AUGUSTA — Some recommendations contained in Augusta’s proposed new comprehensive plan, the implementation of which was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, might not be up with current times.

For starters, certain goals cited in the first draft of the plan, which was presented to the City Council last Thursday, have been accomplished, including an artificial turf field being installed at Cony’s redubbed Fuller Field, and finding someone to redevelop the remaining building of the former Edwards Manufacturing Co. mill complex.

Councilors, however, said a few other recommendations contained in the roughly 260-page document, produced by a citizen committee that was first appointed in 2018, might no longer be desirable goals because times have changed.

The recommendations were formed after the committee held some 25 usually well-attended meetings and public hearings that sometimes drew more than 50 residents. But those were held primarily between January 2019 and February 2020. Their work was then largely halted by the coronavirus pandemic, which greatly restricted the ability of people to gather together.

“In 2020, amongst everything else going on, the comprehensive plan (committee) was wrapping up some of its work,” said Darek Grant, co-chairman of the committee with At-Large Councilor Heather Pouliot. “Unfortunately, COVID put a pause on all the progress we had been making. Unfortunately, it’s taken this long to get here. We were really moving at one point.”

By the time the committee’s draft of the proposed new comprehensive plan went to city councilors Thursday, they noted they might need to make changes to keep up with the passage of time.


One thing that has changed since the committee was formed, councilors said, is the housing crisis, which has seen a drastic increase in the number of people unable to find housing, and a corresponding increase in the cost of buying or renting housing.

Ward 2 City Councilor Kevin Judkins suggested the current draft of the comprehensive plan’s recommendation to give a higher degree of scrutiny to mobile home parks is outdated thinking, and the city should consider allowing mobile homes and tiny houses if they meet the standards required of other, more-conventional housing.

“Obviously, COVID changed our world and a lot of that happened when this work (on the comprehensive plan) was done,” Judkins said. “We’ve got the housing crisis that wasn’t as much of a crisis when this work first started. I think we’ve learned we need to be more adaptive about the type of housing we’d allow. Maybe not exclude something because it is a certain type of housing. Maybe hold it to the same standards.

“I’d like to see a broader view of what we’d allow to be built or used in our community, and I don’t know if this really reflects some of the change we’ve been through in the last 24 months.”

Pouliot said she recalled tiny homes coming up during the committee’s discussions, and also recalled thinking of them as a negative. She agreed times have changed and another look should be taken at tiny homes as city officials work on the comprehensive plan, a document municipalities with zoning regulations are required to have by the state.

At-Large Councilor Abigail St. Valle said she recently attended a forum involving local immigrant families who talked about potential roadblocks to them being more successful in the community, and one of them was them not being able to speak English.


She said she would like to see more teeth in the “diversity” section of the comprehensive plan, including a recommendation the city offer translation services at City Hall so when residents who do not speak English come in to register vehicles or ask questions, they are able to communicate.

Mayor Mark O’Brien said Thursday’s presentation of the comprehensive plan marked its introduction to the City Council, Planning Board and general public, and work will continue on the plan. O’Brien said the proposed comprehensive plan will also be the focus of at least one public hearing involving the Planning Board before the document is up for approval.

City councilors agreed to keep recommendations in the plan that have already been accomplished, and simply note they have been achieved.

The city’s comprehensive plan was last updated in 2007 and 2008.

Grant said the committee, some members of which have since moved out of the city, had public hearings on numerous specific topics, including making Augusta an age-friendly community, arts and culture, downtown, volunteerism, public safety and the opioid crisis and mental health, housing development and neglected buildings, education and schools, transportation and pedestrian safety, neighborhoods and residential areas, green initiatives, parks and recreation and economic development.

He said the document is guided by six leading concepts:


Have a vibrant Kennebec River waterfront, which should be treated as the centerpiece of the community and a destination.

Make sure Augusta is “a place to call home” by enhancing neighborhoods, supporting housing development opportunities and supporting the education of its children.

Be a center of economic activity as the economic engine for the region.

Be an active place to enjoy the natural and varied beauty found within the city.

Be a connected community, with easy access for in-person and virtual visitors.

Be a city for all, keeping Augusta a civic-minded, community-oriented place.

Matt Nazar, the city’s director of development services who assisted the committee, said a comprehensive plan is not a regulation or an ordinance, but rather a policy document for public officials that provides context to those making decisions affecting issues and the legal foundation for Augusta’s land use regulations.

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