News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 30, 2013
Brooklin selectmen seek advice on town development

by Rich Hewitt

In the wake of a joint meeting with the school board earlier this month, the board of selectmen is seeking professional advice on ways to attract more people and businesses to town.

On Tuesday, the board agreed to meet with Jeff Wahlstrom of Starboard Inc., a community and economic development consultant based in Bangor. That meeting will be on June 10.

The joint meeting focused on concerns about the declining enrollment at the elementary school and ways to stem that decline. Some of the ideas that came out of that meeting included a focus on affordable housing, improved Internet access, zoning changes and updating the comprehensive plan.

Albie Smith, chairman of the board, said the idea of meeting with a consultant was a follow-up to the joint session. He noted that a number of larger towns and cities in the area have full-time economic development directors. While Brooklin is much smaller than Ellsworth or Brewer, Smith said there was value in seeking outside help.

“We are much smaller, but we need to try to get good ideas to bring people and businesses into town,” he said. “We need to see what we can do in terms of economic development, affordable living, the comprehensive plan.”

Selectman Deborah Brewster added that a consultant may be able to help the town develop effective marketing strategies as a way to promote the town. She had raised the idea of marketing the town earlier this year and has suggested that may be a good way to attract new families—particularly families with school-aged children—to the town.

“We know we’re a good place to live,” she said. “We’ve got to let others know about it.”

The board also plans to approach the planning board at its next regular meeting about the possibility of updating the town’s comprehensive plan. The planning board also has discussed that possibility in recent sessions.

This idea, again, grew out of the meeting with the school committee, Smith said.

“In that one meeting, different issues came up that need some addressing,” he said.

The meeting with the planning board is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, at the town offices. It will follow a session between the board of selectmen, planning board, the shellfish conservation committee and Jim Fisher of the Hancock County Planning Commission who will present the results of a survey of Blue Hill Bay and its watershed area. That meeting will begin at 6 p.m.