Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 14, 2023
Deer Isle shares comprehensive plan public opinion survey results
Data from Deer Isle’s comprehensive plan survey captures public opinion about the town’s services and facilities.
An essential element of the comprehensive planning process is gathering data from residents about their awareness, attitudes and aspirations for the town of Deer Isle, according to a press release. Citizen opinions are used as a basis for setting long-range goals, intermediate objectives and actionable strategies to implement the plan.
The town of Deer Isle has released the preliminary results of its comprehensive plan public opinion survey. As of September 6, 370 residents had responded to the survey. The average age of the respondents was 62, compared with a census median age of 52.4 for the town. Seventy percent were year-round Deer Isle residents. Almost 60 percent of the respondents held full- or part-time employment or were self-employed; less than 38 percent were retirees.
Asked to identify the things they value most about Deer Isle, large numbers of respondents cited the sense of community, small town rural atmosphere and natural beauty of the town. Issues of concern included affordable housing, the schools, development and climate change.
The survey asked a range of questions about the quality of town services and future development and town investments. Large majorities of respondents felt that the town clerk and treasurer service and fire protection were good or excellent. Twenty-five percent or fewer felt the same about road maintenance, school facilities and education.
Large majorities (greater than 60 percent) of the respondents were in favor of restricting the areas in town where gravel pits/quarries, manufacturing, solar farms, mobile home parks, campgrounds, aquaculture, multi-unit housing, commercial retail trade and services and inns and hotels could be located. Deer Isle currently has no zoning, other than shoreland zoning.
Similarly large majorities favored more town involvement in protecting aquifers for drinking water, coastal land and working waterfronts. Housing affordability was identified as the aspect of community life that most required improvement or attention right away.
More than half of the respondents said they would be willing to pay higher taxes for investments in education (64 percent), road maintenance (56 percent), school facilities (52 percent), fire protection (51 percent) and the transfer station and recycling (50 percent). Pluralities supported investing tax dollars in workforce housing, senior or assisted living housing and affordable housing, but substantial minorities would do so only if grants or subsidies reduced costs.
Almost 83 percent of the respondents supported merging the Deer Isle and Stonington Fire Departments.
The question of what other concerns or observations the survey recipient wished to share with the Comprehensive Plan Committee generated numerous and varied responses, according to the release. Many people asked for improved recycling and the return of the “Take it or leave it” room at the transfer station. Others complained about the condition of the roads and dangerous driving habits. Better relations between year-round and seasonal residents were sought. Some residents complained about the effects of too much development; others opposed limits on their freedom to use their properties as they saw fit.
The release notes that the Town and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee are grateful to all who responded to the survey and urge everyone to continue to let their views be known as the plan progresses.
Readers are encouraged to visit townofdeerisle.org/futures for additional survey results and comprehensive plan news.