Southern Maine planners, who have long subscribed to the idea that they worked in rural, car-dependent communities, are beginning to embrace density, mixed-uses, and transit.
Thanks to high gas prices, planning concepts that had seemed controversial or unworkable for most Maine communities are gaining new currency. Towns in southern Maine are considering new bus services, and even a revival of old streetcar lines. Other rural communities are rethinking their large-lot zoning policies.
In the suburban community of Standish, a partnership between GrowSmart Maine, a statewide advocacy organization, and the local government is creating a model for how towns can revitalize their village centers while preserving rural farms and orchards. Instead of mandating large lots throughout the town, Standish is now encouraging much smaller lots in its villages, along with new infrastructure investments.
Standish, which had long considered itself a semi-rural bedroom community of Portland, is also trying to encourage more local economic development to give residents more opportunities to work and shop locally.
And in downtown Portland, planners and citizen advocates are proposing relaxing the city's strict, off-street parking requirements for new development, and providing new financial incentives for walkers, bikers, and users of public transit.
Thanks to Christian McNeil