As I wrote here earlier this year, one of the most endearing aspects of Portland is how much access and responsibility the city's local government grants to ordinary citizens. In the New England tradition of self-governance, much of the city's municipal workings are handled by volunteer boards and citizen committees.
One of the more influential committees in the city is the Planning Board, which oversees the city's zoning code and collaborates with developers to ensure that major new development plans and projects are aligned with the city's Comprehensive Plan documents.
In the editor's personal opinion, the current Planning Board hasn't been particularly proactive about encouraging new in-town housing opportunities or supporting small business development. But four positions on the Planning Board are opening up next month, which opens up the opportunity to create a more progressive Planning Board, and in turn, a more sustainable approach to zoning and land use in the City of Portland.
This is an ideal opportunity for architects, planners, businesspeople, housing advocates, real estate professionals, and other enthusiasts of high-quality urban design. Here's the job description:
The Portland Planning Board has responsibility to recommend adoption and amendments to the comprehensive plan of the City of Portland, and to advise the City Council and Departments on implementation measures for the plan. The Board has jurisdiction to hear, review and approve applications for development including site plans, subdivisions, street vacations, shoreland zone, and other regulations governing development as appropriate. The Planning Board makes recommendations to the City Council on applications for zoning text and map amendments, contract rezonings, and amendments to or substantial revisions of the Zoning Ordinance.
Additional information is available in the City Clerk’s office, on the City’s website at www.portlandmaine.gov or at 874-8677. Deadline for submission is November 2, 2012. Please send a resume and cover letter to Appointments Committee Chairman, c/o Katherine L. Jones, City Clerk, 389 Congress Street, Portland ME 04101 or email@example.com.
One other item of note: the Planning Board's next meeting, on Monday the 29th, will workshop the rough draft of Portland's new Bicycle and Pedestrian chapter of the Comprehensive Plan (download the PDF here). The plan includes a map of planned citywide bike routes, cyclist safety education initiatives, and a framework of "quality of service" engineering standards that will set measurable benchmarks for safer streets and sidewalks. This Planning Board workshop will be a chance for the Board and citizens to offer feedback and suggestions before the document goes to the City Council for formal adoption, which will give it legal force as a component of the city's comprehensive plan.