Pilot Project Location Criteria

Definition of a Sustain Southern Maine Pilot Project:

These are places that are – or can be — highly competitive for the next generation of job and housing growth in Southern Maine.  Sustain Southern Maine’s first group of pilot locations will be chosen based on where we see the market already wants to go, tapping into the market’s desires foThey will be testing grounds, where lessons learned in generating an economically sustainable and livable model can be used throughout the region by other communities as they choose. The locations will be the targets of focused investments in infrastructure to meet the needs of 21st century businesses and their workers.  Not all growth will be suitable for communities of opportunity – for example, certain industries, warehousing, and distribution activities.  But by positioning themselves to absorb significant shares of most kinds of growth over the next 25 years, they will help protect the surrounding rural landscape and character from over-development as well as spur economic growth and stability in the region.

These locations are potentially are in most communities, small and large.  They range in scale from Convenience Center to Neighborhood Center to Downtown to Regional Center. But across these ranges there are some common characteristics:

  • Mixed use, with residential, commercial, and often civic or open space components – in different ratios based on the type of center, but each component is present to one degree or another;
  • Generally no more than ½-mile in diameter, or with the periphery of residences no more than ¼-mile from the commercial spine or center;
  • Utilities, telecommunications, and transportation Infrastructure to support residential development, the demands of 21st century businesses, and easy movement by car, walking, and bicycle within the center;

Connections between communities of opportunity by different modes of transportation. (Movement from center to center is common, since, except for the more urban communities of opportunity, most will not be self-contained or expected to meet all the needs of those who live and work in them; rather, they work in combination to meet a range of needs.)

How this concept supports a Regional Plan: 

We know that this kind of growth pattern is more sustainable, and by sustainable we mean economically supportable over the long term.. This was documented by the conclusions developed regionally in the Gorham East-West Corridor Study. By selecting a small sampling of pilot locations – in varying scales and typologies – for analysis and design, we will flesh out the form, function, and required investments of these places. The results of this work will yield a practical blueprint (a Toolkit) to be rolled out to other communities to adopt and adapt once this phase of the study has concluded. The Toolkit will include a regional map of identified replicable locations, locations that are deemed by this process to be market-friendly and able to absorb growth. This process is one that is community-friendly, since it demonstrates its value and can be adopted on a town-by-town basis as desired by residents. It is also market-friendly, as it approaches the process from a “developer” perspective – overlaid by proven sustainability outcomes. A traditional visioning/trends/alternatives process (already completed in the Gorham East-West study) would be another way to approach this process, but would result in less practical, market-tested outcomes. If communities of opportunity centers are implemented in even 40-50 locations over the next 25 years, the region will absorb growth in a much more sustainable and economically strong manner while allowing residents a broad range of choices in the kinds of neighborhoods available. Support and encouragement for this adoption process over time would be one of the roles for the continuing Partnership.

Criteria for selecting the pilots are below. We have identified 160+ initial centers to start and are currently working to finalize that list and decide which of the criteria is reasonable to develop the first set of pilot locations. Asterisked criteria will be the first to be applied.


*Public Sewer availability; or, if a hamlet/small community example, availability of soils for engineered community subsurface wastewater disposal Municipal maps Low-med-high – based on level of capacity in center
*Public Water availability Municipal maps Low-med-high – based on % of center with access
*Transportation intersection for:-          vehicle-          bus-          rail

–          other

Market Center Mapping Data Low-med-high with notes for multi-modal
*Is center part of a growth area in Comp Plan or Zoning Comp Plan Yes/no
*Availability of land or buildings within the center for development or redevelopment (ability to absorb sufficient growth) Tax maps, aerial photos, wetlands maps Low-medium-high – based on available acreage and utilities to serve
Does center have sufficient jobs or access to jobs to create a reasonable basis for growth? I know this is available…employment data where? Low-med-high
Does town zoning allow mixed use? (not necessarily in center) Zoning ordinances Yes/no – in center or not
Does town zoning allow multi-family housing (not necessarily in center) Zoning ordinances Yes/no – in center or not
Does town zoning allow higher density (not necessarily in center) Need to define threshold – would not necessarily be as high as center, but would indicate readiness Low-med-high
Does Town have active and supported comprehensive planning process Dates of plan updates, scope of plan in terms of willingness to tackle more complex and controversial planning concepts, e.g. Cluster Developments Low-med-high
Age/condition of housing stock in center Visual assessment Poor-good-excellentAverage/older
Density of existing housing stock in center Visual assessment DU per acre
Stability of business base in center Years business locations have been in operation Low-med-high
Estimated number of existing jobs in center Municipal government Number per gross and net acre
Presence of public services (health, post office, churches, libraries etc.) Visual assessment Number /nature
Variety/number of businesses in center Market Center Mapping Data/estimate of FAR from aerials/visual inspection Number
Estimated existing population in center Estimated visual assessment at avg. HH size Number
Income profile  (determine existing level of mixed incomes) Census block data Income range or median
Proximity of recreational area Market Center Mapping Data/Land use maps if available/local government Yes/no/acres/type/proximity
Proximity of working agricultural land [Ability to grow and export locally grown food?) Land use maps if available/local government Yes/no/acres/proximity
Proximity of existing cultural [need to define] amenities Market Center Mapping Data/Local government/internet Raw number within center/miles of center
Proximity/accessibility to next larger center Market Center mapping Miles/access  – rating 1-5
Bike infrastructure available within municipality on roadways GPCPG? Yes/no
Bike infrastructure included in Comp Plan Comp Plan Yes/no
Block pattern (pedestrian connectivity) Intersections per square mile Lo-med-high
Quality of School System GreatSchools.com Lo-med-high
Housing – to come
SOFT (Qualitative) CRITERIA
*Willingness to support range of housing options Public meeting feedback, discussions with municipal staff Low-med-high
*Willingness to increase zoning to recommended density levels Public meeting feedback, discussions with muni staff Low-med-high
Stability of local government Turnover of board/council, assessment by MPOs Low med-high
*Willingness to make zoning and comp plan change if needed to support Com Op Public meeting feedback, discussions with municipal staff
Visibility and importance in terms of regional change SSM Team assessment – geography in terms of proximity to other centers? Low-med-high
Transformational potential? Similar to above but more than geography…judgment call? Low-med-high
Replicable to multiple other communities SSM Team assessment Low-med-high