GROWashington-Aroostook, an on-line Plan for an on-line World

– Judy East ~ Executive Director, Washington County Council of Governments

Most professional planners bristle when (usually) non-planners boast, "this xyz initiative won't be just another plan that collects dust on a shelf".  

Well, I bristle. Mostly because those plans-on-shelves are also on planners' hard drives and are regularly called upon to prioritize capital investments; justify grant applications through their record of public desires; provide fully documented and publicly vetted rationale for regulation – especially when regulations are challenged in court; and state publicly how a community will govern and invest in itself.

The refrain for the GROWashington-Aroostook (GROWa) regional planning initiative is Embracing the Future. Its "shelf" is

It lives on-line to be used and updated in our on-line world.

More than a set of documents, the products of the GROWa Regional Plan are available to municipalities, the public, and the development and conservation communities in multiple formats. You will find:

Videos that provide a "kick the tires" understanding of:

  • Brownfields Redevelopment ( or
  • Alternative septic systems that work in rural communities where large sewage treatment plans will never be economically viable (

Spreadsheets that provide:

  • Development Capacity Analysis for rural water systems ( or
  • Analysis of income and distance to employment opportunities (

Interactive GIS mapping products that allow Washington County:

  • Residents to look up a property by address or parcel number and see its acreage, zoning (when available) and link to the Washington County Real Property Records Office to download the deed information (
  • Planning Boards and Code Enforcement Officers to view more detailed planners maps to assist with planning and regulatory review (
  • Municipalities to look up the status of their Comprehensive Plans relative to the Growth Management Act ( and to download a copy of their Comprehensive Plan (
  • Coastal towns to view storm surge scenarios under assumptions of current and rising sea levels as well as varying tidal heights and storm intensities (; to assess their vulnerability to climate change; and to download concrete suggestions for adapting to climate change (
  • On-line mapping of Maine’s Food System and a celebratory poster of Local Food in Washington County (

There are also more traditional planning documents on Renewable Energy and Related Training ( and Sustainable Housing ( to name a few.

Home rule sentiments are very strong in rural Maine so there is no outright call for a county agency or any single municipality to adopt any part of the GROWa regional plan. The GROWa plan provides many tools, town specific data, and templates for Washington County municipalities to use and adapt to address Regional Coordination and Regional Policy in their local Comprehensive Plans ( Initial feedback indicates it is useful; outreach going forward will provide refinement and adoption as municipalities so choose.

The Washington County Council of Governments and the University of Maine GIS Service Center are making a long-term commitment to maintaining and upgrading the data that is available on the GROWa site and the on-line GIS tools.

The GROWa regional plan is anything but static and, collecting dust? Well, there is a concept I just ran across called “Smart Dust” hyped as the future of the quantified world. Apparently the Internet of Things is already passé.

The GIS Gang: Pictured at right (Back row) WCCOG Executive Director Judy East, Laura Teisl, Alex Bradley, (Middle Row) UMM-GIS Service Center Director Tora Johnson, Amy Dowley, Meghan Cranford, Lisa Ravis, Bev Lamoureaux, (Front Row) Lynn O'Kane.The GIS Team