Auburn comprehensive plan work aimed at April draft

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AUBURN — It’s taken nearly three years, but an effort to rewrite the city’s core planning document is nearing the end.

“It’s very detailed, right down to the street level, and there are tons of maps and other pieces involved,” said Auburn Planning Director David Galbraith. “But it’s also a global document, in that it looks at the whole city and what could happen to it. So it’s a huge document.”

Volunteers and members of the Auburn Comprehensive Plan Committee are writing drafts of the final document now. It includes policy recommendations and goals for transportation planning, economic development, housing and community services and dozens of other aspects of the city.

“It’s really a guide for controlled growth,” Galbraith said. “When you take a project to the City Council, you want to be able to say how it fits in with the city’s view of itself. You don’t want to do long-range planning by the seat of your pants.”

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The city’s last plan was written in 1995 and designed to guide planning and development decisions through 2005. It looked at all aspects of life in the city, including population, transportation trends, possible commercial development and public finances.

Work on the current plan began in July 2007 with a group of 40 volunteers. That number is down to 20 today.

“But that’s quite a lot for a process like this,” he said. Members have met at least twice each month to discuss aspects of city zoning, planning and polices.

“Nobody can say they haven’t had an opportunity to speak,” said Richard Whiting, chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Committee. “It’s been a long process, with a lot of meetings and reading and nitpicking and arguing. But it’s been very good, too.”

Galbraith said the group plans a few more meetings in March and April, but they are tentatively scheduled to present a draft to city councilors and the Planning Board at an April 29 workshop.

The plan could come to councilors for approval in May and would then go to the State Planning Office for review and approval.

The new plan includes sections recommending new bicycle and pedestrian development as well as planning for passenger rail service. Whiting said drafts of the plan are permissive where agricultural uses are concerned.

“We’ve tried to be aware of the challenges that farmers and people in agriculture have and continue to allow them to operate,” Whiting said. Drafts also come down on the side of vigilant watershed protection around Lake Auburn.

“It’s a wonderful asset for the city, and we need to continue to do what we can to preserve it,” he said.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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