Downtown Brunswick The Forecaster / John Terhune

Brunswick plans to hire a consultant to help update the town’s 14-year-old Comprehensive Plan, a project that will require more work than officials initially anticipated.

The Town Council has set a budget of $50,000 for the consultant, who will take on the task Brunswick officials had aimed to complete by November 2020 before the pandemic slowed progress on the update.

“When the project started, the thought was that it would be a quick update to the 2008 plan,” said Matt Panfil, Brunswick’s director of planning and development. “As we dug deeper into the issues, we realized that it would be a significant update that would be broader in scope than the previous plan.”

Panfil

Maine law requires that municipalities draft comprehensive plans consistent with state guidelines every 12 years. Brunswick has chosen to go beyond state minimum requirements by addressing emerging issues, including broadband infrastructure and climate change, Panfil said.

The plan, which can be used to apply for state funding and to legally justify community policies and actions, also serves as a town mission statement, said District 5 Councilor Chris Watkinson, chairperson of the Comprehensive Plan Update Steering Committee.

“It’s essentially a statement of town goals,” Watkinson said. “Where do we want to be 10 years from now? What do we want our town to look like in every imaginable way?”

Work on the update began in August 2019. But after staffing shortages in Brunswick’s Department of Planning and Development drained the update team’s resources, steering committee members and Panfil agreed an outside consultant could expedite the process.

“With the departure of the town planner, I just don’t have enough time in the day to give (the update) the attention it needs,” said Panfil, referring to the still-unfilled vacancy left by Jared Woolston in November. Panfil added that towns commonly turn to consultants to help draft their plans.

A selection team made up of steering committee members will collect applications for the consultant role through Feb. 11 before presenting its recommendation to the Town Council in March, according to the release. The team estimates the update will take 12-18 months to complete once the Town Council hires the consultant.

“We know it’s been a lengthy process,” Panfil said. “We hope the public hasn’t lost interest. We’re depending on them in the future to help establish our vision and goals for the next decade.”

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