Scarborough is a town, like many others, that is facing significant challenges that are endemic to suburbanization. These challenges are infrastructure-related (how to maintain vital public services such as police, fire, sewer, water, and roads), planning-oriented (does Scarborough want to maintain its trend of growth, and if not, how should it grow), and fiscal-based (how to raise and spend the necessary funds).
Two central themes were prevalent throughout the Town's 1994 Comprehensive Plan:
1) Does Scarborough want to develop itself into a fully suburban community? and,
2) Is it fiscally and environmentally sustainable?
According to the Plan's Community Survey, 51% of Scarborough residents think the Town has grown too fast. In regards to this trend, 23% wanted to limit new residential growth while 46% felt it was the Town's role to direct this new growth to appropriate locations. 80% thought Scarborough should develop a plan for conserving, preserving, and using open space and 74% wanted the Town to purchase more land or easements to protect areas of particular scenic beauty or environmental performance.
The majority of Scarborough residents think that the Town has grown too fast and that it should undertake more efforts to conserve its Open Space. Scarborough has an extremely small amount of local Open Space. As of 1994, the marsh and federal and Use-assessment lands comprised over 98% of all of Scarborough's Open Space. Scarborough's lack of local Open Space is most evident in the pressure on the Town to expand its recreational / park facilities for residents. This acreage figure, however, is not the central point of this study. The main issue revolves around long term planning. This study hopes it has pointed out some of the economic and fiscal effects of Scarborough's rapid suburban growth and the corresponding loss of Open Space.
Due to policy shifts and new administrations, Maine's Growth Management Act has unfortunately hindered the work of Scarborough's Comprehensive Plan. The Act, which was the proactive and driving force behind Scarborough's (and other towns' across the state) Comprehensive Planning Process, had various mechanisms to provide state feedback on town planning and for funding various implementation policies. The Act has stalled, leaving the onus on towns to follow up (and fund) their own plans.
Scarborough residents want to maintain the area's remaining rural character and they value the Town's Open Space. As is the case, unfortunately, with most Comprehensive Plans, putting these stated goals into policy and backing them up with town zoning ordinances is a very difficult task.
One reason it is difficult is due to the growth trend Scarborough has found itself in. With extreme pressure on the Town to provide and expand basic public services, long term land-use planning often takes second priority to new, market-demanded developments (residential and commercial) which bring with them initial revenues. However, as this study has shown, many types of development do not support themselves.
Scarborough's present pace and type of development may not be sustainable as pressures on public services, the school system, and Town budgets are seeing expenditures outstrip revenues. The Cost of Community Services Study demonstrated that the Town is incurring a $470 annual deficit per resident and a $277 deficit per residential acre on Residential land-use. Open Space, it was shown, had a worse expense-to-revenue ratio (of $0.61 vs. $0.78) but its deficits per resident and per open space acre are much lower at $10 and $20, respectively. Scarborough had a $4 million deficit in 1994. Residential land-use accounted for $5,886,809 of the Town's deficit while Open Space's share equaled $124,998. Helping to subsidize this overage was the Commercial / Industrial land-use which brought a positive balance of $1,937,375.
This study has outlined some of the economic benefits that the Town of Scarborough receives for its Open Space deficit of $124,998 ($10 per resident). The study has also sought to show some of the economic trade-offs inherent in proper Open Space planning and unplanned development. It is my conviction that these economic (and social) benefits of Open Space far outweigh that deficit.
I hope that this work can be of good use to Scarborough Town officials and citizens.