LEWISTON, Maine — City Planner David Hediger said he won’t be surprised if a patch of grass suddenly appears Thursday in the parking space in front of 219 Lisbon St.
“They’ve talked about rolling out some sod in the parking space and putting out some chairs to make kind of park-ette,” Hediger said. “They want to do something different, something that draws attention to that place and says there’s something different going on inside.”
At the very least, Hediger said, he hopes to bring foot traffic downtown to take part in a five-day planning marathon, the kickoff to work on Lewiston’s new comprehensive plan.
Legacy Lewiston Planapalooza will begin with an opening session at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Lewiston Public Library.
More semi-formal meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. Tuesday at the library.
But the main draw of the event will be the Lisbon Street address and the drop-in sessions scheduled there. Planners from city consultants Urban Design Collaborative and the city will be stationed there all day throughout the week, ready to meet with and hear from anyone who stops in.
“I keep telling people, this will really only be as good as the number of people who get involved,” Hediger said. “If you really want to have a voice in how this plan is going to develop, this is your chance.”
It’s a big part of what makes this comprehensive planning process different from ones Maine has done in the past.
“What’s different is the approach,” Hediger said. “Comp plans in Maine are typically several hundred pages of text with strategies and goals and policies.”
Comprehensive plans are pretty standard nationwide, Hediger said. In Maine, the state requires cities and towns to create them and update them every 10 years. The plan is meant to guide future zoning, economic development and other planning decisions going forward.
Usually, the plans involve hundreds of pages of dry text, maps and tables of numbers. This plan should be more graphically interesting, Hediger said.
“There are certain requirements we must meet, by law,” he said. “We still need to meet certain state criteria. We’re still going to come up with all that, but we want to provide it in a plan that people may actually want to read.”
The final report won’t be the only thing that’s different. Hediger said city staff and the group of advisers working on the plan hope the more open process will bring in more people with different ideas, inspiring a better plan.
“What do people care about?” Hediger said. “Should we be more aggressive with historic preservation? Do we need building-design standards? Should we allow commercial parking lots, and should there be more rules about where it can go?”