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Sebago Maine Town Seal
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Community History and Character
INTRODUCTION

A.      COMMUNITY HISTORY AND CHARACTER

1.      Geography

Sebago is located in Cumberland County on the western shores of Sebago Lake, approximately 30 miles west of Portland. This is the Lakes Region of southwestern Maine. Sebago Lake forms the eastern border of Sebago, with approximately 7 miles of shoreline. Standish and Baldwin border Sebago to the south; Hiram and Denmark border to the west; Bridgton and Naples border Sebago to the north. The 50 square miles of Sebago encompasses several lakes and ridges.  Approximately 90% of the Town is forested.
Sebago Center (also known as Mud City) is centrally located within the town. It is situated 3.5 miles inland from Sebago Lake, 450 feet above sea level. Sebago Center has served as the central point for Town government since the turn of the century.
Douglas Mountain, which is found along the Town's southern boundary and extends into Baldwin, is the highest point in Sebago. At elevation 1407 above sea level, it also is the highest point in Cumberland County.

2. History and Character

The first white settlers of Sebago came from the Groton, Massachusetts area in the 1790s. They included Joseph Lakin, who built a cabin off of what is now Peabody Pond Road; Jacob Howe, who carried mail from Bridgton to Portland before there were roads; and William Fitch, who built the first grist mill and sawmill on the pond at East Sebago, and the first lumber mill on the Northwest River.
Sebago originally was part of Baldwin. It was incorporated as a town in 1826. A part of Denmark was added in 1830, and a few lots at the mouth of the Muddy River were given to Naples in 1851.
The local economy was first based on lumbering and farming. With the depletion of first growth White Pine, agriculture became more important. However, rocky soils limited the productivity of farms.

The manufacture of barrels, primarily for shipment to the West Indies for molasses, became an important industry until the mid-1800s.
Improved transportation in the second half of the nineteenth century led to the establishment of Sebago as a summer vacation spot. Boats and trains from New York and Boston provided transportation to Portland. From there, rail service took passengers to Sebago Lake Station in Standish, where they boarded boats for Kernan's West Shore Camps in East Sebago and Nason's Wharf in North Sebago. The mail stage from Mattock's Station in East Baldwin also transported people to North Sebago. Access to Hancock and Barker Ponds was via the Bridgton and Saco River Railroad (this railroad right-of-way still is visible as a dirt trail, and Route 107 in West Sebago follows its alignment).

Communities of summer cottages grew up around these areas.  As roads improved and with the coming of the automobile, the summer populations increased.  Today, Sebago continues to be a summer vacation destination.

B.      COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING PROCESS, PLAN FORMAT

In 1988, the State of Maine passed the Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act, which established a cooperative program of Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Management among municipalities, regional councils, and the state. Under this law, each municipality is required to develop a Local Growth Management Program that is consistent with the State goals set forth in the Act. The Growth Management Program consists of two parts: a Comprehensive Plan, and an Implementation Program that includes a zoning ordinance. Because Sebago's 1988 Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted before the State law was passed, did not meet all the criteria mandated by the State, the Town was required to prepare this update.
The Sebago Comprehensive Plan Committee was formed in 1989, and began to meet on a regular basis to develop this plan. A survey of community attitudes was designed and administered to property owners as part of the planning process. Six hundred and six surveys were mailed to property owners; 303 to year-round residents, and 303 to seasonal or non-resident owners. Three hundred and thirty-one surveys were returned, for a response rate of 55%. Sixty-three percent of responses were from permanent year-round residents. The results of the survey are found in Appendix B and have been incorporated into the plan.
The body of the plan contains Sebago's community goals, policies, and strategies for the next ten years, and a description of the conceptual future land use plan that will ultimately serve as a basis for the town's zoning. The data used to develop the body of the Comprehensive Plan is found in the three appendices.

C.  SUMMARY OF 2000 - 2001 COMMITTEE WORK

At Town Meeting1999, on the Planning Board’ recommendation, the town’s people voted to form a Land Use Ordinance Development Committee.  This committee was formed and began holding meetings twice monthly in October, 1999.  The committee soon realized that drafting a new land use ordinance would require professional assistance.  Grants from the State Planning Office are available for this type of venture; however, grant approval is only possible to a town with a state-approved Comprehensive Plan. Although the 1991 Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the town, it was never approved by the State.  In fact the Plan was reviewed and returned with several objections and recommendations by the State Planning Office.

The Land Use Ordinance Committee decided its first priority must be updating and revising the 1991 Comprehensive Plan, so that State approval, and thus ordinance development grant money could be obtained.  In the spring of 2000, the committee, with the assistance of the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG), sent out a new survey to Sebago residents.  Of the 1300 surveys distributed, 316 were returned, for a response rate of 24%. The questionnaire and the tabulated results are included in Appendix D.

D. STATE AND REGIONAL GOALS

1. State Goals

As part of the process of developing the Comprehensive Plan, the Town of Sebago has reviewed the ten state goals cited in the Growth Management statute. The goals mandated are:

        To encourage orderly growth and development in appropriate areas of each community while                                protecting the State’s rural character, making efficient use of public services and preventing                          development sprawl.

To plan for, finance, and develop and efficient system of public facilities and services to accommodate anticipated growth and economic development.

To promote an economic climate that increases job opportunities and overall economic well-being.

To encourage and promote affordable, decent housing opportunities for all Maine citizens.

To protect the quality and manage the quantity of State’s water resources, including lakes, aquifers, great ponds, estuaries, rivers and coastal areas.

To protect the State’s other critical natural resources including, without limitation, wetlands, wildlife and fisheries habitat, sand dunes, shore lands, scenic vistas, and unique natural areas.

To protect the State’s marine resources industry, ports, and harbors from compatible development and to promote access to the shore for commercial fishermen and the public.

To safeguard the State’s agricultural and forest resources from development that threatens those resources.

To preserve the State’s historic and archaeological resources.


To promote and protect the availability of outdoor recreation opportunities for all Maine citizens, including access to surface waters.


2. Regional Goals

The Growth Management statute also requires that regional plans be developed that are consistent with the State growth management provisions, and local initiatives. The following are the goals developed by the Greater Portland Council of Governments:

Support regional growth and development in an orderly and planned fashion, which will avoid placing unnecessary burdens on resources and infrastructure.

Preserve the remaining rural character in the region by influencing the location and intensity of future development.

Address new infrastructure financing methods for the region which will reduce the burden on the local property tax and consider, where appropriate, regional cooperation.

Promote the effective and efficient delivery of quality services for the region in a cost-effective manner consistent with regional needs.

Encourage organized and balanced economic development throughout the Greater Portland region in a way that is stable and consistent with the carrying capacity of the area.

Work with regional organizations to solve housing problems and provide decent homes in a suitable living environment for every family in the region.

To enhance and upgrade the ability of policy-making bodies to deal with water quality management issues on a short- and long-term basis.

Promote a safe, healthy and protected environment in which to work, live and recreate.

Assist in the preservation and efficient use of the region’s natural resources so as to ensure their availability for future generations.

Facilitate and promote the region’s marine resources and the development of related industries.

Work to improve the condition of the region’s highways and transportation facilities, in terms of safety and capacity.

Work towards the provision of a combination of passive and active recreational facilities, scenic vistas, and open space in order to serve a wide variety of needs simultaneously and be easily accessible to a large part of the metropolitan area.