28 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — It took Hampden’s comprehensive plan 5½ years to reach this point, but it took just 5½ minutes for the once-controversial plan to get public approval.

The public meeting on the plan was called to order and people were invited to address the Citizens Comprehensive Plan Committee with any concerns or questions. The answer was silence as none of the 22 people attending Thursday night’s public hearing offered a single question or comment.

“I’m surprised. I’m shocked there wasn’t a single comment,” said Shelley Blosser, one of the citizens committee members. “I guess it means we did our job and everyone’s concerns were met.”

It’s not like there weren’t any concerns. There were plenty of those, especially early on when any meeting on the plan was typified by argument, confusion, contention, debate, disagreement and even open hostility.

“There was a lot of comment early on because there were a lot of people, myself included, who had major concerns, and I think many of the people who were very vocal were on the committee,” said Blosser, a Hampden resident for 14 years.

The state-mandated plan lays a legal framework for the town’s zoning and land use regulations.

“This plan allows what’s been needed in this community, to open zoning back up so we can start fixing and tweaking things that have created incompatibility and frustration with some residents,” said Dean Bennett, Hampden’s community and economic development director.

“Plan one sought to regulate things based on maps and data. Then the rules changed before the second review committee, coincidentally allowing the second committee more freedom to address their concerns,” Bennett explained. “So the revised plan backed off a lot of that prescription stuff, as rules allowed, and is more general while still giving the direction the town needs to accomplish its role and appease the state planning office.”

“It’s a plan and a vision as opposed to a restrictive mandate,” said Blosser.

The next step is to send the revised plan along to the planning board for review and recommendations. At some point the Town Council must vote on it and send it to the Maine State Planning Office for approval.

“I think it’ll be a very quick turnaround because Bob Kerry at the State Planning Office has been checking it right along,” Bennett said. “I don’t see any reason why this couldn’t be adopted by midsummer and gets wrapped up, if that long. We’re in good shape.”

As for the job the 14-member citizens committee did over three months of revisions, Blosser said it was heartening and restored her faith in government and citizen participation.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt more a part of the community than I have the last 10 years,” Blosser said. “I think every person on this committee ended up with a good taste in their mouth.

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