A rough draft of the Peaks Island neighborhood community plan, completed Dec 1 by a group of residents, details a vision for the future of Peaks Island.

The plan has been submitted to the community for review and comment. The goals of the neighborhood plan are to promote and sustain an affordable community with a mix of year-round and seasonal residents; preserve open space; maintain waterfront access and traditional trails; encourage alternative transportation use; and protect natural resources.

A public meeting to discuss the plan and hear thoughts and suggestions was planned for January.

Peaks Island is the only neighborhood within the city of Portland to have undertaken a neighborhood plan. The neighborhood planning effort began after the Dec. 2001 Peaks Island Neighborhood Association (PINA) general meeting. During that meeting, Portland assistant city manager Larry Mead described the city’s future comprehensive planning efforts and its hope to include individual neighborhood plans within that document.

The neighborhood planning model is a unique way to allow for broader public participation in planning efforts; create plans that are conscious of unique neighborhood character; help form bonds between community members, groups, and businesses; provide a voice for the neighborhood with city staff and the City Council; and shape a set of neighborhood visions. The Portland planning department intended to aid neighborhoods during 2001 and 2002 with the development of plans, but budget constraints limited the department’s time and resources and neighborhood planning was held back.

Tom Fortier, island administrator for the city of Portland, believes that neighborhood based planning is an important way for Peaks Island to be “proactive rather than reactive and have a vision for the community.”

A group of community members held the first neighborhood planning meeting on Jan. 10, 2002, to determine if the community wanted to proceed with a neighborhood planning effort and organize the coming process.

Thirteen task teams were formed and began to collect data focused on a particular issue, such as transportation or marine resources, with the intention of developing objectives for the future and recommendations on how to pursue those goals. The planning committee held public meetings every two weeks as a way to maintain momentum and provide a structure for the process.

One of the first steps, the Peaks Island Community Survey, was developed by a PINA sub-committee with Fortier’s help and was sent to every island property owner or registered voter – nearly 1,000 people. The intention of the comprehensive five-page survey was to provide a foundation for the neighborhood plan by including the opinions of both year-round and seasonal residents on issues ranging from transportation to zoning, who otherwise may not have been able to attend planning meetings. The survey was a success, with a 55 percent return rate, and provided invaluable information for each task team.

Another highlight was the community planning workshop held Aug. 4. The workshop was an extension of the guiding principle of the neighborhood planning process: include the public in the development of the vision for their neighborhood. Each planning task team staffed a table and presented a report about the data concerning their subject. Community members were encouraged to move from table to table and include their opinions about each subject. Charles Enders, transportation task team member, felt that, “the format provided a great deal of personal interaction and the opportunity to address issues in greater detail than would be the case with a more structured presentation.”

For Chris Hoppin, one of the coordinators of the planning effort, the planning process has been, “a great tribute to the neighbors on Peaks Island.” The planning process has been a time, Hoppin believes, to see his neighbors working together to shape the future of their community. “It has been a pleasure to see so many Peaks residents using their talents to suggest and shape our future.”

Nate Gray is an Island Institute Fellow working on Peaks Island.