The Gorham Town Council Tuesday ordered a complete update of the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Pictured, from left, are Virginia Wilder Cross, Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak, Chairperson Lee Pratt, Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors, Suzanne Phillips and Ronald Shepard. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Gorham took the first step Tuesday toward updating its six-year-old Comprehensive Plan and the Town Council scheduled a hearing on wildlife protection consideration in future land use.

In a 6-1 vote with Councilor Ben Hartwell opposed, the Town Council directed Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak to budget for the update of the plan, which establishes guidelines for future growth, and to develop a process for forming a committee and a timeline next year.

The town’s needs are different now than when the current Comprehensive Plan was approved in 2016 and it needs to head in a new direction, Council Chairperson Lee Pratt said.

“We need to look at all our zoning to establish a smart growth plan where businesses can offset residential growth while controlling the amount of residential growth,” Pratt said in an email to the American Journal on Wednesday.

Natural resources protection in future land-use codes and comprehensive plans will be discussed at a Jan. 17 workshop. That discussion comes in the wake of the recent rezoning of an area between South Street and Brackett Road from rural and suburban residential to urban expansion, which allows increased housing density. The Town Council approved the rezoning in October to conform with the existing Comprehensive Plan.

The rezoned area includes a major chunk of the state’s 3,600-acre Narragansett Game Sanctuary, home to a large deer herd where hunting is prohibited. The rezoning drew considerable disapproval from residents. A neighborhood petition drive gathered 160 names opposing the rezoning. Besides the impact on wildlife, opponents cited environmental concerns and the effect  on home wells that tap water from an aquifer.


Donna Cassidy of Day Road said Wednesday that she was encouraged by this week’s Town Council action.

“Residents have clearly articulated their concerns about the lack of attention to wildlife habitat and their desire to live in a town where those places are an integral part of the community,” Cassidy said.

In an Oct. 28 email to Friends of the Narragansett Game Sanctuary, Cassidy wrote that this week’s council agenda items “are responses to our work over the past few months. While we didn’t stop the rezoning, we did raise important issues that have moved the Town Council to act.”

However, Day Road resident Roger Brown says he wants “speedier” action than waiting for a Comprehensive Plan update. In an Oct. 24 email to Pratt, Brown recommended that the town contact Steve Walker of the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department for advice on protecting wildlife habitats. He also suggested the town map wildlife habitats with the Narragansett Game Sanctuary the “most urgent” because it is “under immediate threat of development due to the rezoning.”

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