ROCKPORT – What should Rockport look like in the future?

In an exercise aimed at finding out what people in the town think, some argued there is too much development while others felt there was too much fear of change. Many called for solutions to challenges often raised in Midcoast communities, including the lack of affordable housing, the need for a workforce, an aging population and the struggle to balance the needs of business development with the preservation of scenic beauty.

The Comprehensive Planning Committee is working to update the 2004 Comprehensive Plan, and held a public engagement meeting Nov. 9 at the Rockport Opera House, according to information posted on its website (planmyrockport.mysocialpinpoint.com).

Planning Director Orion Thomas “began the meeting by explaining the importance of a comprehensive plan and its uses in municipal governance. The participants at this event spent the next hour participating in a S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. The results will be entered into Rockport Forward’s database…”

Strengths listed included the town’s beauty, good schools, access to the arts, that it has a hospital and the nice people who live in Rockport.

Weaknesses included traffic, noise, parking issues, that the area is expensive, the aging population, lack of affordable housing, lack of diversity, and browntail moths.

Opportunities included the ocean, controlled growth, expanded health care, burying utility lines, attracting workforce and young families, and electric chargers for vehicles.

Threats included overdevelopment, traffic, noise and light pollution, too much tourism, fear of change, casinos, lack of parking, climate change/rising sea levels, “those against growth.”

“We are getting a lot of participation thus far, with much more to gain,” Thomas said. “We are certainly interested in hearing back from people who might not have seen our advertisements. We are still taking surveys and opinions.”

He said the initial survey ends on Nov. 30, but this is not the last survey.

“We will be doing a few more,” Thomas said. “This initial survey helps guide the committee in the direction. We still have a ways to go with more data to collect. …Unlike the last comprehensive plan, which only did one survey, we are going to be soliciting many surveys. In addition, we will be holding multiple public engagement events. Both of which are to maximize the data collected to ensure the future plan is representative of everyone in the town of Rockport. At the next regular Comprehensive Plan meeting the committee will sit down with me and we will discuss what the next Public Engagement event will be. One of these public engagement events will be a charette to discuss some planning topics, such as walkability and bikeability, best use of land for developments, zoning, and environmental protection.”

The next step in the process will be for the Comprehensive Planning Committee to process the data collected from the SWOT analysis.

The Comprehensive Plan may be sent to the voters in November 2022. “This is a tentative date which depends on how much progress is made between now and then,” Thomas said.

There will be a series of meetings in 2021 and early 2022. Visit the site, planmyrockport.mysocialpinpoint.com, take the survey and submit ideas. You can sign up for the committee’s email list by emailing the Planning Director at planning@rockportmaine.gov.

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