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A Time to Plan and a Time to Vote

It’s time to plan to vote to adopt the 2019 Westport Island Comprehensive Plan

chair of the comprehensive planning committee introducing plan at public hearingIn February 2018, a group of fellow islanders agreed to take on the daunting task of updating Westport Island’s 2002 Comprehensive Plan. After 21 months of regular Thursday work sessions; developing, distributing and compiling results of a community survey; an advisory vote on the resulting Vision Statement; public meetings and at least as much time invested in pursuing individual work assignments, our Comprehensive Planning Committee is asking for our support next Tuesday, November 5, with a “yes” vote to adopt its proposed Comprehensive Plan.

Last year’s Vision Statement has guided the development of the Comprehensive Plan now being presented for a vote. The survey which provided the community input to shape the Plan was mailed to 800 island residents and property owners. The Vision Statement was developed by synthesizing comments from a public hearing with the answers and comments collected from 295 survey respondents. The Vision Statement was then ratified by an overwhelming 414 of 467 voters in November 2018.

map of Westport Island with dots showing new dwelling 2007-2018

New dwellings constructed on Westport Island 2007-2018

One might wonder why a Comprehensive Plan is important. It sounds more bureaucratic than relevant to everyday life on the island.

Comprehensive Plans are part of a “growth management” strategy borne of the 1988 “Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act.” This act was passed after concerns that rapid, sprawling development on Maine’s southern coast was threatening the health of local communities by diminishing scenic views, historic villages, traffic flow, wetlands, wildlife preservation, healthy groundwater and the qualities that draw people to Maine. In many instances, Planning Boards had been so busy reacting to requests for individual building permits that they didn’t have time to look at the bigger picture, or the “cumulative impact” of creeping growth on their communities.

Comprehensive Plans are blueprints of “the bigger picture”. They are developed by looking at the past, taking a snapshot of the present and creating a vision for the future with the input of the people who live and work in a community. Our 2002 Comprehensive Plan served us well, but it expired in 2012.

The State rewards communities who invest the effort in a current, community-approved Comprehensive Plan with incentives such as preferred access to a variety of state and federal grants designed to improve communities, including: Community Development Block Grants, Land for Maine’s Future, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and select Department of Environmental Protection grants. We have benefited from these grants in the past when we still had an approved Plan to develop amenities at Clough Point and our public boat launch, the Wright Landing. It would be very beneficial to have access to these monies again for improvements at our public lands, to improve resiliency and safety on our roadways with rising sea levels or for other public services.

Please join your neighbors at the polls on Tuesday, November 5 — or vote absentee through Thursday, October 31 — to adopt the 2019 Comprehensive Plan for Westport Island’s future and to show appreciation for the work done by our Comprehensive Planning Committee: Bob Mooney, Chair; Jerry Bodmer, 2nd Selectman & Plumbing Inspector; Gary Richardson, Code Enforcement Officer; Dick Barker, Planning Board; Dennis Dunbar, Conservation Commission; Jeff Tarbox, History Committee; Jason Kates, Cable Contract Negotiating Committee; Jim Cromwell, Road Committee; Ted Christie, Harbor Master; Richard DeVries, Wright Landing Committee; Joanna Jacobs, Planning Board; and Ron Stoodley, Deputy Code Enforcement Officer.

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