Connecting Communities: Planning in Southern Maine
A Series of Workshops and Visioning Meetings for the Region

The people of southern Maine have spoken emphatically-there will not be a resort casino in Sanford. With the dust settling from the casino question, the Southern Maine Regional Planning Commission (SMRPC) and many of our member communities have been asking the question of "now what?" Are there types of development and economic growth which can provide for meaningful employment and affordable housing without compromising the character we have to come enjoy? Do we have a common vision for this region? Are there strategies and ideas we might employ to reduce the tension and acrimony of some of our most recent land use debates? How do we get to that place?

The underlying reasons for casino backers to have wanted the project-job losses and high taxes-have not gone away. The things that casino opponents felt were already bad-traffic, not enough housing, sprawl-still exist. Though few dispute this fact, no coordinated strategy exists to address these and other problems. At this point in time, SMRPC feels very strongly that a regional vision is needed to guide future planning and economic development activity in Southern Maine.

A great deal of regional information has been generated as a result of the casino question and nearly every town in the region is either updating or has recently completed a Comprehensive Plan. In addition, there has been an increased sense of the need to work regionally on the variety of issues which concern southern Maine. In fact, a regional plan for this area has not been developed since 1992. As the Council of Governments for 39 communities in this region, SMRPC believes the time is appropriate to once again lay out a vision and plan for the region.

The Maine State Planning Office has permitted SMRPC to begin this process by shifting some of the grant funding we were awarded to address casino impacts. We propose to undertake a series of topic-based forums at locations throughout the region beginning in February 2004. These sessions will engage many different constituencies in our region and will provide an education on relevant issues and also produce a series of vision statements on a variety of planning topics including Growth Management, Public Services and Transportation. Our hope is that this exercise will lay the groundwork for updating the Regional Plan.


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