The Town of Frye Island is perhaps the most unique town in the state of Maine. Founded on July 1, 1998, after the State Legislature (See Appendix 5.1) approved its secession from the town of Standish, the Town is a 1000-acre island in Sebago Lake. Its current voting resident population is 74 with a total of approximately 400 cottages. In 2000, full habitation is estimated at approximately 1400 with holiday weekend peaks at approximately 2800. The Town is seasonal in its physical occupancy, and annual in its administration. 95% of the land in the Town was platted and developed by a development company in the 1960s. It’s successor, Frye Island Incorporated, owns most of the undeveloped land, and all of the amenities, such as beaches, golf course, marina, pool and tennis courts. The Corporation also owns, and leases to the Town, the water system, ferry system and most of the municipal buildings. The details on how this relationship evolved and currently functions is presented in Section 1.1, Community Character/History and Section 5.3.1, Town Historical Background
Seasonal access to the Town is provided by a Town operated two-boat ferry system with docks in Raymond and on the Island. The ferries run from May until the end of October. In the winter, access to the island is limited to those wishing to cross the ice, when, and if, it is safe. There are no services provided by the Town during the winter. The water system is shut off and drained, the roads are not maintained and all Town employees are relocated to the mainland. The public utilities, (electricity and telephone) remain unless interrupted by weather conditions. Repairs are not made until the Island reopens in the spring.
The Comprehensive Plan is a document, required by the State of Maine’s 1988 Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act (amended 1992), in towns that wish to have a zoning ordinance, rate of growth ordinance, or impact fee ordinance. Its intention is to identify community values, local and regional concerns, community goals and Town objectives, and strategies for implementing the objectives necessary to reach those goals. Specifically, seven topics must be included: Inventory and Analysis; Goals; Policies; Implementation Strategies; Future Land Use and Capital Investment Plan.
Broadly speaking, this comprehensive plan is a statement of what the Town of Frye Island citizens would like its future to be, and how they intend to make that desired future a reality.
When adopted by a vote of the Town Meeting, the comprehensive plan will serve as a broad, philosophical guide for local officials and citizens to use in the provision of municipal services and facilities, and in the development of local regulations to include land use. The comprehensive plan can also serve as a guide for voluntary actions by interested citizens, civic organizations, and businesses that will work toward the community’s desired future as expressed within the plan.
Although the comprehensive plan recommends certain actions, capital expenditures, and the adoption of ordinances, the plan’s adoption alone is merely a public policy basis for the Town to consider and, as appropriate, carry out these actions through the normal town meeting process.
Comprehensive plans play two important legal roles in enhancing a town’s ability to shape its own future.
First, the courts in Maine (and in many other states around the nation) have rendered decisions in recent years which effectively and consistently require that if land use regulations (including, but not limited to, subdivision, land use, site plan, and impact fee ordinances) are to be legally defensible, they must have a ‘rational basis’ in public policy, intended to protect the public health, safety and general welfare. The courts have held that this rational basis must be clearly identifiable and based on the findings and policies of the local comprehensive plan. Ordinances, which are not based on the policy contained in a town’s comprehensive plan, are often successfully challenged and overturned by the courts.
Second, before 1988, towns and cities in Maine drafted and adopted comprehensive plans only if they chose to do so. Following the years of rapid growth and development in Maine during the mid-1980’s, when many towns, especially in the southern and coastal regions of Maine, found themselves struggling to keep pace with the environmental, economic, and local governmental fiscal impacts of these years, the State Legislature approved, and the Governor signed, the “Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act of 1988.”
Volunteer effort, Town administrative staff time and labor, coordination with representatives of Greater Portland Council of Governments (PCOG) and a grant from the State Office of Planning (SPO) have been used to develop this Plan. The Plan is in conformance with the Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act (Title 30 M.R.S.A. Sec. 4326).
Throughout the history of the Island, from its inception as a resort development to its founding and operation as a town, self-rule and citizen participation in island affairs has been critical. The secession effort itself was successful because of citizen dedication and commitment.
Before the Town was founded, the residents held elections to establish a Board of Selectmen to prepare for the transition from subdivision to town status. In February of 1998, a five- member Board of Selectmen was elected and the Land Use and Shoreland Zoning Ordinances of the Town of Standish were adopted. The Island did not want to come into town status without zoning on record.
During the Town’s first year of operations, a Charter was adopted (See Appendix 5.2) and a Planning Board appointed. The Planning Board’s first objective was to review the adopted Ordinances and make recommendations to the town. The Planning Board realized that a Comprehensive Plan did not legally support the Ordinances. Responding to this situation and to be in compliance with the Maine Growth Management Act, the Planning Board, as assigned by the Town Charter, initiated the Comprehensive Planning process in the summer of 1999.
The Comprehensive Plan process, which began with the review of Ordinances, continued with a Community Survey. On Labor Day Weekend of 1999, the Planning Board and other volunteers hand delivered a Community Survey to each occupied house on the Island and spoke with individuals who were present. A survey was mailed to all homeowners who were not reached in person. 390 surveys were distributed and 202 were returned to Town Hall. Compilation of the survey answers and written comments were made over the winter of 1999-2000 with the use of a software program provided by PCOG. (See Section 188.8.131.52)
During the winter of 1999-2000 Town Manager, Vic Richards completed a first draft of the Comprehensive Plan. This was forwarded to SPO and PCOG in spring 2000 for informal review.
In the spring and summer of 2000 a Comprehensive Plan Committee was formed under the Planning Board. Specific assignments for plan development were made and regular work sessions established. Results of the SPO and PCOG reviews detailed the need for extensive rework. This was initiated in June 2000 and an interim draft plan submitted to SPO and PCOG in 10 October 2000. The goal for Town approval of the Plan was set for July 2002. The three plus years process included the following steps:
Citizen Survey – Summer 1999 as described above. and included, with a Summary, at Section 184.108.40.206.
Public Workshops –Three major public workshops were held. The first (August 19, 2000) was with all elected officials and board members of the Town. (See summarized report at Section 5.4,Outreach Documents) This was followed by a public workshop for all townspeople on September 30. In each case, visions and related obstacles to achievement were solicited and recorded. In August 2001 an additional public workshop was held to present the Plan prior to submission for a final SPO and COG review.
Public Outreach Meetings – During Plan development, small group outreach efforts were made to unique Town interest groups. They included the Garden Club, Book Club, Appeals Board, Fire Department and Golf Club. Again, visions for the Town and related obstacles were emphasized. (A sample report from the Book Club is at Section 5.4.)
Plan Components – The Inventory and Analysis task was completed in October 2000 and initial development of Goals, Objectives and Policies begun. During the winter of 2000-2001, the Implementation Strategies and related components were developed. As the Comprehensive Plan Committee was geographically separated this work was managed through electronic means, which added to the difficulty of Plan completion. In all instances, Future Land Use was a primary focus of Town residents. They emphasized the desire to maintain a “Rural, Rustic and Recreational environment” with no interest in year round occupancy. The Capital Investment Plan (Section 4.3) was completed during the summer of 2001.
Submittal of final Comprehensive Plan to the State- Because of the unique limited annual habitation of the Town, Plan completion and submission for State agencies review was constrained by timing. To achieve Town Meeting approval in 2002, this plan was submitted to the State Office of Comprehensive Planning in August 2001, and approved for consistency 20 February 2002. (See Appendix 5.16). A Town Public Hearing on the Plan was scheduled for June with a Town Meeting vote in July 2002.
The town is unique as to the involvement of its inhabitants. As reflected in the survey results, many people view their involvement as only leisure time and recreation. Despite the Islanders positive involvement for secession and good attendance at annual Town Meetings, it is difficult to attract them to a committee meeting, or public workshop. However, continuing efforts are made to inform, and receive input, from all Island property owners.
The Town has its own news bulletin (Frye Island News Service – FINS), which is published weekly from May to November. All meeting times, dates and locations are published and attendance by all is encouraged. Periodic status reports are also included as exemplified by a number of notices enclosed in Section 5.4 Outreach Documents.
Periodic verbal update/discussions are held with Town Selectmen and other Town Boards and Committees. As noted in the previous section, Public Workshops and Outreach Meetings have been held and the results documented. Examples are the August 14, 2000 and August 25, 2000 reports enclosed in Section 5.4.
For the 2001 Season a Committee Office was opened in the Town Hall and staffed 9 AM – 1 PM on Fridays in an effort to attract interested parties. Also the public was reminded to attend regular monthly Committee meetings held on scheduled Friday evenings in the Town Community Center. See Section 5.4 for related examples of outreach efforts.
The Comprehensive Plan identifies major issues and concerns of the inhabitants of the Town. Because the Town is an Island with unique residency, regional issues were less important to the inhabitants. However, the financial impact of the schools budget gained new importance in 2000.
Commercial and industrial development and residential development issues are also unique to the Town. The entire 1000 acres of the Town are privately owned and surveyed into buildable lots. One 12 acre lot and some adjacent lots at the south end of the Island are the only areas for significant new growth. The Town is one residential zone that covers the Island except for one rural agricultural zone, which is the 12 acres parcel at the south end of the Island and two commercial zones. One commercial zone is dedicated to the already existing Marina and the other has limited development potential because of its size, individual lot sizes within the zone, and its proximity to the Island ferry landing.
During the 1992 comprehensive planning process for the Town of Standish, of which Frye Island was a part, a community workshop was held on Frye Island. Results of that workshop were summarized as follows in the Standish Comprehensive Plan.
“Frye Island residents had some specific interests, which were unique to their particular lifestyle and their unique status as an independent association within the Town of Standish. Specifically:
*gaining year round access to the island (the ferry is a seasonal operations only)
*increased pollution from development on the island and on the main land
*improving basic services such as police, fire, garbage (need more access to Town dump)
*preservation of the Frye Island beaches for Frye Island residents
*stopping commercial development such as restaurants and inns on the island
*basic communication with the Town (sic Standish)
*keeping the character of the island, and
The 1999 Town of Frye Island Survey yielded, not surprisingly, similar results with emphasis on:
Provision for public safety.
A Summary of the Town 1999 Survey at Section 220.127.116.11 addresses eight areas of questions: General Character of Frye Island; Community Involvement; Land Use; Natural and Cultural Resources; Town Services; Transportation; Background Information; and Ferry. There were a total of fifty-five questions, which required yes/ no answers; subjective ratings of importance; objective/quantitative input; and opinion.
The survey questions and a frequency distribution for answers to the questions are at Section 18.104.22.168. Also all written comments are summarized in that Section.
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