New Gloucester prepares to revise comprehensive plan

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New Gloucester Town Planner Scott Hastings, who started in his new role in September, answers questions from the Selectboard about a new comprehensive plan update committee. 

NEW GLOUCESTER — After nearly 30 years, the town has decided to take steps to update the comprehensive plan that serves a framework for town zoning decisions and development.

New Town Planner Scott Hastings went before the Selectboard Nov. 9 to answer questions about the creation of a comprehensive plan update committee, which Hastings said would “see what we’ve already done, see what’s changed, and then write out a new chapter as needed.”

“We’re going to review the old plan, we’re going to go through all the things we need to do. There’s a number things that need to be reviewed per state requirements for a comprehensive plan, ” said Hastings, who replaced former planner Will Johnston in September.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of the new committee, which will be made up of five at-large members from the community, five members from the town’s Land Management Planning Committee and one Selectboard liaison.

Applications for the committee are available on the town website, and can be submitted in person at the town office, faxed to 207-926-4136, or emailed to the town clerk at smyers@newgloucester.com.

The Selectboard plans to review the applications at its Dec. 4 meeting.

Selectboard Member Steven Libby said that he was involved with the comprehensive plan process in the late 1980s early 1990s.

“I just remember the substantial amount of work involved,” Libby said, joking that he’s “been avoiding this like the plague for 10 years.”

“I definitely don’t want to throw (the existing plan) out and start over,” Libby continued.

Hasting said it “would be foolish” to throw the old plan out and the update effort will “use the old one as a starting point.”

“I would consider it a major update at this point. It’s been almost 30 years ” Hastings continued. “The town has changed, and therefore work needs to be done.”

He cited zoning changes and changes to state requirement as examples.

Hastings, 32, said that he has a planning degree from the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. He previously served as an assistant planner in the Town of York.

He thinks it could be “very doable” to have the updated plan completed by the fall of 2019.

Libby seemed initially skeptical of that timeline.

“The data work was just overwhelming last time,” Libby said.

“A lot of that has gotten a lot better,” Hastings said. “There’s better data available, better ability to analyze that data.”

Hastings would like to see a large public workshop in the spring of 2018 to “try and get a visioning process” and get opinions from residents.

He estimated that the update could be “pretty low-cost,” and said that there is already $500 in the budget for comprehensive planning purposes this fiscal year. He said he would hope for another $500 or a slight increase in the next budget.

He believes that he can handle the project through normal operations in the planning office, and does not feel the town needs to hire an outside consultant for the project.

“I have a pretty significant background in most of the elements here that we’ll need to be considering. And both the ones that I do have a background in and the ones I don’t, we have people in town who do know about them,” Hastings said. “The committee makeup will be an important aspect of this.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

New Gloucester Town Planner Scott Hastings, who started in his new role in September, answers questions from the Selectboard about a new comprehensive plan update committee.

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