December / January Newsletter
Economic Development
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of Community Development’s 2019 Community Development Block Grant program will begin accepting letters of intent and applications for various programs beginning in January, 2019.

Assistance in the explanation of the programs and to provide information on the development of applications is available from SMPDC at no cost to the municipalities. These services are financed through a contract with the Department of Economic and Community Development made possible as a result of your annual dues payment. We are able to meet with you to explain the types of activities eligible under the various grant programs; match the grant programs to the community and economic development needs of your community or provide information on the development of an application.

Information on the various CDBG programs including: applications, application deadlines, funding amounts, program descriptions and the Program Statement are available at the Office of Community Development’s website: .

New Legislature takes up bill on $50 million bond to address sea level rise

A new bill to assist Maine’s communities prepare for the impacts of a changing climate has made its way to the 129 th Maine Legislature. The bill , sponsored by Rep. Michael Brennan, D-Portland, and cosponsored by representatives from York, Biddeford, Portland and other coastal municipalities proposes a $50 million bonding package to help coastal communities prepare for sea level rise. The funds provided by the bond would be used to improve waterfront and coastal infrastructure in municipalities to address sea level rise. In order to pass and be sent to the voters of Maine, the bill requires two-thirds support in both of the State’s legislative bodies, a margin that will require support from both Democrats and Republicans. The new administration has identified climate change as one of its priorities, which will hopefully help to pave the way for the passage of this bill and provide coastal communities with resources needed to take action and reduce the mounting vulnerabilities posed by rising seas. 

Update on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)

In 2018, a handful of towns in York and Cumberland Counties formally submitted appeals of the preliminary flood maps, which were released in 2017 and 2018 to FEMA. As of January 4 th, FEMA had not yet resolved the appeals. Therefore, the preliminary flood maps for towns in York and Cumberland Counties will not become effective in 2019.

York County Trails

Over the past few years SMPDC has been working with local land trusts, cities, towns, the Eastern Trail and state and federal partners to establish an interconnected system of trails for hiking and biking (and in some cases snowmobiling) throughout York County. The idea behind this came from the realization of the breadth of public trails in the region – owned and managed by land trusts, towns, non-profits and state agencies. These trails are not only a recreational resource, but an economic development resource and – we think - a critical element of branding this region for a younger, more active demographic (with craft beer involved of course!).

Assisted by grants from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and Maine Community Foundation, SMPDC has been working with all the above mentioned groups to lay out, plan and develop connections for a regional trails system, which we are simply calling York County Trails. It is a huge task.

Recently SMPDC was awarded assistance through the National Park Service, Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program to provide support for our efforts. In the upcoming year, SMPDC and our partners (Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, NPS, Kennebunk Land Trust, Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, Sanford Trails, the Eastern Trail and the Mt Agamenticus Conservation Region) will continue the effort by:

·         Creating a York County Trails Vision Map
·         Refining our GIS Story Map (showing existing and future trails) so that it is available for discussion
and outreach
·         Choosing a pilot town for detailed maps and brochures
·         Choosing an attainable trail connection to the Eastern Trail for focused development
·         Establishing a York County Trails clearinghouse for trails info
·         Seeking additional funding

SMPDC has already developed a lot of information and mapping on trails. We would like to clean it up a bit before putting it out to the public through the Story Map. We also have researched methods to develop trail systems. That can be found here: Strategies for Trail Development Document

We invite anyone interested in this effort to contact Paul at [email protected], for additional information. This is truly a regional project tying in areas from the coast northward. And for what it’s worth – it’s fun!
Food for thought!

The other day, I was asked a very interesting question by a town manager from here in SMPDC land. The question was, “What do I think a Town Hall will look like 50 – 100 years from now?”
I thought about it for a moment and answered; "it will probably be a Virtual town hall!" A lot depends on the town I think. With no disrespect, some town halls may look the same 100 years from now as they do today while others may be very very different.   As Planners we are expected to look into the future and make some thoughts and create ideas of just what may be.

Some Town Halls may in fact be virtual. Currently, you can get all of your property information online. GIS information with almost the entire infrastructure data can be found online for some communities and iPads provide Planning Boards and Town Councils with all of the information they need for the meetings. Some communities have permitting of Building Permits online already as well. This does not even include the ability to pay taxes and other fees, which also currently occurs online.

Will we still need human interaction? You bet! While most of the Town Halls can be virtual, you will still need knowledgeable staff for data input and updates, to answer questions (by e-mail of course) and to conduct any face-to-face meetings that may be required. 
So, Town Halls may be smaller, configured differently and much higher powered computer driven structures, but we will never get rid of the need for a Town Hall! Like everything else, the evolution will continue only driven by what the communities needs and wants are, but in some cases Town Halls will continue to be Town Halls and serve the public just as they do today. You can’t beat Human Interaction! 

December 2018, January 2019