Freeport’s Downtown Vision Plan hit a major milestone Tuesday evening when the Town Council heard pitches for a dozen high-priority projects that could transform everything from Freeport’s streetscapes to its permitting policies to its climate goals.

Finalized last May as a response to declining brick-and-mortar retail sales, the 137-page Downtown Vision Plan aims to re-center Freeport’s economy around a vibrant, walkable New England village packed with arts, culture and other experiences.

Since then, a small army of volunteers and town officials have begun work on some low-cost, low-effort projects, including decorating the town with parklets, according to Town Council Chairperson Dan Piltch, who also sits on the Downtown Vision Taskforce. But Tuesday’s meeting, intended to gauge the council’s interest and willingness to spend on a slate of larger projects, represented the start of a new, more ambitious phase of the plan.

Though the council did not allocate funds for specific projects, they signaled their approval for many elements that could be baked into the 2024 town budget in the coming months.

Transform Mallett Drive and Lower Main Street

Summary: The most ambitious projects presented Tuesday evening would reimagine two highly trafficked Freeport streets into pedestrian-friendly connections to Freeport’s downtown. Mallett Drive would be repaved and relandscaped as a “complete street” with a focus on bicycle and pedestrian accessibility. Multi-use paths would run from the Mallett Drive Bridge to Main Street and from Lower Main Street to a new Concord Brook Trail and Desert Road.

Cost: The Mallett Drive project could cost $1.55 million, though Town Engineer Adam Bliss said Freeport would be competitive for grants that could cover significant pieces of that total. In the long term, full complete streets construction could cost an estimated $10 million, according to the project charter.


Feedback: Some councilors were wary of the high price tag of some elements of the street transformation projects, but Piltch pushed them to be bold.

“My only concern with this one is going too small,” he said. “I think if we repave Mallett Drive, plant a couple of trees, make a wider shoulder and call it good, we’ve missed a huge opportunity. I want to maintain this as a big, ambitious project.”

Streamline permitting processes and update zoning rules

Summary: Developers saw Freeport as a difficult partner for years until the town recently began turning around this reputation, according to Piltch. This pair of projects would make life easier for groups looking to build much-needed housing and mixed-use space through steps like clarifying the sometimes-vague submission requirements of the town’s Design Review Ordinance.

Cost: None, other than $40,000 the town has already allocated for ordinance review.

Feedback: While “back-room” work may not draw as much attention as a new bike path or performance space, councilors and planning department staff praised these proposals as major steps on Freeport’s longer Downtown Vision journey.

“Quite frankly, these are the complaints I hear about,” Councilor Darrel Fournier said of Freeport’s notoriously tricky development requirements. “Let’s streamline it, let’s learn from our mistakes and move forward.”


Develop accessibility trail maps

Summary: While Freeport offers residents and visitors many public trails, the town currently does not provide information about which spaces are easily accessible for young children, older adults and those with disabilities, said Sally Walsh of the Freeport Accessibility Task Force. This project would involve evaluating and grading each public trail in town and creating electronic and printed brochures that highlight universally accessible areas.

Cost: $4,000.

Feedback: Councilors were quick to give their thumbs up for the project, noting its low cost.

Install public electric vehicle charging stations and consider setting EV charging station requirements for developments

Summary: This pair of EV projects could help Freeport meet its climate goals while also attracting tourists confronted with a dearth of charging infrastructure in the area, according to proponents.

The first proposal would involve installing up to six charging stations on town properties like Town Hall, the library and the train station. The town would determine whether to charge users for plugging into the stations.

The second proposal suggests researching incentives or requirements that would push private developers to install EV charging stations at their properties.


Cost: Buying and installing six charging stations would cost an estimated $210,000, though Piltch said the town would aim to fund up to three-quarters of that amount through grants.

Feedback: Some councilors said they would prefer to let the market dictate whether developers include EV charging stations rather than imposing a mandate or offering incentives. The high sticker price of the municipal charging stations left some members wary, but others were enthusiastic about the project.

“We have an electric car, and when we go on a trip that’s more than a couple hundred miles, it’s agony in our house to figure out where we’re going to stop,” Councilor Ed Bradley said. “We could be a real magnet for travel through the state of Maine if we could provide assurance of electricity for people visiting the state.”

More to come

Other proposed projects included the development of a public transportation system, the reevaluation of Freeport’s parking ordinances and the construction of a wooden performance stage at Memorial Park and more.

The council adjourned after well over four-and-a-half hours, weary but, according to Piltch, satisfied with their progress on a project that will only get more complicated.

“I feel like we’re in the adolescent stage,” Piltch said. “We’ve done the initial projects, and now we’re growing up and taking on bigger projects. Then on the horizon are the really ambitious, visionary projects.”

For information on the full list of projects discussed Tuesday, visit

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