Development study unveiled

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NEW GLOUCESTER – The final draft of a business and economic development study for New Gloucester includes 21 recommendations to guide the town’s future planning efforts.

Consultants RKG Associates of Durham, N.H., with David E. Versel of Biddeford and Wilbur Smith Associates of Portland, aired a 90-page draft plan to two dozen residents and community leaders on Thursday.

“This is conceptual, a skeleton,” said Lawrence Zuckerman, a zoning committee and study group member. “We can choose it not to be another study that gathers dust and stays on a shelf,” he said.

More volunteers are needed to help, town leaders say.

The study cost of $45,000 was defrayed with Tax Increment Financing funds generated from taxes paid to New Gloucester by Pineland Farms, a 3,000-acre complex that includes a working farm, business park and educational and recreational operations. The TIF is set up to pay for costly impacts on New Gloucester from Pineland’s development.

Since December, three public forums have brought input from residents, town leaders, business owners and Pineland.

This rural community has faced unprecedented economic and residential development growth over the past decade and a doubling of population since 1970 that now totals 5,000. The town lacks public water or public sewer and has no sidewalks or police department.

Recommendations include reconfiguring the town’s three village zones. This includes eliminating village zoning for White’s Corner; expanding the boundaries of Upper and Lower villages to include all properties within half of their central points. And, the plan will establish a new village zone in the Old Route 26 area.

Another recommendation includes allowing denser development in village zones with appropriate infrastructure with shared drinking water and wastewater facilities, for example.

Another recommendation states that all village subdivisions include pedestrian connections to historic village areas and provisions for future road connections to adjacent properties.

The plan calls for maintaining a proactive dialogue with Pineland by the town.

And, the town needs to continue to participate in the Shaker Village area conservation activities. The Shakers and many conservation partners are working to conserve the property and land from development.

The chief barrier to increasing the supply of affordable housing in New Gloucester is the escalating value of land, the study says. The consultants recommend that some municipal land be available for affordable housing. The town owns 340 acres on 35 parcels.

In order to bolster the town’s identity as a business location, a first response program for economic development needs to be initiated for prospective business owners.

Another recommendation includes mandating affordable housing as part of new residential developments.

A Pineland area traffic/transportation study is warranted since Pineland’s five years of operation is nearing full build out much sooner than expected, the study says.

The consultants recommend the town analyze and streamline planning and permitting ordinances and processes.

And lessening the impact of new development in highway corridors needs to be addressed, according to the study. By working with Maine Department of Transportation and Greater Portland Council of Governments access management plans could minimize curb cuts from future development.

A pedestrian network in and around village areas is suggested.

Key intersections in Upper Village are complicated and dangerous and need study and coordination with MDOT, the document states.

If all the recommendations are adopted, the potential cost ranges from $1.5 million to $3.9 million. Some projects require no funds.

Selectman Kevin Sullivan said, “This can change as time goes on. We can adapt this as needs change.”

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