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
Using BwH in the Required Topic Areas of a Comprehensive Plan
One of the major required elements of a comprehensive plan is to address thirteen inter-related topics (listed below) as they relate to your town. Within each topic, your town must indicate the relevant state goal, assess current conditions using specific data, identify current and future trends, and identify key issues in your community by addressing a series of questions. Based on assessment of conditions and the identification of trends and key issues, a comprehensive plan must present policies designed to promote the community's stated vision along with strategies for implementation that describe what actions your town intends to take to carry out those policies.
Each of the thirteen topics listed below have implications for local natural resource conservation. Future policies developed under each topic are best crafted with an understanding of the affects that policy implementation will have on your town's "conservation blueprint".
The water resources, critical natural resources, and transportation related topics listed below have been highlighted given their direct ties to Beginning with Habitat (BwH) conservation planning goals. Click the links to find more information about using BwH in inventorying, analyzing and developing policies and strategies for these topic areas of your comprehensive plan. For a complete list of the required elements of a comprehensive plan, visit: Maine's Comprehensive Plan Criteria Rule.
By considering these elements of the landscape, a town can better determine what areas pose physical constraints to development and may help identify potential growth areas. Additionally, a consideration of water resources will show the interconnectedness between wetlands, streams, ponds and the shoreline and can inform decisions regarding buffers for habitat and water quality.
Beginning with Habitat (BwH) focuses primarily on this topic and resource occurrences included in this topic are inextricably tied to elements of Topic 1 above.
3. Historic & archeological resources
This topic is intended to capture key elements of a town's heritage and early settlement patterns that were likely driven by elements of Topics 1 & 2 above.
4. Agriculture & forest resources
Local natural resource industries rely on a towns physical and biological resources (Topics 1 & 2) and are historically guided by past land use (Topic 3), but future land use ultimately determines if adequate undeveloped acreage will persist that can support local agriculture and forestry.
5. Marine resources
Shellfish harvesting, lobstering, and other marine fisheries are all ultimately affected by land use decisions and resulting water quality. Our current marine resource opportunities are the result of how towns have addressed issues related to land use and water resource opportunities as a result of the previous four topics.
Whether it's driven by natural resources or modern infrastructure, a town's long-term economic vitality depends on maintaining a community in which people want to live. Numerous studies have shown that adequate open space, recreational opportunities, and healthy water quality all contribute to the choice people make about where to live.
7. Population & demographics
Understanding trends in growth and what segments of the population are growing help to predict future pressures on rural natural resources to better inform policy. Recent accellerated growth may highlight the need to designate growth areas and guide where new housing should go.
8. Existing land use patterns
Understanding where past and current development has taken place and the factors driving development decisions will better enable a town to determine how much influence it should exercise in shaping future growth decisions that will effect both future natural resources and the local economy.
Are current development patterns sustainable? Can your town grow in a way that is more efficient in terms of acreage converted and acreage maintained for open space? The types of housing choices available to residents shapes the future character of a community's populace. Does your town actively encourage affordability with incentives, or is rural development in part driven by citizens seeking what they perceive as affordable alternatives?
Transportation networks tie existing land uses together and facilitate future growth. At the same time, these same networks can divide natural resources, fragment habitats, and degrade water quality. Connecting "Point A" to "Point B" requires consideration of most other conservation planning topics listed here.
11. Recreation & open space
The availability of recreation and open space lands shape a town's character and quality of life, and determines not only what habitat types are protected, but what opportunities the public has to experience and develop an appreciation for a towns natural heritage.
12. Public facilities & services
How and where public services are delivered results from development choices and whether growth is spread out or centralized. How and where public services are delivered also has significant local budget implications. Is your town experiencing increased expenditures as a result of having to service development in remote portions of town?
13. Fiscal capacity
This topic covers the town's bottom line. What is the town's ability to pay for the services required to meet the needs of anticipated population growth and patterns of development?