2008 Jan 25
The draft results of a comprehensive plan survey for the towns of Perry and Pembroke were prematurely posted to a "Quoddy" Google group website. The website claim is that "65% strongly oppose LNG project in Perry," but it also says that the survey is "a draft text that may be revised." The website lists Art MacKay, an LNG opponent from St. Andrews, as its editor.
The website, which focuses on one element of the Perry Comprehensive Plan survey in its header, states that it "is dedicated to the Quoddy Region at the Bay of Fundy, and hopes to create a strong international coalition to foster appropriate sustainable development and international protection of the unique Quoddy-Cobscook Bay Region." The survey posted on the website says opinions from Perry respondents on liquefied natural gas facilities were "polarized with many expressing strong disfavor." Graphs and tables with respondents' data regarding the comprehensive plan are included in the December posting on the website.
Gerald Morrison, chairperson for the Perry Comprehensive Plan Committee, says, "We were hopeful that we could have more time to review and summarize before the results were released. The goal of the committee is to come up with a plan that represents the true vision of the town and a plan that will be voted fairly on. The survey was posted prematurely before the committee could review a summary of it. I think we all agree that we don't want this to become another LNG issue." Morrison says that the update of Perry's comprehensive plan had "occurred during a time when the issue of LNG development was being debated in our town and surrounding communities."
The comprehensive plan survey was mailed out to every household and non-resident landowner in Perry in late July and August of 2007. Out of 581 surveys mailed in Perry, 132 were returned. Morrison says that those responding were heavily weighted toward older residents and seasonal residents. "In fact, of the 132 survey respondents, just one was under the age of 30, and only 16 were between the ages of 30 and 39. Meanwhile, 69%  were over the age of 50, and a third  of survey respondents were self-identified as seasonal residents."
Morrison says, "In seeking to ensure that the comprehensive plan accurately reflects the widest possible cross-section of townspeople's views, the comprehensive plan committee takes direction, not only from the relatively small sample represented by the survey results, but also from the results of the referendum questions in the most recent municipal election."
The survey also showed that respondents strongly favored school regionalization, but Morrison says that "of the 323 Perry voters who turned out at the polls in the recent statewide election on November 6, 82% or 266 voters opposed regionalization and signed a school consolidation repeal petition."
Morrison comments, "In the interest of drafting a comprehensive plan which best represents the opinions and desires of the Town of Perry, the committee will consider the results of the survey but will not give it undue weight in determining the goals of the comprehensive plan."
Comprehensive plan committee member John Cook says he was aware that the survey was posted on the Google website. He comments, "Yes, I saw it. This information should be released to the community. This is part of public documents, and people should be aware of it."
In an e-mail to Morrison and Judy East, executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments, Cook stated, "We all know that the town is grappling with some contentious issues. We are in the process of trying to arrive at a resolution of many of these issues. Some of the data that is generated will provide insight into ways to clarify these issues. In this case, the survey results indicate widespread community opposition to the proposed LNG project. That is a clear, simple fact, and such it is newsworthy. If some of this information gets passed along to others, including people outside of Perry, and is picked up and distributed by advocates of a particular position, well, that is just the way things work in a free, democratic society." Cook also says that the comprehensive plan survey results should have been given to residents sooner. "Rather than trying to restrict the flow of information to control the dialogue on these issues and stifle community-wide discussion, we should be trying to find ways to stimulate it."
Morrison maintains that comprehensive planners are still in the review process of the data and have several more meetings to attend before finalizing a plan.
Judy East says that the Perry Comprehensive Plan survey "reflects only one piece of the information for a final plan. This is not a final statement. The summary of the survey respondents is not necessarily the town's final outcome. There will be more public meetings and hearings to review the plan." But East also says that the surveys yielded "a good response rate" and that a response rate of 12% to 15% is average. Perry's overall response rate was 23%, with 132 respondents out of 581 mailers, and Pembroke's was 25%, with 182 respondents and 714 mailers.
The Town of Perry adopted a comprehensive plan in 1993, and the document was in the process of being updated. The plan considers small business, fishing, farming, forestry and conservation of natural resources, education, health care, real estate, transportation, public safety, and all levels of government. It is an inventory and analysis of current conditions within a town. It also examines town population, economy, housing, recreational resources, and land use. Once a plan is revised and accepted, towns can use the information to guide decision-making in town policy and government. Perry is working to complete a comprehensive plan with a shared grant with Pembroke.
The next comprehensive plan committee meeting will be held on Thursday, February 7, at the Pembroke American Legion Hall on Front Street in Pembroke. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.
© 2008 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.