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Considered Investments: Vulnerability Assessment & Open Space Plan

Included in the exhibits of the budget document, but not in the proposed budget due to overall budget considerations, are a Vulnerability Assessment ($100k) and an Open Space and Conservation Plan ($50k). These capital investments were considered by staff, as they serve to support and advance Town Council goals and priorities; however, they are not included in the proposed Capital Budget due to impact on the tax rate. Staff is very supportive of these investments and has the ability to advance the projects next year if the Town Council wishes to prioritize them.

Vulnerability Assessment: $100,000

A sea level rise vulnerability assessment is part of a climate action and adaptation plan (it represents the “adaptation” portion of the plan). The vulnerability assessment will identify areas and infrastructure that are most susceptible to damage from sea level rise and help prioritize where investments are needed. Understanding how sea level rise will affect Scarborough residents, businesses, and the community services and infrastructure we rely on is the first and most crucial step in building a prepared, resilient community.

Open Space and Conservation Plan: $50,000

An Open Space Conservation Plan would aid the Town in achieving its 30 x 30 goal. The Open Space Conservation Plan would identify locations to create opportunities for small and large open space areas that could be used for passive park space, trail connections or other conservation opportunities. These efforts would go hand in hand with our Climate Action Plan and would aid in protecting natural resources and cultural heritage. This plan will also lead to the development of a conservation and open space ordinance or impact fee.

The Relationship Between a Vulnerability Assessment, an Open Space Plan, and a Climate Action & Adaptation Plan

Vulnerability Assessment identifies areas and infrastructure that are most susceptible to damage from sea level rise and intense storms and help prioritize where investments are needed. It will include recommendations for structural improvements for (e.g., elevating pump stations, raising or moving roads, increasing culvert sizes, etc.). The Assessment will also identify nonstructural changes (e.g., zoning, ordinance, and policy updates) to minimize impacts of sea level rise on future development. A Vulnerability Assessment will also help us better understand which coastal properties are likely to be impacted by rising seas.

The Town is currently taking a piecemeal approach to understanding and addressing infrastructure vulnerabilities (e.g., Route One, Mill Book, and Sawyer Street projects). A Vulnerability Assessment will look at the Town holistically and provide a prioritized plan to address current and anticipated needs.

An Open Space Plan summarizes the Town’s existing open space, including conserved lands, parks and recreational areas, and designated open space. It also prioritizes opportunities to increase open space, identifies critical areas for conservation, and includes ways to improve access to open space. An Open Space Plan that is completed following a Vulnerability Assessment would incorporate information and data generated from the Assessment. For example, areas likely to be impacted by rising seas should be maintained as open space to minimize impacts on private property and allow for coastal marshes to expand, or “migrate,” into upland areas.

The Vulnerability Assessment and Open Space Plan are two pieces of a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. The Vulnerability Assessment represents the “adaptation” portion of the Plan – how the Town will adapt its existing infrastructure to be more resilient to rising seas and storms. The “action” portion of the Plan represents ways the Town and its residents and businesses can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide. Increasing open space and conserved land, as outlined in the Open Space Plan, is one action that affects climate. Healthy forests, marshes/grasslands, and soils are all carbon sinks and should be maintained as much as possible. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan will also include a Town-wide greenhouse gas inventory, greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, and actions the Town, residents, and businesses can take to meet the reduction goals. 

Exhibits are listed on page 55 of the FY2024 Budget document

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