As I listened to the public comments expressed at the April 10 Standish Town Council meeting regarding the proposed ordinance change to allow retail drive-thrus in the Standish Corner District, two themes seemed to dominate the discussion:

1. Mr. Richard Higgins was a very well-liked and respected man in this community. Several people came out to support him even though he has been gone now for many years. That speaks volumes about the man and his family.

2. Zoning ordinances benefit all if they enable the comprehensive plan to be realized and are applied consistently.

There is no question; Standish town councilors have a difficult job before them. They are responsible for adopting ordinance language that allows for responsible growth for the entire community. At the same time, councilors care about individual residents. How might they address these seemingly conflicting concerns?

Let me offer two suggestions:

1. Keep zoning conversations neutral. In order to have an objective discussion about the merits of a specific zoning concept, an individual property owner’s personal circumstances cannot factor into the conversation. This is hard to hear. As human beings, we want to help our neighbors. However, zoning decisions must be based on the anticipated consequences that will occur and not on emotion. Zoning ordinances protect the assets of the entire community and therefore must be uniformly applied to all or the integrity – the effectiveness – of the ordinance, is lost.

2. Market the town. Standish was selected as the GrowSmart Maine Model Town for a reason! Town officials should be publicizing all that Standish has to offer to the rest of the state and beyond. Standish is a great town. As citizens, we enjoy Sebago Lake, Watchic Lake and the Saco River, a scenic byway, a very low tax rate, historical treasures, including the Old Red Church, the Marrett House and the Steep Falls Library, apple orchards, the Mountain Division Trail and three public parks. If you drive slowly through the village center, you can’t help but be surprised by the number and variety of businesses located here. This is a town with tremendous potential! Our recently drafted ordinances for the Standish Corner District are developer friendly: they are clear, concise, and straightforward. They significantly reduce the bureaucratic red tape thereby making projects more affordable. Furthermore, there are lots of open spaces that can be developed right in the heart of the community. In the FY 2009-2010 budget, the Economic Development Committee had a budget of $10,000, some of which was earmarked for a professional marketing campaign. Let’s use it!

As the zoning conversations continue, let’s be mindful that objectivity is vital for prudent planning. At the same time, let’s encourage and support our councilors’ efforts to help all property owners by effectively promoting the promise of Standish.

Carolyn Biegel


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