Harpswell committee hopes to address climate change in new comprehensive plan

Posted Aug. 02, 2014, at 12:42 p.m.

HARPSWELL, Maine — Emerging trends driven by climate change, including sea level rise and invasive species, are among issues town officials would like addressed in a new comprehensive plan.

At their July 24 meeting, the Board of Selectmen endorsed moving ahead with a new comprehensive plan at the recommendation of Town Planner Carol Eyerman and Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee Chairman Burr Taylor.

The plan will act as a baseline guide for the town, offering a blueprint on the direction of town policy on everything from marine resources to road networks.

In a July 8 memo to selectmen, Eyerman and CPIC members said many aspects of the town’s 2005 plan are out of date or inconsistent with current goals.

In particular, the CPIC said problems unaddressed in the plan include school use, climate change and sea level rise, public transportation, economic development, road repair and maintenance, and inconsistencies with zoning designations for rural and growth areas.

CPIC members also want a clearer, more accessible plan.

It should take about two years to complete the rewrite, Eyerman told selectmen. She recommended establishing a new committee at the end of the fiscal year to start working on the plan.

The town will need to hire a consultant and prepare preliminary documents for the process at an estimated cost of between $25,000 and $30,000, Eyerman noted in the memo.

Although endorsing the concept of a comprehensive plan rewrite, selectmen expressed concern a new drafting committee might work at cross-purposes with the current group.

Taylor told selectmen his group’s work would be completed by the time the committee drafting the new plan begins its work.

“The chances of it competing with the other committee are minimal,” he said, adding a new comprehensive plan would “supersede” the CPIC.

Selectmen Elinor Multer, Richard Daniel and Kevin Johnson voiced support for moving forward with a plan, but Multer cautioned residents not to take the plan that emerges as anything more than an advisory document.

“People are kind of fond of throwing the comprehensive plan into the argument if they don’t like something, as if it were law and you couldn’t do anything that didn’t totally accord with it,” Multer said. “The more the town understands what it is and what it isn’t, the better off I think we’ll be.”

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