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Updating comprehensive plan will be multi-step process



ELLSWORTH — With the comprehensive plan in the forefront of the minds of many citizens, City Planner Elena Piekut spoke with the Planning Board Jan. 5 on the first steps needed to begin the revision work.

The current comprehensive plan is 18 years old, far past the 10-year mark state regulations state for review and changes.

“I think it’s a priority to many of our leaders,” Piekut said.

This may help the Planning Department receive additional funds for what will be a two- or three-year process. City Council approved $35,000 in 2021, but Piekut said more will be needed.

The state’s Municipal Planning Assistance Program suspended grants for creating, implementing and revising comprehensive plans in 2021.

The first step for the city is to issue a request for proposals to find a consultant to help lead the process, made more difficult because the complete funding for revising the plan is unknown, she noted.

“We haven’t really had those conversations quite yet,” Piekut said.

A steering committee will oversee the process, with subcommittees tackling individual or combined topics. So, Piekut asked board members to let her know any topics of individual interest.

“Maine law doesn’t really specify the comp plan as being a Planning Board document, but in my experience elsewhere, in New Hampshire, particularly, it is,” she said.

The steering committee would include one or two Planning Board members and city councilors, before “casting a much wider net to make sure that lots of various interests and pieces of the community are represented,” she said.

“Will it mean a bunch of changes in the [unified development] ordinance?” Vice Chairman John DeLeo asked.

Piekut said that was unlikely.

“It would have to be a very different vision,” she said, to trigger major ordinance changes. “Our ordinance went through a massive change in 2012.”

Land use is a big part of comprehensive planning, as so much depends on it, including housing, industry, density, business, transportation, recreation and the like.

While the state no longer funds comprehensive planning, it provides some guidance, including a 2005 manual that outlines the process and topics covered.

The latest 2004 revision of the city’s plan separated topics into population, economy, housing, transportation, existing land use, public services and facilities, resources, recreation and fiscal capacity, as the state requires.

With Ellsworth one of the fastest growing cities in Maine, adding 1,285 residents between 2000 and 2020, for a total 8,399 residents, according to U.S. Census data, residents experience the change every day in congested roads and changing neighborhoods.

“Our city has the potential to go through a dramatic change over the next 10 years, and I think it’s critical that we put some very complex thought and planning behind where we want to end up as a city and what we represent 10 years from now,” board member Marc Rich said. “And the only way we’re going to get there successfully is if we have this plan in place. That’s our guiding doctrine.”

“Let’s make sure we do it well for the future of our citizens’ lives here,” he concluded.

Piekut concurred, noting that working on the plan has been on the minds of many residents.

“The conversation in the community has come to put a lot of emphasis on it and put a lot off toward it,” she said. “It’s not our savior, but it is very important.”

 

 

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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