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Educational Briefs

GrowSmart Maine is working to help educate people about sprawl and alternative approaches to development.  Our "Educational Briefs" are designed to help people understand the issues and some of the possible tools, techniques, and resources available to accommodate growth that protects our quality of life and the unique character of our State.

Please click on the photos or links below to read more about each topic and to print out your own copy.

Smart Growth for Maine

Things seldom stay the same in our communities. Inevitably, over time, communities experience growth and change. Sometimes we welcome the change, maybe a new business adds convenience to our daily lives, and other times we may regret the change if a favorite open space becomes a new development. Often we don’t think about growth in our communities until something changes and we don’t like it. While growth and change are inevitable, how growth happens is something communities can manage.

 

Smart Transportation Choices for Maine Communities
Traffic congestion is a problem in more and more communities. No longer is congestion confined to the typical morning and afternoon commute times on weekdays; it's not unusual to see congestion during lunch times and on Saturdays. Communities can take the lead in providing alternative transportation choices to the automobile. Communities participate in transportation decisions every time they review and plan for new development. More and more, they are creating "smart" transportation choices.

 

Portland Buy Local
 

 

The Portland Buy Local campaign works to keep Portland's downtown vibrant.

Supporting Local Businesses
Remember the days when most of your shopping was done at local stores owned by people in the community? Remember when downtown was the center of activity because of the local stores? Remember when running errands meant staying in your own community or area, seeing friends and neighbors and having a chance to “catch-up”? Maybe life is still this way for you.  For many people, however, shopping and running errands means frequenting large retail chains, in distant retail centers, in the company of strangers from many different communities. Shopping is not quite so local and neighborly anymore. But this is beginning to change. “Buy local” is the new slogan. People are recognizing the value of local businesses and the contribution they make to communities. As a result, a growing number of communities are adopting policies and strategies to strengthen and rebuild their hometown businesses. If your community would like to do more to support local businesses, there are strategies and resources available.

 

Ledgewood Court
Ledgewood Court,
Damariscotta, Maine

 

 

 

Building 'Smart':  Environmentally Sensitive Design. 
Maine's natural environment is a proud part of our heritage. It will also be a proud part of our legacy, if we pay attention. Growth pressures are increasingly competing with Maine 's natural environment - one of the qualities that make Maine the special place we call home. And while most of us recognize that growth in our communities is inevitable and often desirable, it is up to us to determine whether growth has an overall positive or negative effect on our communities and the environment. By encouraging environmentally sensitive design we can accommodate growth in our communities and also ensure that Maine 's natural environment continues to be an asset for us and future generations.

 

Great American Neighborhood

From The Great American Neighborhood - A Guide to Livable Design
(Bruce Towl, artist)

 

 

Great American Neighborhoods
The traditional neighborhood - a place where people of all ages can live, meet their daily needs, and spend their leisure time, all within walking distance; a place where kids can walk or bike to school and play with friends in the neighborhood; a place where people are brought together in their day-to-day lives, creating a sense of shared community. Maybe you remember a neighborhood like this. Or maybe you live in one like it today. But in many places this kind of neighborhood is hard to find.  In an age of low density suburbs, with local zoning ordinances that often prohibit this kind of neighborhood from being built, a "Great American Neighborhood" (GAN) is the exception, and is most often associated with times past. 

 

Apples

Protecting Maine's Working Farmland 
People relocating to the countryside seek affordable, accessible land with ample sun and clean air. These are the same qualities that farmers need to grow good crops. Housing construction may bring new jobs while building is underway, but once house lots replace farmland, there is no going back.  The challenge is how to provide for and protect agricultural land use while also accommodating growth. Planning for agriculture helps to ensure that farming will have a place as your community grows.

MDI

What Is Sprawl?
Maine's population is on the move - leapfrogging from traditional cities, towns and villages out to once rural territory.  Rural towns are becoming suburban communities.  Urban areas and downtown centers are losing their vitality.  Farmland, fields and forestland are turning into residential and commercial developments.  Throughout Maine, land use is spreading out.  This pattern is called sprawl.

 

Farm and Sprawl

Growth Caps: The Cure for Maine's Growing Pains?
Maine's migrating population has increased land consumption and the demand for housing.  Municipal budgets, natural resources and community character are all under pressure.  In response, many suburbanizing towns have implemented residential growth caps to inhibit the rate of growth and reduce the burdens on their communities.  However, without careful planning, growth caps can have unintended consequences.

 

Walkable neighborhood

The Maximum Solution: Maximum Lot Size and Densities in Rural Zoning Districts
Throughout Maine communities are trying to preserve rural character.  Under existing, large-lot zoning they are unlikely to succeed.  But through a simple, innovative zoning technique - maximum lot size along with minimum densities - towns can take a new and different approach.

 

Post Office Park

Parks and Open Space: Making In-town Living Attractive
Over the last 30 years Maine has seen increasing urban out-migration and suburbanization.  People have been leaving our cities for homes amidst farms and forests, with easy access to green space and nature.  But with proper planning, urban dwellers can enjoy parks and open space right in town.

 

Field and subdivision

The Creeping Cost of Sprawl
Do you live in a rural town within a 30 to 40 minute drive of a job center?  Is your population growing?  If you answered yes to these questions, your days as a rural town are numbered.  You are on your way to becoming a low-density suburb, and may be about to experience the creeping costs of sprawl.

 

Main Street Farmington

Planning for Downtown Development IS Smart Growth
Downtown has traditionally been the heart of a community.  A healthy downtown has usually meant a healthy community.  But things have been changing.  In recent decades downtowns have suffered from the proliferation of enclosed malls, strip malls, big box retail outlets and office parks.  As our downtowns have closed up shop, our sense of community has been diminished and our communities have lost their economic vitality.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  Planning for downtown development can help.

 

Turtle

Sprawl & Wildlife Habitat
Wildlife and wildlife habitat are part of Maine's way of life.  Maine is know for its natural areas.  The natural environment is part of Maine's heritage.  Increasingly, the pattern of development called sprawl is threatening this resource.

 

Garage Apartment

Accessory Apartments:  An Affordable Housing Strategy
Towns are struggling with ways to provide affordable housing options without converting farms and forestland, or creating apartment complexes that might not fit in with surrounding development.  Communities struggle under the burden of building infrastructure for new developments.  And often, Maine's aging population wants to stay in their homes, but taxes and maintenance costs make it difficult.  Allowing accessory apartments can provide a solution to all of these issues.

 

We hope you will find these Educational Briefs to be helpful.  All GrowSmart Maine Educational Briefs are dedicated to the Public Domain. Please share and distribute to your neighbors, town officials, and others.