In anticipation of phase 3 of Freeport’s Downtown Visioning, the Freeport Sustainability Advisory Board hosted an evening to highlight smart growth strategies and how they can be applied in Freeport. Guest speakers were Kristina Egan, executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments and Logan Capone, an urban planner with the Principle Group.

Smart growth is an overall approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods and robust community engagement to achieve sustainable communities.

Mixing land use is one of the core principles of smart growth. This means building homes, offices, schools, parks, shops, restaurants and other types of development near one another – on the same block or even within the same building. Mixing land use makes it possible for people to live closer to where they work or shop, reducing reliance on vehicles.

Capone believes Freeport is well-positioned to develop sustainably so long as conscious efforts are made to manage growth in a thoughtful way. “Recently, the Freeport Town Council approved zoning changes to allow mixed-use development in several zoning districts near the downtown area,” she said.

Downtown Freeport is experiencing the decline of national retail brands, which will need to be replaced by local stores to maintain the vibrancy of the downtown. “More people and more local businesses are needed downtown … growth is already coming our way as a result of the pandemic,” Egan said.

With more people moving into town and home prices increasing, it is paramount that mixed housing types and affordable housing is championed in Freeport. According to the Maine State Housing Authority, 18% of Freeport’s renters and 14% of homeowners are cost-burdened today. The key to successful mixed land use is “to provide a mix of everything: housing types, jobs, income … when you have that you create energy and you create vibrancy … we need to provide affordable housing to ensure that workers such as teachers, firefighters, restaurant workers and older empty-nesters can continue to live and work in our town, and we should make it easier for developers to build residential units downtown,” Egan said.


Compact design, the concept of being efficient with existing infrastructure and previously developed land, is equally important to achieving sustainable development. Building within an established neighborhood can attract more people to the jobs, homes and businesses already there while making the most of public investments in infrastructure such as water, sewer lines, roads and emergency services.

“Infrastructure is really expensive to build and really expensive to maintain,” Egan said. “The more you sprawl outwards, the more you have to spend on delivering services as a municipality. Conversely, the more you concentrate the area in which you deliver services, the more cost-effective that is for taxpayers.”

The more compact the development is, the easier it becomes to preserve natural areas – another principle of Smart Growth.  “If you direct growth to downtown areas, it gives you the ability and flexibility to preserve open spaces,” Egan said.

High-quality public transportation, safe, accessible, and convenient walking, biking infrastructure, and well-maintained roads and sidewalks help communities attract people, compete on a global scale, and improve the day-to-day life of their residents for people of all ages and abilities. “We can connect downtown with other parts of town with walking and biking routes,” said Egan, “and we can share the street space more equitably with pedestrians and cyclists.”

Smarth Growth is an effective response to addressing climate change. Downtown Freeport has been identified by GPCOG as an area with great potential to deliver housing opportunities and accommodate a growing population without exacerbating the adverse effects of climate change. Urban centers are known to yield the lowest per capita emissions. Suburbs, on the other hand, are the “least green,” with residents commuting and living in single-family homes.

Freeport residents will have another opportunity to participate in the visioning of Freeport’s downtown from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at Town Hall. For more, see

Valy Steverlynck is the co-chairperson of the Freeport Sustainability Advisory Board and a member of the RSU 5 Sustainability Committee.

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