SCARBOROUGH — Scarborough residents had their say Tuesday about traffic, the need to protect open space and the town’s villages at the final public forum on the town’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan.

Town Planner Jay Chace said Maine state law requires communities to have a comprehensive plan if they want to have zoning laws. The plan, Chace said, serves as a blueprint for managing growth and development in a community. “It’s just a good policy document to have when making future decisions,” he said.

State law requires the town to update its plan every 12 years. Chace said the last update was in 2006, and officials produced a draft of a new plan in 2018, but negative feedback from the public during a series of forums sent them back to the drawing board.

Chace said to his knowledge, Scarborough is not facing penalties for being late in updating its plan.

Residents have asked for a few updates to the plan before it goes to the town council for approval in January, including a better description of the planned pace of growth, not just locations. Chace said residents also asked for more specific descriptions of villages. The current draft doesn’t take the differences between various villages into account, such as Higgins Beach, which is nearly fully built up, and Eight Corners, which has room for more growth.

At a meeting Tuesday, town officials discussed the plan in broader, more general terms, which set the new plan apart from the last comprehensive plan, approved in 2006. Town Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina, who served as the council’s liaison to the committee, said back then, the town was dealing with ordinances that were badly in need of updating. In 2020 that’s no longer the case.

“We deliberately made this comprehensive plan a little more broad-based,” she said.

The plan has five main topics, which the committee called “visions”: protecting marshes and local natural resources; efficient delivery of community services and infrastructure; supporting the diversity and character of existing neighborhoods; supporting a variety of businesses and supporting efficient transportation measures to reduce traffic.

Officials took questions and comments from the public, many of whom did not identify themselves.

One resident said she was concerned about whether the plan will allow high-density housing in the future, and whether the plan will support for local community centers. However, she thinks the public in general will list traffic as a priority.

“Traffic is always going to be one of them,” she said.

One caller noted that she lived in one of the areas that the plan designates as a growth area, and that the plan shows some dead-end streets being connected in the future. That, she said, would mean a connection going right through her house.

“I’m concerned about that personally,” she said.

Planning Director Jay Chace, in response, said the plan is not about setting up projects that specific, and reassured the caller that the plan is more of a guide, and not about deciding whose house will go where.

“It’s really about future development and growth,” Chace said.

Caterina agreed, saying, “These diagrams are not concrete plans. They’re visionary.”

Andrew Mackie, executive director of the Scarborough Land Trust, said one thing the trust would like to see is a goal in the plan for everyone to be able to live within a 10-minute walk of a trail, park or similar open space.

“We really think that these spaces are vital to the quality of life of all of the residents and to the economic vitality of the community,” he said.

Andrew McCuster, who said he has lived in town for 20 years, spoke to the need to monitor the appearance of new buildings. He noted buildings such as a new housing development on Eastern Road looked out of place.

“It just could use some architecture,” he said. “Those did not fit the character of that place.”

Library Director Nancy Crowell criticized the plan for not addressing the need to develop local culture or notable cultural figures who have a connection to Scarborough.

“I find it ironic that we don’t mention Winslow Homer anywhere,” Crowell said, referring to the 19th-century American landscape painter who moved to Prout’s Neck in Scarborough in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1910.

The Dec. 1 forum was the last of three the town has held to gauge public comment and interest. Chace said the committee plans to finalize its recommendations to the town council in mid-January 2021. Then, he said, the council will hold meetings and public hearings before voting on whether to accept the new plan.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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