The Perry Comprehensive Plan Committee met at the Perry Municipal Building on September 21 to address issues raised at an August 9 public hearing. Voters at the Perry town meeting on August 24 had rejected the comprehensive plan by a vote of 38‑22. During the September meeting, members of the committee agreed to address concerns of voters by reducing the number of areas designated for potential commercial‑industrial growth in the plan's proposed land use map.
In the process, guided by Judy East of the Washington County Council of Governments, committee members Dick Adams, Andrea Barstow, John Cook, Gerry Morrison, Linda Newcomb, Karen Raye, Ann Skriletz and Dot Turner reviewed each of the eight areas and discussed the reasons why each one had been considered during the more than three years of review by the committee. The members noted that they had sought to provide for future growth of existing commercial businesses and to consider existing highways surrounding the town and the historic rail corridor configurations. According to Gerry Morrison, the September 21 meeting was not a public hearing, but the committee opted to solicit input from members of the public who were in attendance.
After the discussion on each proposed area, the committee voted unanimously to remove five of the eight districts and to reduce the size of two others.
The committee voted to sharply reduce the size of a district located near the former toll bridge on the Old Eastport Road and to redesignate it from commercial‑industrial to marine‑fisheries activities in order to allow for a proposed tidal power generation facility. Eastport City Council President Robert Peacock provided input on how much area would be needed to accommodate the facility. The committee voted to eliminate a district adjacent to Pleasant Point that had initially been proposed as the site of Quoddy Bay LNG. After representatives of the Passamaquoddy Tribe provided new information on the status of a proposed airplane parts manufacturing facility and new tribal housing, the committee voted to eliminate a proposed district on annexed property. The committee also voted to reduce the size of a proposed commercial industrial district on the Gleason Cove Road.
Eastport Port Director Chris Gardner addressed the committee to clear up misinformation contained in a mailing by Perry resident John Cook of the Perry Citizens for Responsible Growth group to selected property owners. According to Morrison, during this part of the meeting, Gardner refuted an allegation by Cook that certain hazardous products would be shipped through a proposed rail yard designed to support future growth and job creation at the Port of Eastport. Tribal members also weighed in, identifying certain areas of the proposed district as tribal property. Considering input from members of the public, the committee voted to retain, but slightly reposition, the proposed district.
The committee decided to eliminate a proposed commercial‑industrial district on the Shore Road that had been designed to accommodate a possible fishing pier and tugboat operation. The committee voted to retain a proposed commercial‑industrial district on the Route 1 corridor between Perry corner and the Johnson Road, and they voted to eliminate a proposed commercial‑industrial district adjacent to Route 1 abutting the Robbinston town line that had been designated in an effort to capture a benefit for Perry's tax base from industrial growth in Robbinston.
In the days prior to the September 21 meeting, a letter was sent to some Perry residents from the Perry Citizens for Responsible Growth urging people to attend the meeting with a heading that read, "Will your property in Perry be impacted by the new comprehensive plan?" The letter stated that "owners of properties impacted by these changes in land use were not directly informed of the proposed changes by the town or the Comprehensive Plan Committee."
Passamaquoddy Rep. Madonna Soctomah said in an interview after the meeting, "While it is important for towns such as Perry to submit proposed land use plans in a timely manner in meeting State of Maine requirements reflecting industrial developments, it is critical to involve all impacted landowners in the planning process. It was surprising to learn at the public Perry Comprehensive Planning meeting on September 21 that five areas were mapped out for development involved Passamaquoddy tribal land and three lands out of eight areas were proposed for development without tribal consultation. I approached the board members and submitted a map as provided by the tribe showing tribal lands impacted by the Town of Perry development plan and requested modification to their original planning map which did not include tribal lands. One area of tribal land cited for development involved our main source of drinking water supply. In planning, a collaborative effort from all invested parties is necessary for the best use of our area resources for the common good." The committee considered the five areas of impact and the request to remove the sites from the land use plan during the meeting.
John Cook, who was also contacted after the meeting, said, "Many of us were happy to see such a large turnout of concerned citizens who finally got a chance, although limited, to get involved in shaping the plan. As a result, some of the more outlandishly inappropriate elements in the original document were removed or improved upon. However, a few more issues need to be addressed to protect taxpayers from the impacts of development and to safeguard the great character of this community in the coming period." Cook added, "The current plan does not establish a legal basis for these added costs, leaving the town vulnerable," and, "We need to maintain an open, public dialogue on issues facing our town, so we can solve them as a community and move forward together."
Also interviewed after the meeting, Gerry Morrison said, "I still am in favor of promoting commercial businesses within town to help lower our taxes. I was surprised that we didn't have more support for this from the people in town."
The Town of Perry will conduct a public hearing at the Perry Municipal Building on Thursday, October 21, at 7 p.m. to hear comments on the Perry Comprehensive Plan as revised at the September 21 meeting. The comprehensive plan, as revised, is available for viewing at the Perry Town Office during normal business hours and on the Town of Perry website at <www.perrymaine.org>. Public attendance and comments are encouraged. There will be a secret ballot referendum vote on the Perry Comprehensive Plan during the November 2 election.