Public input sought to create Bridgton’s land use vision

October Work Session

  • 18th, Committee work — Village (downtown)

November Work Sessions

  • 1st, Committee work — Corridors
  • 15th, Committee work — Rural Residential & Lakeside Neighborhoods
  • 21st, Planning Board special meeting on draft ordinance district concepts and maps
  • 29th, Committee work — All Districts

December — Planning Board recommendations to Selectmen

  • 5th, Planning Board public hearing on recommendations on direction and scope
  • 12th, Selectmen — Draft ordinance, district concepts and maps
  • 13th, Committee work — Revisions from input, work on Q & A

Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the lower level meeting room. These sessions are open to the public

 

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Audrey Knight knows she has a major sell job ahead.

If local residents are to buy into the idea of enacting land use regulations as a means to reach desired community growth and development, they need to grasp the belief that planning is good, if not essential.

“The idea is not to limit anybody, but we need to provide some direction so that development is both appropriate and is in the best interest of the town,” said Knight, Bridgton’s Community Development director. “Every land use has an impact, be it on the environment and traffic.”

For two years, a Land Use committee spent countless hours formulating regulations to address future development along three major corridors. However, it became clear to members through public meetings and comments that more discussion and “tweaking” was needed before the document could be put before voters.

With Knights’ arrival, the group pushed the vote date back from November to the town’s next annual meeting, June 2018. While Knight and the committee will review and revise over the next few months, a key to passage will be public input.

“It’s about taking ownership,” Knight said.

Work sessions in October and November will provide residents with chances to give their ideas and opinions. To create a vision, one needs to know what people want. And, that requires participation from the public.

Knight hopes to also tap the local public access TV channel to tape the sessions so those unable to attend can watch the discussion and become better informed as to the ordinance’s goals — preserving and protecting the character of Bridgton, while also developing an economically successful community.

“It helps everyone to have rules that are both clear and reasonable. We need to look at the town as a whole,” Knight said. “People often talk about not wanting Portland Road to become like Windham, yet there isn’t much on the books that can assist the planning board in shaping how it is developed.”

Knight sees a great opportunity for Bridgton to create opportunities while also retaining the old-time feel that continues to attract both new residents and tourists.

“When you start looking at our downtown, we need to create a ‘destination’ that is a unique experience, otherwise people will simply shop on Amazon, which will deliver right to your door,” she said. “We want to create something that is visually interesting, where people can park and walk and shop.”

When developing a plan, Knight says a wide range of quality of life factors need to be considered and included.

“This is why we are calling this the ‘Good Neighbor Code.’ It’s about land use planning and being a good neighbor, committing assets for long-term value and not liabilities,” she added. “We rely upon tourism, so we really need to be proactive in creating as much attractiveness as possible. Again, this happens through good planning.

“It’s important to know exactly what the people want for their town and come up with some planning rules that make it happen,” Knight said. “Predictability helps everyone.”

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