As Durham works on an updated Comprehensive Plan, the Comprehensive Planning Committee is giving residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and goals for growth and development in the town over the next 20 years.
A community forum will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 20, at the Durham Community School to explore growth management options for Durham. Options currently under discussion include:
- Directing and facilitating construction of a majority of new homes onto smaller lots in the current Southwest Bend Growth District to preserve rural character in the rest of Durham;
- Allowing new homes to spread across the community on larger lots while improving regulations to buffer development from public views and those of neighbors; or,
- Rolling back land use regulations to allow smaller lots everywhere in town as long as State minimum environmental standards are met.
“The community forum will be an important opportunity for citizens to have a say in how this town develops over the next 20 years,” said Comprehensive Plan Committee Chairman and Selectman Kevin Nadeau.
Between 2000 and 2015, more than 400 new homes were built in Durham, a rural community of 4,000 people that is strategically located between the major employment centers of Lewiston-Auburn, Bath-Brunswick and the Greater Portland area. During a public participation process conducted over the past two years to collect citizen input on updating the town’s Comprehensive Plan, residents indicated that preserving rural character is an important goal.
Durham recently hired a part-time land use planner to help the Committee prepare the draft update of the town’s comprehensive plan and to draft ordinance changes to implement the town’s goals for growth management.
“We want to explore how the town can successfully accommodate another 400 units of housing over the next 20 years, while preserving community character and protecting natural resources,” Town Planner George Thebarge said.
One of the goals of the Comprehensive Plan Committee is to make sure the effort to update the Comprehensive Plan meets the requirements of the Maine Growth Management Act, which requires towns doing comprehensive planning and land use regulation to provide for broad public participation in the update process. Maine law also requires towns to inventory and analyze data on population, housing, agriculture, forestry, natural resources and water quality, among other community factors, and to set community goals for managing growth and development. Durham has the authority to adopt a general plan that provides direction for land use policies and capital investment programs based on past development trends and anticipated future challenges.
Beyond the importance of making sure that Durham’s Comprehensive Plan is consistent with State law to ensure enforceability of its Growth Management Program, the Comprehensive Plan update provides an opportunity for residents to influence the future of their community.
“It’s easy to ignore land use regulations until you want to sell some land or build a home, or a new subdivision is being planned across the street in the field or woods that you have always enjoyed as open space,” Thebarge said. “The Comprehensive Plan establishes the policy framework for how such development activities will be regulated.”
For more information about the Community Forum, contact Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser at (207) 353-2561, ext. 10, or email@example.com.