← Back to Our Community

HHLT and Harpswell’s Comprehensive Plan

Tim McCreight
April 2, 2024

For the past two years, scores of people have spent hundreds of hours discussing what might sound like a simple question: “What is your vision for Harpswell 10 years from now?” These fellow residents have been thinking about lands, jobs, housing and water resources. They talk about the changing climate and economic trends. It turns out, this question is not so simple after all.

Here’s a little background: Maine mandates that all cities, towns and villages create a Comprehensive Plan that lays out their hopes and expectations for the next decade. Failure to create such a plan would make the town ineligible for various state grants, so what was a good idea in general had a very specific inducement. Harpswell has done this in 1974, 1981, 1987, 1993 and 2005. Two years ago, the Board of Selectmen invited concerned residents to volunteer for a Comprehensive Plan Task Force, CPTF, and selected people who represent various aspects of the town and some who bring specific diverse experience to the group. A consultant with experience in this kind of community dialogue was hired and work was begun.

Over the last six months, the committees that make up the Task Force have reached out to community groups to explain the process of developing a plan. As Allan LeGrow, chair of the Task Force explained, “Harpswell is a fantastic place — we don’t want to disrupt all that is good, but we need to understand and make plans for changes we can anticipate.”

The result of all this work is a 118-page document that was completed in late April, 29 months after the process was begun. The document is available online at the town website. Go to “Our Town,” click the “New Items/Notices” and you will see access to the full plan and information about a Public Hearing on April 10 at 6:30 pm at the Harpswell Community School. For a helpful overview, the Executive Summary is available here. The report of the task force will be on the docket to be approved or rejected at a special Town Meeting on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

As an independent non-profit organization, the Land Trust does not advocate for or against town issues that will be determined by a public vote. Individual members and trustees will vote their consciences, but it is worth noting the similarities between the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust Mission Statement and the guiding principles laid out in the introduction of the Comprehensive Plan.

HHLT Mission Statement:

To preserve and protect Harpswell’s natural resources, cultural heritage, and access to the outdoors now and forever through conservation, stewardship, and education.

The Comprehensive Plan Vision Statement is made up of eight Elements, half of which echo the land trust’s commitments: (abbreviated here):

  • Sustain a vibrant working waterfront,
  • Preserve the beauty and resilience of our waters, open space and natural settings,
  • Create community spaces to support intergenerational recreation,
  • Enhance public participation and respect by improving communications.

The other four items on the list do not contradict activities of the land trust, but address Diversity, Affordable housing, Residential housing that sustains water quality and Low-impact retail and service businesses. The detailed list is available at the town website in the Our Town section.

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust is proud of its role as a vital member of our community. Members of the Land Trust, trustees and staff, have been engaged in the work of the Task Force, working together to clarify our shared values and to seek common ground on complex issues. Our members take their involvement in our community seriously and we urge them to make their feelings known at the Town Meeting.