Turner Comprehensive Plan Committee Chairman Mike Gotto, standing at left, speaks to residents at a special town meeting Monday night. Emily Bader/Sun Journal

TURNER – Residents defeated a motion to approve a new comprehensive plan by a vote of 17-16 at a special town meeting Monday night.

Without approval for the plan, another article asking for $10,000 for an Ordinance Review Fund for “professional services associated with the drafting of ordinance amendments intended to achieve consistency with the town’s Comprehensive Plan” did not go to a vote.

Amendments to any town ordinances, such as zoning, would have to be approved by residents at a special town meeting.

The plan was approved by the state as complete and consistent with the Growth Management Act.

The Select Board weighed the next steps but did not come to anything definitive.

Town Manager Kurt Schaub said selectmen will want to hear from the Comprehensive Plan Committee before anything is decided.


“I think the committee, if they had to go back to square one, you’d have to find a new committee,” Schaub said.

Residents who spoke against the plan expressed concern that the “vision for Turner,” which included a proposal to expand outdoor recreation in Androscoggin Riverlands Park, was contradictory because it wanted to protect riverfront land while also developing it.

“You’ve got to protect the resource, you don’t zone it for recreation,” John Maloney said.

“I think this town is going to be shortsighted to mess up one of the best resources in central Maine,” he said.

Another resident pointed to recreational opportunities she said already exist along the Androscoggin and Nezinscot rivers.

“There was a reason why we’re a little more restrictive,” Susan Shaw said. “Because once it’s opened up we won’t have control over it.”


At least one resident spoke in favor of the plan.

Mason Brown co-owns Blue Heron Farm and Retreat on Fish Street with her wife, Christina Bonda-Riva, and without updated zoning ordinances that allow for greater development opportunities, they cannot monetize the shoreland areas of their property.

“What we can’t do is collect money if someone wants to stay there,” Brown said. “We bring a lot of business to this town. We try to keep the money in the town but by voting no on this,” it will deny the small business a source of income.

“We’re not some big high-rise place, we’re a farm on Fish Street that wants to be legal, wants to be a bed and breakfast,” Brown said. “By allowing these changes, you’re allowing a small business like myself to be in business.”

Paul Cutter said the changes proposed in the plan would open the floodgates to new development.

“My biggest fear is that this vote tonight is going to ease restrictions on the riverfront … and the door creaks open for new development,” he said. “Condos and houses along the riverfront (are) just step one.”

An 11-member committee began working on the plan in January 2018 and a vote to approve it last year was delayed due to the pandemic.

The nearly 200-page document, the first update since 2006, laid out a 10-year blueprint for how to tackle the most pressing priorities and goals identified by residents in a series of surveys and public input sessions.

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