Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, January 2, 2020
Downtown issues drive discussion at Deer Isle forum
by Monique Labbe
Revitalization of the downtown area of Deer Isle was one of many topics of conversation during a forum regarding the town’s future led by Town Manager Jim Fisher on December 18 at Chase Emerson Memorial Library.
The event was the third in a series Fisher started, in the summer of 2018, to talk about the future needs of the Deer Isle community. The idea has been to eventually come up with a comprehensive plan, as the one the town currently has was accepted by the residents at town meeting about 14 years ago, but not approved by the state.
There are many areas of focus that Fisher has addressed during the forum events, including a shortage of workforce housing, rising sea levels and how that impacts the shore line, increasing budgets within the school system, and a lack of tourism directly in town, among others.
Megan Dewey-Wood, one of two owners of 44 North Coffee located in the downtown area, said that one thing that is very problematic for bringing restaurants and other businesses into the village is the lack of sewer and water in that area. Dewey-Wood asked Fisher if there are any plans to address that issue and possibly add water and sewer lines there. Fisher said that while research is being done, there are no plans to add water and sewer in the near future.
“Some towns have done that but the cost of it goes to the beneficiaries [business owners] and not the taxpayers as a whole, which is the other option,” said Fisher.
“But that’s the issue, that it benefits everybody in town, not just the business people, because it brings people here,” said Dewey-Wood. “It’s something that we’ve talked about before.”
Dewey-Wood is one of the people on the committee tasked with working on research regarding the future of the Deer Isle economy. Several other groups exist to focus on other issues such as environment and climate change, infrastructure and others, to eventually combine into a more recent comprehensive plan.
“There is a lot of work being done and a lot more that needs to be done,” said Fisher. “We need people who are willing to work on this because it is the future of this town.”