Small Town Resilience: Lessons From Maine

February 27th, 2020

Presentation note from presenter Brian Ambrette: During my talk I said that towns in Maine with populations below 4,000 were exempt from doing comprehensive planning and zoning. While that is true, the way I presented the topic made it sound as if the population size of a municipality was the planning trigger; that is not accurate. No municipality in Maine is required to have a comprehensive plan. That mandate was removed from the enabling statute years ago. Zoning is not linked to population size either. If a town creates a comprehensive plan, there is a presumption that zoning will follow and a town without a comprehensive plan cannot enact most types of zoning (but will still have to enact mandatory Shoreland Zoning). I mistakenly conflated zoning with building codes, which are linked to the size of the municipality. Municipalities with population over 4,000 must adopt and enforce the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Codes or another code at least as stringent while municipalities below that threshold are not required to do so. 

Presentation Slides

Session Description: From ocean acidification and warming, to broadband internet, renewable energy and sea level rise, small communities in Maine are making great strides in their future resilience. Join members of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation & the Future and the Island Institute, a community development organization that has worked to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities for more than 37 years. They will share an update on the work of the Maine Climate Council and stories of resilience from along Maine’s rural coast.


Brian Ambrette is a Senior Climate Resilience Coordinator with the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. Brian has a decade and a half of community, conservation, and nonprofit experience in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. From 2014-2019, Brian was the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Coastal Resilience Program Manager at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in Maryland. He provided rural communities with adaptation and resilience planning assistance through a groundbreaking regional climate collaborative. He also served as a member of the Maryland Climate Change Commission’s Adaptation & Response Working Group. He holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and bachelors degree from Middlebury College in Vermont.

Suzanne Arnold, Ph.D., is the Marine Scientist at the Island Institute. She joined the Institute in 2012 and works on the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on marine resources and fisheries-dependent communities. Susie earned a master’s degree in Marine Policy and a doctoral degree in Marine Biology from the University of Maine. Her current areas of focus include working with fishermen to diversify their businesses to include shellfish and seaweed aquaculture, researching the environmental benefits of farming edible seaweed, and helping coastal communities better understand the implications of sea level rise so they can make informed adaptation decisions. Susie has extensive experience and expertise in directing projects that have successfully extended scientific literacy and supported communities in increasing their resiliency.

Stephenie MacLagan combines environmental science, natural resource economics, and policy in working with island and coastal communities to strengthen diverse economies, future resiliency, and environmental connections. Currently, she is responsible for strategizing projects across the Broadband, Energy, and Sea Level Rise teams, to maximize contributions toward delivering on the Strengthening Community Economies strategic goal of Island Institute. She has worked in both the private and non-profit sectors and previously spent over seven years at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, where her work included waterfront and infrastructure projects. In 2006, she was recognized as one of the “20 Women for Sustainable Development” by the National Wildlife Federation. Stephenie obtained her M.S. in Resource Economics and Policy from the University of Maine, where she studied soft-shell clam management while working at the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Policy from Unity College.

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