KENNEBUNK – How will Kennebunk look in the future? How will the community balance Kennebunk’s “small town” feel as the population grows over time?
A group of residents including volunteers from various town committees, along with municipal staff, took on an update of the town’s Comprehensive Plan – a document that looks at the present day and provides guideposts for the future.
It is an exercise that has taken several years, and contains 19 chapters, examining an array of topics from agriculture and forestry to marine resources, population and demographics, the economy, historical and archeological matters, transportation, fiscal capability and capital improvement, land use and a host of others.
The draft comprehensive plan is ready for a public hearing, which has been set for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1, online via the Zoom application, which can be found at https://www.kennebunkmaine.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_12012021-2740
Kennebunk completed its first major Comprehensive Plan in 1991 in accordance with Maine’s Growth Management Act, according to Deputy Director of Community Development, Karen Winton. The vision was to retain small-town character, support the three villages, preserve the rural character agricultural uses and open space, protect natural resources, support the local business community and manage the growth so it was concentrated in designated areas where public services and infrastructure were already available.
According to the vision statement that makes up the first chapter of the 2021 draft plan, by 2031, the population of Kennebunk is estimated to be around 12,500, a 10-year increase of 7.8 percent over the 2021 population of about 11,500. The crafters foresee another 260 or more housing units. moving forward. Commercial growth, which comprised just 4.8 percent of properties in 2017, will likely only increase to 5 percent, according to the document. The draft plan notes that the. 81.3 percent of land currently being used for residences will increase to around 84 percent, reducing the 8.3 percent of vacant or undeveloped land to under 6 percent.
Comprehensive Plan Update Committee members believe more than half of the growth will be clustered in the York Street Mixed Residential and Commercial District, the Village Residential District, areas near Route 1 and other main roads radiating out from downtown, which, they wrote, will help limit the tax bite associated with providing emergency services and snow plowing to new streets in further-out neighborhoods. They believe these measures will protect wetlands, watercourses and groundwater in the more rural districts.
The crafters say West Kennebunk Village Residential District will see growth as well, due to the availability of larger undeveloped parcels and its location near two schools and the entrance to the Maine Turnpike.
“To maintain the town’s look and feel in the future, it will be important to balance the location and aesthetics of new development, including needed affordable housing, with preservation of wetlands and open space,” said Janice Vance, a member of the Comprehensive Plan Update Committee, and lead writer of the draft plan.
Public input was sought throughout the update process using surveys, workshops, open houses, online discussion boards and targeted in-person outreach with various groups, said Winton.
“The Public Hearing in December is the next step …….