News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 22, 2019
Map issues throw wrench in comprehensive planning
Penobscot committee continues work for future

by Monique Labbe

The Penobscot Comprehensive Planning Committee has set itself a goal to have the research and analysis parts of the comprehensive planning process completed by October. During their July 27 meeting, members updated each other on the status of the work being done by the various working groups, which are made up of committee members and community volunteers.

Widely, the groups, whose topics range from historic and archaeological resources, to water and natural resources, population and demographics and recreation, among others, have been sifting through maps, both from the state databases and local ones, to determine where things are located, what is missing from those maps, and how best to put it all together in a way that is most beneficial to the town. Many of the committee members voiced their concerns that finding the information has proven more difficult and time-consuming than was originally anticipated.

Updating the town maps has been a priority for the committee, due in large part to making the information more streamlined, so that people can have references for everything from farmlands and shorelines to where the 74 known cemeteries in town are located.

Virginia Liberatore, a member of the committee and the natural resources working group, said that while a lot of the maps her group has been working with are not incredibly old, they are “woefully scarce” and do not include much information that has been helpful.

One of the things the natural resources group has been focusing on is inventory of scenic sites around Penobscot, which could serve as a way to draw people to the community.

“We have so many beautiful places in Penobscot, breathtaking really, that maybe a lot of people don’t know about,” said Liberatore.

The downfall, according to several members on the committee, is that many of the best scenic spots in town are on privately owned land. Chairman Liz Leclerc said that getting an inventory of those sites is the first step, and then conversations could be had with landowners and state and local officials to determine what, if any, agreements could be made to allow some sort of public access to those properties through permission of the landowners.

A new topic brought up by Ed DeVito, secretary of the committee, was that it would be beneficial to look at things happening economically outside of the Peninsula area, specifically in Bucksport, which has been developing new ways to move forward after the closure of the Verso Paper Mill.

“There are things happening there that might produce a spillover for housing needs into Penobscot,” he said. “We would be doing ourselves a disservice not to factor in what is happening there.”