I’ve heard concerns expressed about a new comprehensive plan being considered in Somerville. Some worry that passing the plan gives selectmen the right to change regulations for things suggested in the plan, or to vote whatever they want to do if the plan isn’t specific enough.

Fortunately, that’s not how ordinances and comprehensive plans work. Ordinances are the documents that implement regulations in municipalities. Somerville has a number of ordinances already, including the cemetery ordinance, floodplain management ordinance, holding tank ordinance, land use ordinance, shoreland zoning ordinance, and more.

By state law only certain ordinances, such as traffic ordinances, can be adopted by vote of the selectmen. Other ordinances require a vote of townspeople, either at town meeting or secret ballot. That won’t change.

A comprehensive plan is a vision of what challenges the town faces and what can be done in response to those challenges. Passing a plan doesn’t give selectmen any new authority. It merely provides a vision to guide the town’s future, including what needs to change such as better broadband, and what shouldn’t change, such as the rural nature of Somerville.

Passing a comprehensive plan does not alter who has authority to adopt ordinances, nor the process, as set in Maine law, Title 30-A, Chapter 141.

The plan we will be voting on suggests ways to be more farm and business friendly and it seeks to make our town a place where young and old can better afford to live, and to thrive, together.

If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to visit the town office to get a copy of the comprehensive plan to see for yourself what the plan really says before the vote on it at the town meeting on Saturday, June 23.

Chris Johnson


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