Durham seeks planning pro to help relieve 'growing pains'

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DURHAM — Town officials want to hire a business or individual for planning services and to assist with implementation of a new Comprehensive Plan.

Town Administrator Ruth Glaeser said the position would be part time and resemble that of town planners in nearby municipalities.

This is the first time the town has sought a planning professional.

The contract employee or firm would be tasked with the planning, implementation, and coordination of community planning initiatives, working with the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Comprehensive Plan Committee and Ordinance Committee.

According to the request for proposals, some specific responsibilities would be reviewing, editing and drafting sections of the Comprehensive Plan and other planning documents; attending three municipal meetings a month coordinated by Glaeser or Code Enforcement Officer Bob Forrest, and assisting with project funding and grants in support of planning initiatives.

Once the revised Comprehensive Plan, which is redrafted every 10 years, is complete, the planning professional would help ensure the town’s land use ordinances mirror the plan.

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Kevin Nadeau, chairman of the Board of Selectmen and Comprehensive Plan Committee, said he came up with the idea to contract for services while talking to several town planners at the Maine Municipal Association convention last fall.

“We didn’t feel we had enough to work to go and hire a town planner,” Nadeau said.

Durham is a rural town of about 39 square miles that connects the greater Portland region with the Lewiston-Auburn Area. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it has a population that increased by nearly 14 percent between 2000 and 2010 to nearly 3,900 people.

During the first part of the Comprehensive Plan process, which began more than a year ago, the town used some contracted planning services from the Greater Portland Council of Governments, which Nadeau said was effective.

Now in the second phase of the process, he felt the town could use someone with a professional background in community planning to look toward future visions.

“It’s been a gap for several years in our town government,” Nadeau said. “We haven’t had a planner to support the planning board and it shows in some of our ordinances . . . that are somewhat difficult to navigate and conflict with one another.”

Glaeser said she anticipates work would begin for the planning professional this spring, if funds are approved at the annual town meeting April 7. The position would be contracted for the remainder of the calendar year.

According to Nadeau, the plan is to have the town vote on the Comprehensive Plan in April 2019.

If the town feels it needs more planning assistance, Glaeser said the administration would look to continue the services in 2019.

“We’re looking at what land use we have now and what needs to be changed,” Glaeser said, “as well as streamlining methods for the planning process.”

Proposals will be opened at noon Feb. 1, at the Durham Town Office.

To be deemed complete, proposals must include a detailed description of the time allotted for functions, along with possible additional expenses, including travel and materials, and a low-, middle- and high-cost range.

Glaeser said town staff will consider each proposal’s pay range and qualifications, adding she hopes to see applicants with previous planning experience in a “small, bedroom community.”

“We’re a growing community and there are growing pains,” Glaeser said. “This position would assist in adjusting to this growth.”

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