Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nightstand Reading

I was bored the other night, so I did what any self-respecting Brookophile would do in a fit of ennui: I read the city's Strategic Economic Development Plan & Process report.

The 53-page report, compiled by Old Orchard Beach-based Biscaye Consultants and Scarborough-based PolicyOne Research, is like other reports described by political columnist Al Diamon in that it relies on jargon and is inconclusive. But it's still an interesting read.

Take, for example, one of the ideas that the March 2007 report features concerning the Exit 47 area, the site of the proposed Stroudwater Place (page 14): "A vision is needed for mixed use retail focus at Exit 47: Bloomingdales, P.F. Chang, Barnes and Noble, Crate and Barrel, and a civic convention center." Hmm, sounds familiar. But then it should, as Jason Snyder was one of the thirty-two interviewees for the report (see page A14 for a list of the other thirty-one).

Speaking of development, the city's planning structure faced criticism on page 18. Indeed, the sentiment, "[t]he problem in this area 'not being business friendly' is with the process, not the people" nicely encapsulates the numerous complaints of the City's processes and governing bodies concerned with economic development. Respondents groused about the Council's requirement that a proposal must be read twice before it is approved, complained that planning board members don't understand and respect the Westbrook business community's needs, and worried that the potential for wholesale political change every two years creates an "unpredictable" and "risky" environment for developers. These critiques were but three specific complaints amid a cacophany of generalisms that the City of Westbrook just takes too damn long when deciding to approve or oppose a business proposal. On the next page, though, the City also receives a couple compliments that it is relatively easier to deal with than other towns and cities in the Greater Portland area are.

I could continue to write more about this report (and I just might), but I've got a life to, you know, live. Meanwhile, I recommend you click on the city's website ( and click on the tab that reads '2007 Economic Development Summit Report' on the right-hand side of the site Despite its fifty-three pages, it really is a quick and interesting read.

Assuming you're good at wading through some dense and seemingly meaningless prose.

- John C.L. Morgan

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