Climate Action Plan Task Force Chair Pam Morgan presents Kennebunkport’s Climate Action Plan to a packed Select Board meeting on March 28. Eloise Goldsmith photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – “We are contemplating a Soviet Politburo style policy in a small town, which will not change the weather or the climate,” said resident Bob Domine.

That’s only a sampling of the strong feelings generated by Kennebunkport’s landmark Climate Action Plan, which was up for a vote at the March 28 Select Board meeting. An amended version of the plan was unanimously approved by the Select Board — but not without dissent.

The vote was a victory for those who want more town-led action around climate change and for the Climate Action Plan Task Force, which has worked on the plan for over 12 months. The plan includes a recommendation to create a dedicated committee in order “to make sure that all of the things that we have in the plan are addressed and are not put on the shelf,” according to Task Force Chair Pam Morgan.

The plan is a set of strategies for the town to achieve greater resilience to the climate emergency – for example, managing the impacts of saltwater intrusion on water sources and sewer and septic systems and encouraging the installation of EV chargers. The plan also better positions the town to receive state and federal grants.

The Climate Action Plan Task Force, a group of six residents and two Select Board representatives, received assistance from the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission during the process. The group also held public hearings, met with the business community, and put out a survey in order to get a sense of the community priorities.

Both the town’s Comprehensive Plan and a set of climate goals adopted by the Select Board in 2020 served as the foundation for the plan.


Community members have expressed a range of reactions to the plan. In a show of strong feelings on both sides, some 70 people attended the Select Board meeting, in person and on Zoom.

The work of coming up with the plan coincided with a series of extreme weather events that has left Kennebunkport and other coastal Maine

The Kennebunkport Fire Department responds to extreme flooding in Dock Square on Saturday, Jan. 13. Courtesy photo/Tammy Belanger

towns reeling – including a recent ice storm that caused multiple-day power outages for thousands in York County. Kennebunkport was also hit hard by two storms in January that brought $850,000 in public infrastructure damage, flooding to local businesses, and damage to Goose Rocks Beach.

The plan is a set of goals only, and is not binding. Any strategies that require town funding would need to go through the budget approval process and strategies that prompt ordinance revision would need to go through the Select Board – though at a recent meeting some Select Board members questioned whether the plan may go too far in the way of “requiring” action, as opposed to just suggesting it.

“Some of the time the word is ‘recommend,’ and other times it’s ‘require,’” said Select Board Member Sheila Matthews-Bull at a January Select Board meeting. “I don’t believe we’re in a position yet where we’re requiring things. We can suggest to people ‘this is the best way to do it, we think this is the way.’ But I don’t think we should be saying ‘we require you to do (something).’”

The version of the plan approved on March 28 included a shorter list of goals than the version originally drafted. It also removed the word “require.”


“After that (January meeting), the message to the Task Force was that we needed to simplify and remove mandates from the list of strategies that we had developed,” Morgan told the Select Board and the crowd at the March 28 meeting.

Even so, the issue came up again. Multiple members of the public were concerned that the plan is a set of recommendations for now, but could lead to requirements down the road.

Others, including two Kennebunkport business owners, urged the Select Board to vote yes on the plan.

“My shop on Dock Square has flooded three times in 2024. Extreme weather is real. We need to plan for a future that inspires families to choose to live here, and businesses to grow here. And I hope you will vote for this plan,” said Tanya Alsberg.

The final document includes 19 strategies (the earlier version had 26) broken out into nine categories, which are: creating resilient infrastructure; creating energy resiliency to safeguard critical services; ensuring community resilience and disaster preparedness for extreme weather; increasing sustainability and resilient development; protecting natural resources; building in a more energy efficient way to reduce emissions; and supporting electric vehicles and reducing car use.

The Task Force also added rough cost estimates to each of the strategies in order to give a sense of how much of an undertaking they would be. This was in response to comments Select Board members at the meeting in January. Select Board Chair Mike Weston said in January that he was ambivalent about voting for the plan and committing the town to goals if he wasn’t sure what their cost and impact would be.


In the end, the Select Board did approve the plan, but opted to remove one of the goals, a recommendation to “Consider hazard disclosure for property transactions.”

“We’re starting to get into property rights,” said Select Board Member Marybeth Gilbert in explaining her opposition to the item. She said that she personally felt this goal went too far in the way of imposing town oversight of private property transactions.

As far back as 2019, the Kennebunkport Select Board has been discussing climate change related actions, including joining the Community Resilience Partnership in 2022, which gave the town the ability to apply for state and federal grants, according to Mike Weston.

Kennebunkport has successfully done that since. The town was one of the first municipalities to receive funding from the Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund, a chunk of state money aimed at bolstering municipalities’ climate change defenses. The town has used the $2.85 million dollar grant to raise the Pier Road Causeway; the work is set to be completed this year.

“I am so pleased that the (Select Board) came together in the end to unanimously support the Climate Action Plan for Kennebunkport,” said Morgan. “The Task Force worked very hard to craft a set of strategies that everyone could agree to. Given the enormous climate impacts the town is facing, we needed to craft a plan that the town could get behind. With a plan now in place, hopefully Kennebunkport will ramp up its efforts to prepare for what is coming and to do its parts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Town Manager Laurie Smith’s budget for the coming fiscal year includes allocating $500,000 for climate resiliency projects – including earmarking the necessary local match for accessing state grants.


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