News Feature

Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 11, 2017
Selectmen to update comp plan

by Rich Hewitt

Selectmen on May 1 approved 5-0 a plan to develop a new comprehensive plan for the town.

The new plan will be based on the existing plan that voters approved over a decade ago but was ultimately rejected by the state. According to Selectman Evelyn Duncan, Bob Gerber, who prepared the town’s successful appeal of the preliminary flood plain insurance maps in 2015, has submitted a proposal offering to prepare a comprehensive plan that would meet state approval for a fee of $8,500. With other incidental costs, including printing, the total cost would be about $10,000, Duncan said.

Conditions have changed since the state rejected the town-approved plan, Duncan said. The State Planning Office, which had set the standards for local comprehensive plans and had rejected the town plan, was abolished.

“The new group has eased restrictions,’’ she said, “so it might be possible to do this. We already have a plan; it just needs to be updated. Some of the sections are very good.’’

Gerber, who summers on Isle au Haut, already has provided a 10-page questionnaire which Duncan and Town Manager Kathleen Billings have filled in. Pending selectmen approval, he had proposed a series of meetings with different groups in the town throughout the summer. The plan would be completed by October.

Duncan noted that the town has operated without a state-approved comprehensive plan but stressed that most federal grant programs now require that towns have an approved plan.

“It’s gotten to the point where in order to apply for grant money, you have to have a comprehensive plan,’’ she said. “If we’re going to be proactive and do some things with our infrastructure, we’re going to need grant funds.”

The price tag of $10,000 is a bargain since most professionally done plans can cost $30,000 or more, Billings said.

Selectmen supported the idea but were concerned about how to pay for it. Billings said they might be able to tap accounts to piecemeal funds but questioned whether those funds would total $10,000. Selectmen would need voter approval to draw that much from surplus. Billings will review town budget accounts and report back.