2021 Comprehensive Plan
Kennebunk's Comprehensive Plan outlines a vision for the future of the Town. It provides a framework for zoning and ordinances and gives guidance to municipal officials, staff and community stakeholders regarding the development of the Town.
The Town appointed a Comprehensive Plan Committee that worked diligently over the last several years to update this plan (which was last approved in 2003 and amended in 2011). After a public hearing was held for citizens to provide feedback, a final draft of the Plan was submitted to the State of Maine's Municipal Planning Assistance Program in December 2021.
The Plan was reviewed for consistency with Maine's Growth Management Act using criteria outlined on a self-assessment checklist (PDF), and the voters of the Town will ultimately vote on acceptance of this Plan in June of 2022.
View or download a complete draft of the plan, or view the plan chapter by chapter using the links below.
- Chapter 1: Vision Statement
- Chapter 2: Public Participation Summary
- Chapter 3: Regional Participation Plan
- Chapter 4: Historical & Archaeological
- Chapter 5: Water Resources
Since the creation of Kennebunk's first Comprehensive Plan in 1991, the Town's pattern of growth has (mostly) aligned with that Plan's vision.
Residential growth has, in general, followed a pattern that clusters housing in designated growth areas near services and infrastructure and preserves open space and rural areas.
"Small town charm" including historic homes, good schools, walkable neighborhoods; proximity to the beach, open space and recreational opportunities have all made Kennebunk a nationally-recognized place to live and to visit.
The population in 1991 was 8,300 and according to the 2020 census, is now approximately 11,500. The State projects a 7.8% population growth within the next 10 years.
To maintain the Town's look and feel in the future, it will be important to balance the location and aesthetics of new development, including needed affordable housing, with preservation of wetlands and open space.
The Comprehensive Plan Update Committee began collecting resident feedback in 2016, through multiple venues.
A resident survey was followed by outreach to key community organizations, two public open houses, online message boards, and discussion at Select Board and Planning Board meetings.
Details of these efforts are captured in the Appendix (PDF) to the Comprehensive Plan document. Any additional feedback will be captured and summarized in the final version of this document.
The Town has ongoing agreements with several area towns designed to share costs of equipment, resources, knowledge and labor.
There are also ad hoc agreements designed to achieve specific short term goals.
In addition, the Town has partnered with Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission and other neighboring coastal municipalities to share resources designed to protect coastal sustainability in the face of continuing climate change threats.
This chapter provides a brief history of Kennebunk and creates an inventory of historic and cultural resources within the Town.
In 1963 Kennebunk's historic district was the first historic district established in the State of Maine. One of the most famous historic properties in Kennebunk is the Wedding Cake House, which is also the most photographed house in Maine.
Kennebunk will need to develop strategies to preserve the cultural and historic heritage of the community as growth continues.
This chapter covers great ponds (Alewive Pond), the Kennebunk, Mousam and Branch Brook watersheds, aquifers, the Town’s coastal areas, and details the threats to each resource, including possible sources of non-point pollution that is negatively affecting river water quality.
- Chapter 6: Natural Resources
- Chapter 7: Agriculture & Forestry
- Chapter 8: Marine Resources
- Chapter 9: Population & Demographics
- Chapter 10: Economy
This chapter includes a discussion of soils, topography, freshwater and coastal wetlands, wildlife and fisheries habitat, and the role that the "Beginning with Habitat" database plays in identifying vulnerable resources worthy of protection.
This chapter also covers Kennebunk’s Open Space Plan (PDF), dune ecosystems, and scenic vistas.
This chapter provides a description of the community’s farms, farmland, and managed forest lands, with a brief description of those under threat.
In this chapter there is a focus on the marine resources industry in our community including:
- Ports and harbor
- Coastal water testing info
- Protection of working waterfront
- Water-dependent uses
- Public access points to the shore
- Scenic resources along the shoreline, including ownership (public/private)
There is a further discussion of water quality issues, and efforts to identify and mitigate bacteria “hits” especially in the Kennebunk River.
The Town has grown 10% in the past 10 years, which mirrors growth in York County in general, but is much higher than the state as a whole.
The Town has a large population of seniors; over one quarter of households are comprised of a single person; continued “aging out” of the workforce and decrease in the birth rate indicate that future growth will come from in-migration, predominantly from other Northeast states.
Other statistics: the town is overwhelmingly Caucasian; median income is higher than in the State as a whole; the Town’s population increases by 50% during the summer.
This chapter contains a description of the Town’s job market, services and products available, workforce, tax base, commercial and industrial business and availability of necessary infrastructure.
The Town’s early history was that of a center of manufacturing, particularly along the rivers; today’s economy is far more diversified and to a certain extent dependent upon the tourism industry. The COVID-19 pandemic affected Town businesses in ways that are both positive and negative, and the end of this story is yet to be written.
Centers of commerce include the Route 1/Downtown corridor, West Kennebunk/Maine Turnpike interchange, and the more seasonal Lower Village area. A discussion of zoning ordinances and the role of the Economic Development Committee, the SEDAP plan, Chamber of Commerce and community support provide more detail that contribute to the Town’s economic blueprint.
- Chapter 11: Housing
- Chapter 12: Recreation
- Chapter 13: Transportation
- Chapter 14: Public Facilities & Services
- Chapter 15: Fiscal Capability & Capital Improvement
This chapter contains a synopsis of the recent rise in real estate prices, both in Kennebunk and in the Northeast, and the factors contributing to this increase, which impact the ability of middle-class and income-constrained families to afford housing.
Definitions of “affordable,” “subsidized,” and “workforce” housing are provided, with references to Town Zoning ordinances designed to enable construction of homes suitable for middle and lower-income buyers and renters.
There is detail about the number and location of residential units approved by the Planning Board in the past 5 years, and the number of units and associated acreage needed if the state’s 10 year 7.8% growth prediction proves accurate.
This chapter contains an in-depth description of recreational facilities, programs in the community and surrounding area, and local trails, beaches, boat launches and parks.
This chapter contains a description of the Town’s roads and bridges, as well as transportation options including access to area train, airport and bus terminals and, public transportation. Definitions of different types of roads and their functions, conditions, plans for improvements, and which entity (Town/State) is responsible for maintenance.
Also covered in this chapter is information regarding high crash areas, parking, pedestrian infrastructure, and the Complete Streets policy of rebuilding roads to enable safer shared usage.
This chapter contains a list of all public utilities and municipal services that provide the functional backbone of the community.
Covered is the Kennebunk, Kennebunk and Wells Water District; Kennebunk Sewer District; Kennebunk Light & Power; Central Maine Power (serving 20% of the town); Unitil (natural gas; service to a small area); broadband and satellite providers of cellular service, landline and VOIP phone, internet and video services.
Health and social services, public and private schools are also described. Information on Town Hall, the functions of various departments, number of employees, facilities and future needs of each department are covered.
This chapter contains a broad explanation of the Town budget, independent audits of the Town’s financial condition, how property assessments work, year-over-year cost comparisons, bonding for capital improvements, and a presentation of the town’s multi-year capital improvement plan.
Also included is a discussion of the recently completed Facilities Study and how it will impact future planning for the Town to continue and enhance its current level of service to residents.
- Chapter 16: Climate Change & Sea Level Rise
- Chapter 17: Existing Land Use
- Chapter 18: Future Land Use Plan
- Chapter 19: Evaluation
This chapter identifies concerns associated with rising global temperatures that are causing sea level rise, changes in storm intensity, and threats to animal habitat.
Shoreline property and public infrastructure are increasingly threatened by higher annual tides, storm surge and storm intensity. Roads and evacuation routes will need to be evaluated along with potential future capacity of existing stormwater facilities.
The development pattern established during Kennebunk’s early days as a center of shipbuilding and manufacturing set into place the location of major roads, centers of commerce and the clustering of homes in village settings.
The continuation and enhancement of this pattern is overseen today by the Planning Board, Zoning Ordinances, and the Community Development, Planning and Code Enforcement staff.
This chapter includes a table of current lot and dimensional standards used for residential, commercial and industrial development, and explains the intent behind the requirements for each zoning district. A discussion of Shoreland Zoning (PDF) and floodplain management, along with current categories of land use, is included along with a current zoning map.
The Future Land Use Plan (FLUP) chapter is the key to Town changes over the next ten years. It reflects discussion and decisions on action items to address challenges such as:
- Encouraging appropriate development in areas that are supported by town infrastructure
- Sustainable economic expansion
- Addressing climate change
- Improving stormwater
- River and ocean water quality
- Protection of wetlands, wildlife, open space and farmlands.
This chapter contains an overview of all subject matter covered in the various topic areas, and what it means for potential ordinance changes to achieve the Goals, Policies and Strategies detailed in each topic area (which are recapped in the FLUP).
The Plan divides the town into Growth Areas, Transitional Areas, and Rural Areas (with maps). It also covers Critical Natural Resources and Critical Waterfront Areas.
The State requires that Comprehensive Plans include an outline describing how the community will periodically (at least every five years) evaluate the following:
- The degree to which future land use strategies have been implemented
- Percent of municipal growth-related capital investments in growth areas
- Location and amount of new development in relation to community's designated growth areas, rural areas, and transition areas
- Amount of critical natural resource, critical rural, and critical waterfront areas protected through acquisition, easements or other measures
Updates and reports on the above points will be summarized each year in the Annual Town Report. This information will be compiled into a 5 year summary evaluation.