11 chosen for new comp plan board

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

Selectmen have chosen the 11 residents who will revamp site review standards for the highly controversial Portland Road commercial corridor.

Named to the Comprehensive Plan Committee Tuesday following an executive session are co-chairs Scott Finlayson and Ray Turner, and members Chuck Renneker, Fred Packard, Lucia Terry, Greg Watkins, Dick Danis, Sharon Abbott, Ann-Marie Amiel, Bob Wiser and Glen “Bear” Zaidman.

The new committee, under the direction of Alan Manoian, director of Economic and Community Development, will kick off their work at a public citizen planning session set for Saturday, April 16 from 10 a.m. to noon in the lower level of the Bridgton Municipal Complex. They’ll use the public feedback from Saturday’s session and future public forums to draft recommended new zoning rules for the corridor that will hopefully be ready in time to be voted on this November. Following that, the panel will work on an overall update of the comprehensive plan.

Chairman Art Triglione clarified Tuesday that he erred in saying at an earlier meeting that members of the new Comprehensive Plan Committee could not also serve on other town-appointed boards and committees. That means that Turner and Renneker, who serve on the Economic Development Committee, and Packard, who serves on the Planning Board, will be able to continue their service on those boards while also serving on the new committee.

Triglione said Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz asked for a legal opinion concerning dual service on committees and learned there was no barrier to doing so. Berkowitz added that it wasn’t even necessary for a person to be a Bridgton resident to serve on a town committee.

Packard owns land on Portland Road, but that doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest in his service on the committee, selectmen said. In developing standards for future economic development along the corridor, the committee will be looking at general rules, and the issue of a conflict only arises if a member stands to gain a direct financial benefit from the property they own. Any member may choose to recuse themselves from discussions at any time if they perceive a conflict, Triglione said.

In deciding among the 22 residents who applied to serve on the committee, the board sought to create a balanced board that represented both the yes and no sides of the debate over future development of fast food restaurants and big box stores along the corridor. They also wanted to bring in people with experience in planning and development and who live in different parts of town.

Wiser lives in West Bridgton, and owns a construction company. He is the West Bridgton District Fire Chief. He supported the bans on big box stores and fast food restaurants, he said in his application, because “I feel unchecked fast food business along Route 302 will not provide the jobs/growth that the region needs to maintain its uniqueness to attract the visitors and second home owners that contribute a huge amount to our economy.

Zaidman, manager of Camp Wildwood for 30 years, has been active on the Woods Pond Water Quality Committee and said Bridgton needs to renew its downtown and perhaps build a commerce park. His motivation for service is “to help the future generations to follow” and “rebuild Bridgton as an economic hub.”

Renneker, a retired Naval officer and commercial property owner in town, lives on Hio Ridge Road. He wants to see Bridgton grow, while still retaining its character.

Terry owns Perennial Point of View and has been active in downtown beautification efforts for many years, most recently in the Bridgton Library Courtyard project. She believes that “great work has been done over the years” on past comprehensive plans, and that work “needs to be implemented in fundamental ways so that we can move toward actually creating what we dream of.”

Danis, of 17 Elm Street, has a background in construction and believes Bridgton ought to follow the lead of Gov. Paul LePage by putting an “open for business” sign on all roads coming into Bridgton. He said the town needs to “create an open and less restrictive environment for business to develop,” and work on attracting large-scale industry as well as supporting small businesses.

Packard said he was motivated to serve to fill the need for “balanced participation on the committee.” Bridgton needs “balanced growth, with creation of jobs through attracting new business” and “showing a positive attitude toward business growth.”

Turner, of 99 Luck Grove, has served on zoning boards in Pennsylvania and has been active on Bridgton committees including the Economic Development Committee, Budget Committee and Community Center. He led the call for Bridgton to begin working immediately on changing its zoning rules as a way to capture the momentum generated by the March 1 referendum on big box and fast food restaurants.

His co-chair, Finlayson, of Church Street, led the citizens’ initiative to limit national chain development, and has been calling for change ever since McDonald’s Restaurant announced plans to build on Portland Road across from the Hannaford supermarket. He believes such development will erode the economic vitality of the downtown, taking revenue away from small independent business owners.

Watkins, of 445 Kansas Road, is a computer technician at SAD 61 and a founding member of the Bridgton Young Professionals Group. He is an advocate of form-based codes and wants to “help guide the future of the town to be a prosperous and active place for young people to come to, as opposed to moving away from.”

Abbott, of 397 Highland Road, once worked as an office manager for a public design and planning organization in Cambridge, Mass., Townscape Institute. She now helps conserve glass and ceramics for museums and private collectors. “Good planning is at the heart of a thriving community,” she said. “Well conceived and well written ordinances can save the town legal costs,” and she’d like to help in strengthening both areas.

Amiel, of 10 Mechanic Street, is a small business owner and attorney with experience in environmental and government law. “I think the next 10 years are crucial to the continued growth of Bridgton and the quality of life of its residents,” she said, and wants to encourage “businesses with small footprints to locate here. Such business would offer long-term, well paid jobs, which a town needs to flourish in today’s world.”

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