China planners to prepare a revised comprehensive plan

by Mary Grow

China Planning Board members have decided to start carrying out their responsibility to prepare a revised town comprehensive plan before the current one expires in the summer of 2020.

The three members at the Jan. 16 meeting directed Chairman Tom Miragliuolo to ask selectmen to appoint a new comprehensive plan committee and to try to get a request for funds on the warrant for the March 24 town business meeting.

Miragliuolo promptly got in touch with Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux, who replied that he would put the requests on the selectmen’s Feb. 5 agenda. Miragliuolo proposed an estimated cost of not more than $24,000, based on information from Kennebec Valley Council of Governments about other municipalities’ costs.

Residents interested in serving on a new comprehensive planning committee are invited to contact the town office.

Miragliuolo’s state job used to involve reviewing towns’ comprehensive plans. He told the other planning board members that they are created under the state Growth Management Act, passed in the late 1980s with general goals like creating orderly development and economic growth, providing housing and recreational opportunities and protecting natural, agricultural, historic, archaeological and other resources.

China’s current plan was developed by a committee, with major assistance from a paid consultant. The committee reported to the planning board; at the board’s request, selectmen presented the plan to voters, who approved it in November 2008.

Miragliuolo expects the process of revising the plan and getting local and state approval to take a minimum of 18 months. Few towns do it that fast, he said.

The consultant’s fee will be the major expenditure, he predicted. The person with whom the town contracts will be expected to attend committee meetings and draft the plan based on committee members’ and residents’ input.

China is not required to update its plan. However, a town that does not have a current state-approved plan cannot do some things, like adopting an impact fee ordinance, and is disadvantaged in other ways, for example in applying for state grants. The second topic at the Jan. 16 planning board meeting was Codes Officer Paul Mitnik’s draft revisions to China’s Planning Board permit application and conditional use permit application checklist.

Board members agreed the documents should be discussed in more detail at their Jan. 30 meeting, after they have time to consider them.

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