Last Call: Growth Management Ordinance

Scarborough friends and neighbors,

No pretty pictures this time.  Just a few stark facts about the new Growth Management Ordinance that the Town Council is poised to approve at this evening’s meeting:

* A profoundly important decision — This is the most important decision any Town Council is likely to make in the next five years.  It will have a profound impact on Scarborough’s future.

* Ordinance’s impact unknown — Despite its importance, its implications for the Town’s future growth are unknown.  If there has been a meaningful analysis of what the ordinance will mean for the Town’s growth over the next five years, it has been well hidden.  Isn’t the public entitled to understandable projections of the number of each type of housing unit and the related population growth by year over the next five years?  While precise projections may not be practical, projections of best case, worst case and most likely case are certainly possible.  Indeed, most would consider them required when considering a decision of this magnitude.  Where are the projections?

* Exemptions for the Downs – As of the last publicly available draft of the new ordinance, there are three exemptions to the permit issuing rules specifically for the Downs.  Doesn’t the public deserve an explanation of the implications of these exemptions and the basis for them?

* Flawed public process – Despite the protests of many Councilors that they have been hard at work on this ordinance for 16 months, much of that time was not particularly productive.  And most members of the Town Council pretended not to hear the loud and clear message the public sent (via the survey, public comment and emails) that the pace of growth is too fast. 

Within the past 4-6 weeks, a frenzied effort has been made to finalize a new ordinance.  A good deal of that effort has occurred behind the scenes – and with a healthy dose of input from the Downs.  It’s telling that the only information provided in the agenda for this evening’s meeting is a marked-up draft of the ordinance… which will be subject to amendments at the meeting, minutes before the final vote occurs.  There is absolutely no analysis of what it means to the Town in terms of number and types of housing units and population growth over the next five years.

Doesn’t the public deserve a reasonable opportunity to review, question, understand and respond to the final proposal for this critical ordinance?  In a well-functioning local government, the answer is obviously “yes.”  We’ll see how the Scarborough Town Council answers the question later today.

If you want a chilling summary of where we are, you may want to watch this one-minute clip of Council Chair Paul Johnson’s summing up comments on growth at last Thursday’s workshop on the Growth Management Ordinance. Don’t miss that bit at the very end… “It’s a little scary for the next two years, I think…” Yes, indeed, many of us are very scared about the Town’s future growth. And we were counting on the Town Council to control it.

That’s all for now. We hope to report better news in the future! In the meantime,

Be neighborly,

TT Hannah

[Blog name of Steve Hanly, who is solely responsible for the content herein]

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