On June 8th. 2011, the Standish town Council unanimously voted to adopt Form-Based Code. This makes Standish the first town in Maine to do so.
Since its inception in 2002, GrowSmart Maine has engaged in conversations with the leaders and residents of Maine communities about the increasing growth pressures many towns are facing. We learned that many towns feel unprepared to deal with these often rapid changes in a way that is both effective and fair. We also found that where residents are more fully engaged in shaping the vision of their town's future, fewer problems arise when it comes time to implement changes or enact ordinances.
As a result, in 2007, we initiated the Maine Model Town Community Project to provide tools and advice to help a growing Maine town shape its future. With grants from The Orton Family Foundation , The Sam L. Cohen Foundation, The Leonard C. and Mildred F. Ferguson Family Foundation, and the Maine Community Foundation, GrowSmart Maine embarked on a multi-year demonstration project intended to help translate a comprehensive plan into ordinances and provide other Maine communities with the lessons learned and best practices to use as they take on these challenges in their towns.
The project mobilized local, state and regional resources, enabled local leaders to explore new growth strategies, and fully engaged local residents by combining the best elements of New England town meetings with groundbreaking new technologies. Following an Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the town of Standish was selected to engage as GrowSmart Maine’s Model Town.
Standish adopted and received state approval for a new comprehensive plan in 2006. The plan has identified 4 growth areas, transitional and low growth areas, and critical resource areas. There is a differential growth cap in place, and the town has completed a Village Design Study for the area around the intersection of Routes 25 and 35.
Standish, a growing town of about 10,000, was selected for GrowSmart Maine's Model Town Project in part because of their readiness to implement their new Comprehensive Plan. GrowSmart Maine and its project team facilitated citizen-led efforts to implement "smart growth" strategies from Standish's new Comprehensive Plan. The project's key goals were to revitalize the village area around Standish Corner, attract new businesses, and conserve Standish's open spaces and rural character
A major goal for Standish was to retain its rural character. To do this the Town's 2006 Comprehensive Plan recommended directing a large majority of its future residential and commercial growth into its village centers and the immediately surrounding areas. While the Master Plan set the long term direction, many details remained to be decided. For instance, the Master Plan recommended consideration of a range of reduced minimum lot sizes in the village center but did not recommend a specific minimum size.
GrowSmart Maine facilitated the visioning and civic engagement for Standish Corner, a small village center that was intended to be the community’s primary commercial and residential growth center. A central part of the planning process was the interactive use of visualizations – developing images that helped Standish residents understand the implications of different forms and patterns of development. Two types of visualizations were developed, utilizing photo-simulations: birds-eye views and street-level views.
Other innovative planning techniques involved the use of keypad polling at two public workshops and the production of a project video by the local cable access station to explain the Village Implementation Committee’s recommendations. Once the village vision was established and understood, the Committee selected a Form-based Code approach for the implementing ordinances.
When GrowSmart Maine’s work with Standish wrapped up, we reached out across Maine, to share the “Lessons Learned” with other communities, in a series of four workshops. By sharing experiences from this one process, GrowSmart Maine was able to increase the impact of the work done in Standish.
Above: Bird's-eye view of two alternatives for future growth in the village center. The top image shows what Standish Corner might look like 20 years from now, if existing zoning regulations are kept in place. The bottom image shows residents' preferred growth concept, based on public workshops and the work of the Standish Corner Village Implementation Committee.
GrowSmart Maine and the Friends of Midcoast Maine facilitated successful, cutting-edge community visioning and implementation projects: Maine Model Town and Heart and Soul, respectively.. The four workshops, held in June 2010, communicated to participants the ‘Lessons Learned’ from these efforts in order to help stimulate more successful visioning – and implementation of those visions -- across Maine. Workshops were held in Caribou, Farmington, Topsham and Portland. The workshops were funded by the Maine Community Foundation and the Leonard C. and Mildred F. Ferguson Foundation.
The presentation is organized around six primary ‘Lessons Learned’:
#1: The Power of the Vision Statement – Use It!
#2: Provide Meaningful Choices to the Public
#3: Test & Reinforce Assumptions and Principles
#4: Reflect Public Input in All Steps
#5: Use a Wide Variety of Public Engagement Techniques
#6: Organize Your Efforts to Answer the Key Planning Question(s).
Maine State Planning Office’s ‘Community Visioning Handbook’