I just returned from my tenth walk in the last two weeks. I walk along the boundary lines in the woods around my house. Each time I do this, I am reminded of the "specialness" of my home, of this place. The special uninterrupted quiet, the wood's sounds, the way the light shines through the pine trees. And in the fall, it is a glorious place. Yellows, reds and golds reflect off the land, the sky is flawless in daylight and luminescent at night. There isn't a sound to disturb, not a light which doesn't belong.

My home is about to change. Four weeks ago the skidders arrived. It was truly terrifying to hear. The chain saws began shortly after that. The developer called and wanted to arrange a boundary walk. Twenty acres, all around my home, now being cut and developed. I am despondent. 
I wonder if it's time to move.

I have been on the Whitefield Planning Board for about eight years, although I really have lost count. I serve on this Board because I care about the Town, what is was, what it is, and all the people I've known for so many years.

Since I have been on the Board, the Town has grown and developed. The Planning Board has had the unenviable task of putting out fires, instead of trying to prevent them. Our ordinances have not been updated since inception in the 1970's; the Subdivision Ordinance, Development Ordinance, Whitefield Shoreland Use Ordinance, Minimum Lot Size Ordinance (amended in 1984 and 1990). In 1998 the Manufactured Housing Ordinance was enacted and in 2000 the Septage and Residuals Ordinance. An attempt to include commercial buildings in the Minimum Lot Size Ordinance by changing the word dwelling to structure was put to vote and failed. Likewise, an attempt to pass a Building Permit Ordinance also failed.

The very hint of reintroducing a comprehensive planning committee evoked many criticisms and expletive phrases in connection with the "Z" word. While I agree that regulatory pressure can become burdensome, without well thought out regulations, the process is merely chaotic.

Not only as a member of the Planning Board, but as a member of this community, it is imperative to look again at how we can accomplish preservation of our town, deciding, as a community, just how we want to evolve. In response to comprehensive planning, some people have suggested to me, "If it ain't broke, why fix it." I reply that that attitude is much like closing the barn door after the horse has run away. Now is the time to be proactive. We need to be proactive while we still have the opportunity to make plans for our community, our town, for who we are and how we see ourselves. In the near future, our ability to make our own directional decisions may be forever lost.

Our 1977 Comprehensive Plan was the embodiment and vision of folks who came together for a common cause, to lay out a plan for the future of our community. The words "preservation", "rural character", "agriculture" are prevalent throughout. The Committee shared its vision, and from community surveys those of the community, of its values and goals and heart. This plan, although adopted, did not direct the Town on how to implement its goals.

Although I realize that much work and effort went into an unsuccessful attempt to pass a Comprehensive Plan in 1991, the time has come to rethink our needs. Comprehensive planning is a long and arduous process, it takes much time and input; many hours away from home at meetings. Additionally, there is a Legislative movement afoot which may invalidate our local ordinances by the year 2003 if we do not adopt a comprehensive plan. I must tell you, as a member of the Planning Board, it would indeed by a fruitless pursuit to sit on a Board, stay out until midnight, try to enforce ordinances and maintain some semblance of order, if our local ordinances could be challenged and overturned.

The Board meets each month, we are all just ordinary folks. We have lives and jobs. We all have families. We are all invested in the community. We need your help.

I believe it is time to come together, to revisit comprehensive planning and to work with the Board to update and strengthen our ordinances. It is time to gather together for a common goal, to seek the opinions and to reach out to the whole community. We must be willing to invest our time to seek our collective goals, ideals and what we hold close to our hearts. The time has come to find a destination, and how to get there from here.

Sue Mckeen

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