The city of Gardiner is hosting a public hearing on its proposed comprehensive plan Thursday evening.
The plan, the result of a two-year community outreach project, will be used as a guide for city and community officials when making decisions over the next decade, especially regarding land use issues. Its aim is to serve as a road map for what the community wants the city to look like in the future.
The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
The nearly 200-page document includes background and an overview of the city, community goals, policy suggestions and implementation strategies. The two overarching goals of the plan are to expand the city’s tax base and enhance the desirability of Gardiner as a place to live, work and visit.
Patricia Hart, chairwoman of the plan’s committee and a city councilor, said the committee had to balance input from community members during the process.
“In places where the groups had different ideas, we tried to pick a compromise. I think what’s really clear is people value the city and the community and all the parts of it,” she said.
Hart said even if people have supported the plan or part of the plan previously, it’s important to attend Thursday’s meeting to voice their support again.
The Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Planning Board are holding a joint meeting for the public hearing. The committee previously held an unofficial public hearing in March to give people a chance to comment on the plan.
The City Council will still need to hold a public hearing and two readings of the plan before it’s sent to the state for approval, Hart said.
One of the major zoning changes suggested by the plan is creating a mixed-use zone to better transition the industrial, commercial nature of outer Brunswick Avenue with the residential neighborhoods farther north toward the downtown. The zone, between the Gardiner Armory area and the four-way intersection with Old Brunswick Road, will be similar to the planned development zone now covering most of that area. However, commercial uses such as retail, service and light manufacturing would be limited to a maximum of 10,000 square feet per use.
The plan also encourages the design of development in that zone to be more similar to the character of residential areas.
The aim is to create a better transition between the industrial character of the land on outer Brunswick Avenue to the more residential area closer to the Gardiner Common and the downtown.
One policy change recommended by the plan is already moving forward.
City staff have been working to develop a zoning policy to allow businesses and developers to convert some larger and older buildings in residential neighborhoods to commercial uses.
A city committee approved the ordinance change last week, and the Planning Board is scheduled to review the proposal April 13.
The change would allow some commercial uses in industrial or institutional buildings, such as former churches or schools, in the high-density residential zone.
Nate Rudy, the director of economic and community development for the city, said his office has received very few calls about the plan, which has been available for public viewing on the city’s website and in person at City Hall and the Gardiner Public Library for more than a month.
“I think by now people know this is a public process, and we’ve done tremendous outreach around the comp plan over the past few years,” Rudy said. “I would hope that if anyone had any major issues with it, they would have brought that to us.”
Comprehensive plans, as outlined in state law, focus on land use and planning issues. They will be used by city councilors and staff members when deciding whether to make changes to zoning or other planning and development issues. Gardiner last updated its plan in 1997.