Second meeting held on Aroostook community planning

statewide_small-2By Sarah J. Medina, Seven Islands Land Company

The second meeting of the steering committee for Aroostook’s community guided planning and zoning project was held May 14.

The Land Use Planning Commission initiated Community Guided Planning and Zoning (CGPZ) by soliciting letters of interest. In brief, the process is to be locally desired and driven, allow for broad participation, address property owner equity, balance regional uniqueness with jurisdiction-wide consistency and be consistent with LUPC’s purpose, scope and rezoning criteria.  Aroostook County, with the Northern Maine Development Commission (as lead and the county as partner), was selected in February as the initial region to participate.

LUPC and NMDC convened a steering committee in April to determine the process for the planning effort. Steering committee members include landowners, county commissioners, business owners, a municipal service provider, town manager, resident and a representative of an environmental organization. The effort is facilitated by Frank O’Hara of Planning Decisions and Allison Truesdale of LandForms.

At the first meeting  on April 24,  ideas for the planning effort that were discussed included: risks and opportunities, composition of a steering committee for the CGPZ effort itself, communication with outside groups and individuals, decision-making process, planning process and approval process. Then a proposal was put together by the facilitators, and further refined by the steering committee at the May 14 meeting.

Key points are: locally driven, a modified consensus decision-making process, public participation at multiple opportunities (from one-on-one meetings to public workshops and hearings), asset-based planning (builds upon assets and opportunities rather than starting from needs and trying to fix them), and involvement of property owners, municipal and county officials, planning and economic development organizations, businesses, service providers.

The next step is a meeting on June 4 to finalize the document that sets out, for the land use planning phase, the committee structure and decision-making process.

Once the process has been approved by LUPC and the NMDC Board of Directors, a CGPZ steering committee will be formed and the planning will begin this summer.  A number of products might result from the process.  LUPC gives as examples:

  • “A future land use map with sufficient data analysis and public input to support proposed subdistricts (could introduce new subdistricts)”
  • “Marked up zoning maps showing proposed district boundaries”
  • “Both a plan and marked up zoning maps (could introduce new subdistricts)”

NMDC is currently working on other regional development projects, including a collaborative Gro Washington-Aroostook sustainable communities regional plan, and a Mobilize Maine regional project focused on renewable energy and information technology/operations.  A three-year, $150,000 project is anticipated for the CGPZ effort that will be primarily federally funded and dovetail with other on-going efforts.