Comp plan committee’s numbers reduced

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

What a difference a year of meeting almost every week makes.

A year ago this past March, there were twice as many willing souls as there were seats when Bridgton’s Comprehensive Plan Committee was created. There was talk of forming subcommittees of the main committee, to accommodate all who were inspired to serve because of the big debate over McDonald’s coming to town. From the two dozen or so who applied, a committee of 11 was settled upon, with two co-chairs. Each represented the debate’s opposing sides.

Fourteen months later, the two co-chairs were down to one, and three people have resigned. The most recent was Anne-Marie Amiel, who stepped down shortly after former co-chairman Peter Morrison decided to leave.

A few weeks ago, they didn’t have enough members present for a quorum, and the meeting couldn’t be held.

There are now eight members, and on Tuesday, Bridgton selectmen voted to keep it that way, and seek three alternates immediately to fill in as needed. With a committee of eight, the quorum requirement is reduced to five, and with the alternates, it “gives the committee some capacity to endure a resignation in the future,” said Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, who recommended the new committee membership.

Anne Krieg, the town’s new Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, thinks eight members is a good number.

“It made sense then (when the committee was formed), but now they’re at a point where they’re really fine-tuning things,” Krieg said.

That process continued Monday, when members reviewed language revisions to the plan drawn up by individual members. Krieg said in her experience as the head of planning in Bar Harbor, “Typically, a committee of between five and nine is most effective.” She added, however, that the number of participants “is whatever works for the committee, that gives them an effective way to do their work.”

Having new members come on board can slow things down, and she has been pleased to see how much is being accomplished by the remaining members, both working individually and collectively. The updating they’ve done so far, she said, is good. “This is very well put together,” she said, referring to the updates written so far to the 2004 Comprehensive Plan. She said Chuck Renneker has been doing a lot of work.

Berkowitz said selectmen may want to raise the membership number higher at a future date if the alternates “are really quick learners.” When the issue was discussed by the board April 24, committee member Glen “Bear” Zaidman expressed concern that a new member might have a hard time “getting up to speed” on all the work the committee has done so far — earlier on, they spent months working on new form-based code development standards.

Selectman Paul Hoyt was concerned about tie votes with an eight-member board, but Berkowitz said the guideline of always having an odd number of members to break ties is important. “But with this committee, their efforts do not appear to be polarized when it comes to agreeing on issues,” Berkowitz said.

Do the people still believe?

Krieg said she has encouraged the committee to hold several community forums in the near future, perhaps in different Bridgton neighborhoods, “to make sure what they’re doing is still what the community wants.” She hopes the forums can be held before the school year ends in June, saying it might be more difficult to have a good turnout in the summer when people are involved in summertime activities.

Confirmation is sought on both the draft language revisions done to date, and the proposed new development standards for the Portland Road corridor. The latter work was the focus of the committee’s first six months, and was drafted before the departure in January of former Economic and Community Development Director Alan Manoian. Solid support was received when the committee held several informational charettes on the codes last year, but a lot can change in a year, she indicated. And more work remains to be done on form-based codes before the standards can be delivered to selectmen in the form of either a new ordinance or revisions to the Site Plan Review Ordinance. A town-wide referendum on form-based codes is not expected to be held until sometime next year.

The members of the committee, along with Zaidman and Renneker, are Chairman Bob Wiser, Greg Watkins, Dick Danis, Lucia Terry, Fred Packard and Ray Turner.

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