Who Guides the Master Plan?


Brad Anderson

When a Farmington Listens, Will the People Speak?

How does a community know where it wants to go? Planning issues are complex, and most of us don't have much time to get educated about issues that seem far away from the concerns of our daily lives. On top of that, many don't believe that Farmington government hears them speak. So how does the collective vision of a community actually turn into a plan that can shape our future?

Farmington's Master Plan was written in 1998 with the oversight of dedicated Planning Board members. But while they did a good job describing Farmington and framing many of the issues the town faced at the time, it was a contracted planner that penned most of the document. And there are some things in it that I personally don't agree with--but that's a good thing. A Master Plan is a document that belongs to the entire town, and the chance that any of us would agree across the board is slim indeed. Overall, I like our Master Plan and I believe that it has been a good guide for the past few years. There are problems with it, though, and while some of its shortcomings contribute to the ugly situation taxpayers are currently in, the biggest problem may be that not enough taxpayers contributed to the content.

This is the reason that the Zoning and Master Planning Subcommittee (ZAMPS) is polling the public so aggressively. ZAMPS's first mini-survey asked people how to keep them informed. Oddly, the standard method of keeping the public informed--meeting minutes--was rated as the worst way to keep the public informed (2.8%). By far the first choice of respondents was direct mail (14.3%) one of the principle methods ZAMPS is relying on to get the people's input to the Master Plan.

Encouraged by this response, ZAMPS has arranged a second mailing that will allow an unprecedented amount of public input to town planning. There are two parts to the survey included in the mailing. The first part seeks opinions about all of the ideas presented by citizens at the October 23rd public input event (the first gathering) attended by about 75 citizens. The second part seeks opinions about specific goals contained in the current Master Plan. The survey is of an intimidating length, but ZAMPS is taking the risk that the people will take advantage of this unprecedented people's path to planning.

Please take time to read the second mailing. Then return the survey by mail, or to the town hall, or hand it in at the second gathering, on December 4 at the Old Town Hall.