December 21, 2012

Farmington to revisit downtown plan in wake of concerns

Farmington Downtown Association has too much control in current plan's language, selectman says

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON --The downtown development plan will be revised again after a town selectmen and residents expressed concern about the draft's language.

Selectmen Andrew Hufnagel said Thursday he was concerned that Farmington's proposed downtown development plan gives too much authority to the Farmington Downtown Association.

Hufnagel, who recently founded the Farmington Business Association, said he is concerned if the language of the draft is not changed, the town will be giving a nongovernmental organization too much control in a project that uses government funding.

Hufnagel said he wanted specific references to the Farmington Downtown Association changed to general references about all of the different area business associations.

Consultant John Holden, with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, said the plan, which has already been edited from the first proposal made Oct. 30, will be further edited to remove some references that specify the group as a main decision making body.

Holden said the plan will not be run by the downtown association, but the group will be a major part of the effort because it has a good record of promoting downtown businesses.

The downtown plan, commissioned by the town, is a suggested three-year course of action created by Eaton Peabody Consultant Group. Holden said the town commissioned his group to create the plan to protect the future of the downtown, because its vitality affects the entire community.

To help fund the project, Holden said the plan includes a recommendation to create a new tax district, but does not specify where the new district should be.

The draft listed new streetlights, sidewalk and a Sandy River bridge connecting West Farmington to the downtown as items that a new tax district could help fund.

The draft stated a Sandy River multi-purpose bridge was estimated by the Louis Berger Group to cost $1.65 million. The town would need to have $330,000 in available funds to file for federal and state financial help in building the bridge. The draft stated the town had $5,000 in donations for the bridge before they received the estimate of the cost of a bridge. Eaton Peabody Consulting Group stated in the draft it recommended Farmington renew efforts to fund a Sandy River bridge with the goal of building one in 2014.

Recommendations also included designing a shop local campaign, using social media to promote the downtown, improving the downtown's website and developing a brand to market the downtown.

Holden said he recommends creating the brand "Your Downtown" and using it in marketing campaigns.

The plan will be carried out by four committees of residents who will focus on economic restructuring, organization, promotion and design.

Holden said there is no timeline yet for implementing the plan, which is still being redrafted.

Kaitlin Schroeder -- 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com

 

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