People walk along the trail at Royal River Park in Yarmouth. A goal of the town’s comprehensive plan update is to “protect the natural environment in our community.” Falmouth’s new update also calls for preservation of open spaces. File photo / Portland Press Herald

Falmouth and Yarmouth have adopted updated comprehensive plans that seek to strike a balance between fostering future development and preservation of natural and open spaces.

The updates to comprehensive plans, guiding documents that outline how the towns will address land use as well as other policy areas, are state mandated. It took both Falmouth and Yarmouth over a year to develop the updates, not including community visioning work that happened before the formal update process.

The Yarmouth Town Council unanimously voted to adopt their new plan this month, and the Falmouth council unanimously adopted theirs in May.

Balancing growth and preservation was a main focus of residents’ input on the plans, both of which acknowledge that housing prices in Yarmouth and Falmouth have surged, a trend that’s seen statewide.

Yarmouth Town Councilor David Craig also thinks it will be a focus of how his town’s plan is put into action.

“That’s the challenge, that’s the balancing act we’re going to have going forward when implementing the comprehensive plan,” Craig said.


“Housing and growth have been the most debated issues for the past three comprehensive plans,” said former Falmouth Town Councilor Amy Kuhn, who was in office during the update process.

Yarmouth has already received confirmation from the state that their plan aligns with Maine’s Growth Management Act. Falmouth has submitted its plan for state review.

Falmouth’s prior comprehensive plan was released in 2013 and Yarmouth’s dates back to 2010.

For the first time, both town’s comprehensive plans include climate action plans, which outline how the towns will address climate change and environmental resiliency.

Here’s a closer look at what’s in each document.



Adam Causey, the long-range planning director for Falmouth, told the Northern Forecaster that growth and development and environmental resilience were themes that the municipality and residents spent significant energy thinking about – though growth and development really dominated.

The comprehensive plan is guided by six “pillars” and the policies and recommended actions are split into 13 topic areas, which include sustainability, transportation, housing and marine resources. Examples of specific action items in those topic areas include probing additional energy standards beyond what’s strictly mandated by the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, and establishing “complete streets” design guidelines to promote better safety in village centers and areas where there’s pedestrian or bike traffic.

The plan is built out of the town’s “Vision and Values” process, which kicked off in 2020 and culminated in a March 2022 report, and was an endeavor to get community input around the direction that Falmouth residents hope to see the town move in.

Differing views around housing come across in the breakdown of the first community survey that was conducted during the Vision and Values process.

When asked how important it is to them for the town to expand affordable housing, 34.1% said that it is “not important,” 35.1% said they were “neutral” and 30.8% said it was “important.” A question about offering different types of housing in Falmouth also generated a fairly even spread of responses.

By contrast, residents were largely in agreement when it came to environmental and landscape topics, like the need to preserve Falmouth’s rural feel.


The comprehensive plan directly acknowledges these differing views. “Falmouth residents have varying opinions on issues of growth and housing development … The town has struggled to find an acceptable balance between development and rural preservation,” it says.

Lee Hanchett, a resident who spoke consistently during the comprehensive plan update process, believes that the Vision and Values final report and the comprehensive plan overemphasize creating more housing and development, when that’s not what a majority of residents in Falmouth want. He pointed to the successful passage of a referendum last fall to restrict building heights in the town center as evidence that a majority of people feel the way he does.

The new comprehensive plan seeks to harmonize conflicting views around housing by both promoting development within designated growth areas but also expressly calling for the preservation of the existing rural character of the town.

The topic area “housing” identifies “encouraging a variety of housing types and increased density in designated growth areas” as one of its core policies. Action items within this topic area include, for example, establishing guidance around creating accessory dwelling units to support homeowners in constructing them and to “revise zoning to allow residential development in certain commercial districts, such as the Business and Professional Zone along Route 1.”

“There was a lot of discussion (during) Vision and Values about more diverse housing choices,” said Causey, “and we carried that thread (to the comprehensive plan).”

Meanwhile, in the section titled “future land use,” the comprehensive plan suggests policies like reviewing zoning standards to make sure new buildings minimize impact on existing residential neighborhoods.


The future land use section also details the town’s intention to concentrate growth in and around Falmouth’s existing commercial corridors along Route 1 and Route 100.

In this new plan, those growth areas are smaller compared to the document released in 2013.

However, that doesn’t mean the non-designated growth areas can’t or won’t see development, Causey said. A project proposed for Marshall Drive is not in the designated growth area.


Yarmouth’s comprehensive outlines four goals: “Strengthen our inclusive, welcoming and connected community; create, expand and protect housing options throughout Yarmouth; enliven Yarmouth’s economic centers through increased amenities, jobs and local business opportunities; and protect the natural environment in our community.”

Before starting the update process in earnest, Yarmouth held “Imagine Yarmouth” sessions in 2022 to identify community values and craft a vision statement.


During that process, a survey that generated over 100 responses found that 51% of respondents said Yarmouth should grow and change incrementally, 30% said it should stay as it is, and 14% said the town should be open for significant growth and change.

Town Councilor Craig emphasized that the town’s recent work on affordable housing, the Climate Action Plan and the comprehensive plan were all done in coordination.

“That, to me, is the most important thing for people to realize if they haven’t been following (the process) closely,” he said. “Because now we can implement solutions that address multiple things at once.”

On housing, for example, the comprehensive plan includes action items like reducing the minimum lot size in the growth area (which encompasses Main Street, Route 1 and Route 295), creating an “affordable housing strategy that includes developing new deed-restricted affordable housing based on a production goal” and designating municipal funds to be set aside for housing initiatives.

When it comes to public discourse about the plan update, one of the “major items (of feedback) was the commitment to balancing growth and development with open space and natural resource protections,” according to Erin Zwirko, Yarmouth’s planning and development director, who spoke about the comprehensive plan during a June 6 Town Council meeting.

“In particular, we had a lot of conversation around the growth area designation for the Cousins River Marsh area. And the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee did agree with removing those areas from the growth area and putting them into a limited growth area,” she said.

Otherwise, according to Craig, the designated growth areas have not changed all that much since the last comprehensive plan.

When it comes to the fourth goal, which deals with environmental preservation, Craig highlighted the goal of permanently conserving 30% of land area by 2050, which is consistent with the state’s goal.

“I think that’s a key one. We’re a small town. We’ve protected quite a bit of land, but we can do more,” he said.

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