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Town Council adopts new comprehensive plan

The Town Council unanimously approved a new comprehensive plan for Cape Elizabeth on Oct. 10.

The document will serve as a guide for development for the next 10-12 years.

The 45-minute discussion among councilors may have been the last formal words on the plan before its adoption, but Councilor Mary Ann Lynch said the council's action is really a beginning. "I think really it is the beginning of a dialogue, because still have the Planning Board, and then specific changes to the Zoning Ordinance do come back to the council," she said. "There's already been a dialogue for two years .. I don't think any vote tonight is necessarily the end of it," Lynch said.

Lynch and Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta represented the council on a citizen committee which began working on this, the most recent update to the comprehensive plan, in 2005. The committee conducted a townwide telephone survey, held three public forums and met 29 times before submitting a draft to the council this summer.

Following a public hearing Sept. 10, and a workshop session Sept. 17, final revisions were made to the plan to reflect public comments and to re-emphasize the plan's commitment to preserving Cape Elizabeth's rural character.

The definition of 'rural character', however, and what rural character looks like, continued to concern councilors right up to the final vote Oct. 10.

"A lot of people are concerned about the proposal to increase density," said Councilor Sara Lennon, referring to the plan for targeted growth areas bounded by Spruwink Avenue, and Wells and Sawyer roads.

While the growth area represents approximately 7 percent of the town, most councilors concurred that encouraging more compact, cluster development and preserving large areas of open space was the most effective way to preserve rural character. Concentrating development in smaller areas also saves tax dollars by allowing more efficient delivery of services, said Council Chairman Paul McKenney.

"I would say that people who really think and believe they're environmentalists, and they care about open space and they want intelligent development and they want reasonable taxes would support this, once they understood it," McKenney said.

Lennon said there were people in town who would be willing to give up open space to have less crowded neighborhoods, but that she understood both points of view.

Lynch said that adoption of the plan does not change current land-use regulations. "I think it's important for the public to understand that this is a concept, a vision," she said. Any changes in regulations will require amendments to the zoning ordinance, with public hearings and review by the Planning Board, the Town Council's ordinance subcommittee, and the Town Council.

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