Municipality Case Studies
Comprehensive Planning in Brunswick
Brunswick’s planning department and conservation commission faced a challenge many planners in Maine will recognize: implementing, under ever-growing development pressure, the conservation vision of the town’s comprehensive plan, which was to create a protected network of habitat blocks. Working with Beginning with Habitat gave the town tools and strategies to define priorities, make practical steps forward, and bring local stakeholders into the process.
Brunswick had committed to a “growth zone” where it encouraged appropriate growth. To define priority areas for conservation outside of this zone, the town consulted with biologists and used snow-tracking surveys to help locate high-use wildlife areas. Ultimately, they identified a dozen large, forested, undeveloped, and connected habitat blocks extending from one side of town to the other. Next, the town held a series of focus group meetings with developers, realtors, homebuyers, and recreation interests to identify mutually acceptable approaches that could lead to protecting the conservation focus areas. The meetings brought forth many suggestions and two major results.
First, Brunswick revised its long-standing open space subdivision approach, to better guide the designation of open space and increase flexibility for developers. The town developed two overlay zones: one drawn around habitat blocks, and one around connecting corridors. Rather than dictate development design, the overlay zones set limits on the acreage of mapped habitat that can be developed before developers have to set aside compensatory habitat acreage.
Second, a local conservation blueprint evolved from the process, clearly identifying conservation priorities and also helping to direct rural growth to the most appropriate areas. Importantly, it expressed the shared vision of a variety of local stakeholders and conservation partners in a policy called the Rural Brunswick Smart Growth Undeveloped blocks ranked by habitat value and area in the Sagadahoc region of coastal Maine. Beginning With Habitat 17 Beginning with Habitat Case Studies Plan. In effect for six years as of 2012, the plan has already resulted in the conservation of more than 300 acres through the local subdivision process. It has also bolstered several local land acquisition grant applications, enabling the town and local land trust to protect an additional 500 acres.
Conservation Blueprint for the Sagadahoc Region
Creating a conservation blueprint aimed at protecting the character and prosperity of the Sagadahoc region took collaboration among 12 Maine towns: Arrowsic, Bath, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Brunswick, Georgetown, Harpswell, Phippsburg, Richmond, Topsham, West Bath, and Woolwich. Beginning with Habitat and the Mid-Coast Council of Governments helped spearhead the work of a steering committee of town representatives including conservation commission and planning board members, elected officials, and town staff. Becoming highly engaged in an in-depth process, committee members and representatives from state agencies translated Beginning with Habitat data and local comprehensive and open space plans into a regional vision with specific action items that each town could implement.
Released in 2010, the blueprint outlines conservation priorities and contains an inventory of high-value resources, including an assessment of regional habitat fragmentation and identification of habitat corridors. The collaborative planning process also produced a series of detailed resource maps, with sets made available for each town. Additionally, the blueprint became a starting point for consideration of a regional climate change adaptation plan as well as a resource to inform additional local conservation actions.