Beginning with Habitat


Comprehensive Planning

1. Guide | 2. Required Elements | 3. Topic Areas | 4. Plan Topic: Water Resources | 5. Plan Topic: Critical Natural Resources | 6. Plan Topic: Transportation | 7. Crafting a Future Land Use Plan | 8. Regional Coordination | 9. Example Comprehensive Plans

A Guide to Comprehensive Planning with BwH

To be effective, a comprehensive planning committee should regularly ask itself: "will this set of measures in fact encourage most of the development during the next decade to locate in growth areas, and away from rural areas?" -Comprehensive Planning: A Manual for Maine Communities

Maine's Fall ColorsComprehensive planning started in Maine as a tool for communities to direct commercial and industrial activities to specific parts of town and to protect existing neighborhood character. Today, comprehensive plans are seen as a critical tool to promote responsible growth and to maintain the qualities of place that drive our decisions to live where we do. From a Beginning with Habitat (BwH) standpoint, comprehensive plans provide an invaluable vehicle for highlighting significant natural resources town by town and helping local citizens to develop town policies and strategies aimed at conserving their town's special places.

Comprehensive plans are the starting point for developing a municipal "conservation blueprint" or suite of local actions (incentives, fee acquisition, and regulatory mechanisms) that shape what your town could look like in 50 years. Ultimately, suggested strategies included in comprehensive plans are the legal underpinning of subsequent land use ordinances and typically serve as the catalyst for open space plan development. The BwH Toolbox attempts to provide you with a variety of the elements necessary to create and implement a "conservation blueprint".

Key to the success of any comprehensive planning effort is that policies intended to effectively shape a towns future are actually implemented. Certainly, there are many Maine towns that have crafted comprehensive plans that successfully result in on the ground changes. However, despite the success stories, and despite the fact that most plans toute the need to direct growth and maintain "rural character", 60-80% of new growth in Maine occurs in rural areas where costs for services and impacts to hometown identity and wildlife habitat are highest. To avoid this situation, your committee should craft a plan that provides a thorough inventory and analysis, develops clear policies and specific strategies, assigns responsibilities, and establishes a credible timetable for implementation. It is critical that the public is cognizant of the plan's strategies and is supportive of moving forward with the actions laid out in your plan.

BwH can help in crafting or updating your comprehensive plan, however, the Comprehensive Planning Section of the BwH Toolbox is not intended to be a "how to" resource. That resource exists. The State Planning Office (SPO) publication, Comprehensive Planning: A Manual for Maine Communities, is a thorough and easy to use resource for communities undertaking the planning process for the first time or for those updating existing plans. Even for those not currently involved with a comprehensive planning committee, this guide provides a great introduction to the municipal process and the variety of land use issues that are best addressed at the local level. As part of the BwH Toolbox, this section is intended to highlight how the BwH program and data can be used in addressing habitat-related topics required under Maine's Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act (MRSA Title 30-A § 4301-4350).

Next: BwH in Required Elements of a Comprehensive Plan

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