Large group gathers for CPC forum

Anne Krieg, left, Bridgton’s Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, writes down ideas from the crowd of around 30 who attended Monday’s Comprehensive Plan Committee forum at the Campfire Grille. CPC Vice-President Greg Watkins, at right, led the discussion.

Anne Krieg, left, Bridgton’s Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, writes down ideas from the crowd of around 30 who attended Monday’s Comprehensive Plan Committee forum at the Campfire Grille. CPC Vice-President Greg Watkins, at right, led the discussion.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

It’s a theme echoed over and over, as the Comprehensive Plan Committee holds community forums to fine-tune goals for Bridgton’s future — don’t let Bridgton become another Windham.

At a Monday forum at the Campfire Grille, Bridgton newcomers Linda and John England, transplants from Arizona, explained it this way:

“We chose Bridgton very carefully. We like neighbors who care who you are. People want heart, especially in this impersonal time,” said Linda England. “Tempe, Arizona used to be a quiet little town,” she said, but when it became overrun by development, the “heart” seemed to go out of the town.

Listening to England in the audience of around 30 people were Selectmen Bob McHatton, Ken Murphy and Paul Hoyt, along with Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz and CPC members.

A fair amount of summer visitors were in attendance, which is what CPC members were hoping for. Because of that, the early part of the meeting was spent going over basic information.

“I want to see Bridgton grow, but I want to see it grow right,” said Murphy. CPC Vice-President Greg Watkins, who led the discussion, explained that the committee was trying to balance the needs of growth of the local economy with the need to preserve the small-town character that both year-round and summer residents so prize.

A 14-year employee of True Value Hardware said her employers understand that balance.

“We’ve grown, but we’re the same people. We’re your neighbors. We’re your friends,” she said.

Wastewater Committee Chairman Ray Turner said anyone who wants to understand the Bridgton community should attend its selectmen meetings, with its give-and-take style between residents in the audience and the board.

“You don’t see that in Philadelphia,” he said.

Anne Krieg, Bridgton’s Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, kept track of ideas and comments using large white sheets, which were posted on the outside windows of the restaurant’s function room.

Responding to comments about the need to market the town as a destination, Krieg said the town needs to decide whether it is willing to invest taxpayer money in such a goal, which would of necessity be a multi-year project.

“Do we see this as a role of government” at all, she asked, or something that would be best accomplished by partnering with other organizations.

Resident Bill Vincent suggested that, if marketing is to be a priority, it was unfortunate that voters cut $23,000 in funding from the Bridgton Economic Development Corporation. The BEDC subsequently voted to remove town-appointed members from its board, which leaves an uncertainty in how some of the Comprehensive Plan’s goals will be implemented.

The CPC is using feedback from the forums to help members devise implementation strategies for the plan. Krieg said the all-important Chapter 12, goals and strategies section, is “a fluid document,” which will depend to a large extent on what residents have to say at the forums.

Another forum will be held Monday, Aug. 5, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Tannery Pub at the Magic Lantern Theater; with a third scheduled for Aug. 19 at a yet-to-be-determined location.

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