Friday, December 14, 2018

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Regarding the protection of the rural character of Windham

I’m delighted to see the concern from so many citizens regarding the shrinkage of open space in Windham.  I was privileged to serve on the planning board approximately five decades ago when we originally proposed a zoning ordinance in Windham.  I was the youngest member of the board and believe I am the only one still living to write this letter.  Our chairman, Jack Clark, (no relation) did a superb job explaining our proposal to whomever would listen. We held public meetings, met with many civic organizations and any group that would listen to us. After all our preparation, it wasn’t until the third public vote that the ordinance was finally passed. We needed to keep amending the ordinance until it allowed for enough farmland and open space to please the townspeople.  They made it clear that they wanted to preserve the rural character of our town.  

What I have observed over the years is a gradual violation of the original ordinance and the will of the people who voted for it. Time after time I’ve seen the planning board and the councilors grant exceptions to the ordinance and allow more and more housing developments, thus reducing the open spaces and farmland. Those boards forgot that the citizens voted to preserve open space. I sincerely appreciate that so many of you are concerned and are, once again, holding workshops and having discussions to make changes in an effort to preserve Windham’s rural character.   

Soon after that original zoning ordinance was passed, we made an extensive search for land with waterfront and beach access for public use. Although we failed to find any lakefront property, we found a site on the Presumpscot River which was owned by SD Warren. They donated the land and Dundee Park was created for all to enjoy. Dundee Park should be protected from developers and preserved as recreational space to be enjoyed by the public for many years to come.

Sometime after that, the council gained approval from the state to produce our first comprehensive plan. I chaired that first comp plan committee and kept in mind that maintaining the rural nature of Windham was the citizens’ intent.  As the comp plan was necessarily updated over the years, it was not always adhered to. Veering from the plan left us where we are today, with more development and less of the rural community that the citizens desired.      

While business and development certainly have their place in Windham, zoning is critical to allow enough open space for both farms and community space for all to enjoy.  I encourage you to proceed with respect to the original intent and maintain Windham’s rural character.      

Dick Clark
Windham, Maine and Naples, Florida

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