A Smart Growth Community in Maine?

Doug Greene, AICP, RLA, serves on the Board of Directors of GrowSmart Maine and is the City Planner/Deputy Director, Planning and Code Enforcement, for Lewiston, Maine (he really does want to hear from you – click here for his contact info!).

I’m a dreamer, and I’m not afraid to try and put my dreams into action. As a new GrowSmart Maine Board member, I sat at my 1st Board meeting feeling inspired by the goals, energy and effort being put into transforming our state. I wondered, “What if the place where I worked could become a Smart Growth Community? What would that look like, what kind of place would that be to live in? What if Auburn could become a Smart Growth Community; wouldn’t that help promote our city?” After working for 4 years as the City Planner for Auburn I saw that the efforts Auburn was doing (without consciously trying) were actually meeting or moving towards the 10 Smart Growth Principles we’d like to see implemented in Maine. I listed the principles and one by one found that Auburn’s planning policies and initiatives were meeting them!

I researched other communities around the nation that had adopted Smart Growth policies and drafted a proposal and presented it to my department director. I was excited to get the green light to introduce a proposal: to make Auburn the first Smart Growth Community in Maine at a City Council workshop! This was going to be a great addition to an emerging effort to promote Auburn as a great place to live. The proposal included a memo, power point presentation, an information sheet and resolution. Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, was kind enough to attend the Council workshop and spoke in support of the presentation. The delivery went well. The City Council however, had a mixed reaction to the proposal. Some Council members expressed very positive feedback, while a few Council members and the Mayor had concerns. “The resolution needs work” and “Smart Growth sounds like another layer of bureaucracy”. No action was taken at the workshop and unfortunately, I was never able to get back in front of the Council to present a revised resolution and clarify how the proposal would help make Auburn a more efficient, livable place to visit, live and work. The time was not right for Auburn to embrace this – yet.

I’m telling you this story because I still believe this would be a good approach, for the right community, to adopt the principles of Smart Growth. This is what we as community building professionals strive every day to achieve. One of the best ways to actually make changes is to have elected officials formally adopt policies. Once a policy is in place, you have the justification and authority to insist that your elected officials consider Smart Growth principles as they make decisions on annual budgets, capital improvement plans and land use regulations. Since that Council meeting in February of 2018, I’ve had an opportunity to take a new position with the City of Lewiston and have kept my dream alive to make it a Smart Growth Community someday. Is anyone else out there interested? Let me know.