Media Archive

Sebec wary of comprehensive planning process

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 26, June 25, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

SEBEC A town as small as Sebec, population 612, doesn't need a comprehensive plan, according to a vocal majority attending a public hearing on the issue Monday night.

Only a handful of the 40 in attendance spoke in favor of pursuing a comprehensive plan. Many spoke against comprehensive plans, which require the town to instill a land use ordinance, or zoning.

Still, it is up in the air whether pursuit of such a plan will appear on the August warrant for annual town meeting.

Chairman Buzz Small of the board of selectmen opened Monday's public hearing with a presentation of the findings of the comprehensive plan task force &Mac247; which forwarded two conflicting reports to selectmen last month. One sector of the group advocated the town continue through the comprehensive plan process, while a second group opposed any further action, saying that the plan "comes with a lot of strings attached from the state,"

The cost of a comprehensive plan, as estimated by the task force, ranges from $7,500 to $23,000. That cost, opponents said, is unreasonable in a time when budgets are tight, and the economy is unsure.

Opponents also were wary of how the comprehensive plan process, specifically the zoning aspect, would change-the town they have grown up in and love.

"I've lived here since 1966 and I kind of like it the way it is," said Madeline Acker. "It's a great town let's leave it alone."

"It seems like the state just wants more control," said Jeannette Hughes.

"We paid for our property, and now we have to pay to let the government tell us what to do with it."

Small said that the process of creating a comprehensive plan requires an open forum of residents and taxpayers, and that the completed plan should represent the interests of the townspeople.

"We can be as strict as we want to be or as loosfr as-we want to be," said proponent Betty Ellis, a member of the task force. She said the comprehensive plan would help the town if it ever got into a legal argument regarding its ordinances.

Ellis also said that the plan gives town officials a better idea of who the townspeople are, and what their hopes for the town may be for the future.

Mary Downs, a member of the task force and planning board, said that the town is only growing 1 percent a year or about six people. She said that the town must consider the additional ost of implementing a land use ordinance, as well, on top of the comprehensive planning costs.

Planning board member Walt Emmons said that he has no problems with the town wanting to plan for its future, but when the title "Comprehensive Plan" is attached so are strings from the state.

Richard Varnum agreed with Emmons, saying that the plan itself is a good idea, as long as the state is not involved. "We want order and straight-forward answers, without pulling in state control. Damit, we don't like the hoops you have to go through," he said. "I'm sure the community is not convinced this is all for the good."

Small said that the board of selectmen will decide at a future selectmen's meeting whether an article to fund the comprehensive plan process goes on the town warrant in August. There was no vote taken at Monday's meeting. The next board of selectmen's meeting is Monday, June 30, at 7 p.m. in the Harland Ladd building.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.