Comp plan latest: Eying open spaces

Tue, 08/03/2021 - 7:30am

    Wiscasset should be proud, and become more conscious of, its rural lands “so that in 50 or 100 years, we’re not just all one big suburban playground,” comprehensive plan committee member Anne Leslie said Monday night. 

    The town could make its open space subdivision mandatory in key farming and forest areas, and the town should have an open space plan, Leslie told committee meeting attendees over Zoom. The 2008 comp plan called for one, she said. “We’re still lucky to have space ... and Wiscasset could capitalize on these assets by protecting, carefully managing and promoting them.”

    Street trees should be considered part of the forest, Leslie said. She said they help make the village attractive and cool it in summer.

    She suggested promoting Wiscasset Farmers Market, now at Maine Tasting Center on Old Bath Road, updating a booklet on the local trail system and getting the town’s conservation commission going again, perhaps to work on an open space plan and give input on ordinances to protect forest and agriculture.

    Leslie’s presentation came as the committee works on the next comp plan. The Sept. 20 topic is education, Chair Sarah Whitfield said.

    Leslie said agriculture is not big in the local economy, but is important to the town’s identity and history. The 2008 plan called for preserving the town’s rural character, she said. “There’s no reason to think that that interest has waned, although we may find that out in the process of our planning.”

    She recalled driving around and realizing, there was more farming than she remembered. Since the 2008 plan, Wiscasset’s 622 acres in the tree growth tax program have grown to 984, and the farm and open space tax programs are up from 171 then to 245, Leslie said. She added, many more acres could be in the programs.

    Wiscasset has so much forest, this is easy to take for granted, Leslie warned. “We need to be vigilant and aware that it’s an irreplaceable commodity.”

    Whitfield asked, if Leslie could wave a magic wand, what would be one or two opportunities she would pursue. Leslie said she would want more landowners to know about programs’ tax advantages, and she would want a map of the town’s open spaces, to inform the public and to guide expansion of the trail network.