FAYETTE — Officials in Fayette are hopeful their new comprehensive plan would increase outdoor recreation opportunities and keep young families in town.

A draft of the plan, created by the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments and a 13-person local committee led by Kristie Ludwig, has been completed after nearly two years. Ludwig said the committee began work on the 120-page document in April 2019.

Comprehensive plans are generally used as blueprints to guide municipal development for extended periods — 10 years or  more — but are required by the state to be updated every 12 years. An approved plan qualifies municipalities for some state funding, which is a driver for many communities to complete the lengthy process to bring one together.

Town Manager Mark Robinson said Fayette officials are looking for input on the plan, which he called a “most useful tool for town leadership” in guiding development for the community.

The previous comprehensive plan in Fayette expired in 2013, after the town’s 1997 plan was updated in 2001. Robinson said the biggest changes in town since that plan were construction of a salt and sand shed, and a new fire station in 2005.

The town’s population is 1,044, up from 328 in 1960. And its median age is now 51.1, up significantly from 1990’s median of 36.6.

The town also boasts a healthy seasonal population, with 34.9% of the town’s 781 housing units listed as vacation homes. With an average family size of three, that would be a population increase of more than 50% of the town’s population during tourism seasons.

The plan places emphasis on maintaining water quality in the town’s various bodies of water, including Parker Pond, Echo Lake and Lovejoy Pond.

Ludwig said the committee sent out a 16-question survey to town residents to gauge what points to hit in the comprehensive plan. After that survey, the group met monthly to put together the plan.

Ludwig said most respondents reported being happy with their quality of life in Fayette. Most also wanted to maintain the rural character of the small community, she said, by preserving natural resources and promoting sustainable growth of locally owned small businesses.

“(Respondents) didn’t speak to big growth at all,” Ludwig said. “They wanted more farms, more agriculture and more forestry.”

Another focus of the plan is to have younger residents stay and start families in Fayette. Ludwig said improving internet access would help bring in younger families, but the town might struggle with the statewide issue of not having enough jobs for younger people.

“You’ve got a community that wants the youth to stay there, but the growth is just right,” Ludwig said, referring to how many residents do not seek major development in town. “More natural resource and environmental jobs would be great, but not retail-based big growth.”

The town is part of a six-town consortium — the Western Kennebec Lake Community Broadband Association — that is working to price out a broadband system across the communities. A preliminary estimate from the association’s website shows such a project could cost between $7.7 million and $23.2 million.

Ludwig said a complicating factor in making Fayette affordable for younger families is the community’s high property taxes. She said the town’s property valuations are calculated as if Fayette were a “very wealthy community,” which leads to heavy tax burdens.

“The waterfront properties are highly taxed, and what happens is we get a low subsidy for the school,” Ludwig said, adding most of the town’s taxes go to school funding.

Fayette is not a member of a school district, Robinson said. Independence from districts and low student populations, paired with high property values due to many ponds and lakes, is the “perfect storm for minimal receivership” of state funds, he said.

“That is our plight,” Robinson said, “and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

He said some parts of the new comprehensive plan are holdovers from the previous plan, including a call for more outdoor recreation amenities.

“(Residents) want a public beach or swimming area, much like what neighboring communities have,” Robinson said, adding many residents have said they would like better access to the town’s bodies of water. “We’ve attempted that over the years, but have been unsuccessful.”

The comprehensive plan would normally be approved at the annual Town Meeting, but Fayette did not hold one in 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic still preventing many public gatherings, there is concern the town might not be able to hold a Town Meeting this year.

Robinson said a public hearing to discuss the plan is in the works, but has not been finalized. He emphasized the need for public input on the draft.

“We want the people to be engaged in its approval process and its review process,” Robinson said. “That draft could change based on public input.”

To read the draft, see fayettemaine.org.


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