CUTLER — “Clean air, beautiful scenery, nice people, peace and quiet.”
This statement, while it may read like something from a travel brochure, is one of 178 survey responses from Cutler residents contained in the town’s proposed comprehensive plan. Residents will be asked to approve the plan at a special town meeting and hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Bay Ridge School in Cutler.
One point made clear in the plan is that Cutler’s nearly 800 residents hope to preserve their way of life and natural beauty that, for many, first attracted them to this coastal fishing village.
While growth is inevitable and even encouraged in Cutler, it may be severely limited. With only 11 square miles available for development, residents are staunchly opposed to “additional government and conservation encroachment — zoning or owning — of the remaining Cutler private property.”
Most of the plan offers a broad approach to future development in the town. In a section addressing future needs in the town, the plan states that Cutler “will monitor actively the size, characteristics and distribution of its population, and incorporate such information into all relevant public policy decisions …”
Under economic development, the plan states that Cutler “has always encouraged and promoted the development of small business and light manufacturing within its jurisdiction,” and vows it “will continue to do so.”
On housing, the plan addresses the need to provide affordable housing for low and moderate income residents. “Cutler has always welcomed mobile homes … (and) will continue its policy on home construction and siting without regard to type of home, but on whether soil can support the required waste-water disposal system.”
Resource protection — marine, agricultural, forest, historical and archaeological — is identified as a prime concern of the town. While these resources would be protected, and development in sensitive areas discouraged, the plan makes it clear that Cutler’s residents will resist any attempt by state and federal agencies and conservation groups, to strip the town of its few remaining acres of privately owned land.
That message is repeated throughout the plan and echoed in the survey’s responses.
“We do not want the government to come in and take over land in the name of the public good,” wrote one resident. “The federal government has more land now than it can afford to manage properly.”
Another warned that although Cutler “is a peaceful, clean and beautiful place to live … it will be a constant fight to keep developers and undesirables from taking over.”
The plan offers a historical and statistical look at where the town has been and where it may be headed.
Cutler in 1970 had a population of 588 residents living in 158 households. By 1980, the town’s population grew to 726 residents in 214 households. It now stands at about 770 residents in 190 households. This reflects a growth in the size of the average Cutler family of 3.72 members in 1970 to 4.03 in 1990.
Earnings also have changed from an average per-capita income of $4,277 reported in 1979, to $10,615 in 1990. Average household incomes — the totals of all working family members — was reported at $12,614 in 1979 and was estimated at $35,208 in 1990.
The plan points out that fishing and timber industries played a major role in shaping the town. Development has occurred mainly near the coastal waters of Cutler Harbor, Little Machias, Cove Road and Route 191.
“Recent development has been limited to new single-family homes in various areas of the town,” the plan notes. “The dominant trend during the last 10 years has been the acquisition of land by conservation groups and state and federal agencies.”
The plan also points out at least one glaring contradiction in the responses offered by the town’s residents.
According to the survey, residents favored protecting the town’s existing natural resources and controlling future development. Asked where future growth should occur, 54 percent of those responding said it should be allowed “anywhere, provided there are no adverse environmental impacts.”
The plan noted that the response is “in conflict with the fact that 72 percent of the respondents indicated that they agree Cutler should have strong land-use controls to maintain the town’s rural atmosphere, character, open spaces and forests.”
“Little by little, federal, state and municipal restrictions keep picking away at people’s right to chose the way you might want to live,” wrote one resident. “If the Environmental Protection Agency is the answer, why has everything continued to get worse? Our fishing should be top-notch instead of non existent. More and more tax dollars are poured into worthless programs.”
The writer argued that “our simple, easy way of life” attracted many “out-of-state people” to the area ” … only to try and instill the restrictions and zoning of how (they) did it in New York, or wherever. Our harbor is almost completely owned by non-residents and restricted by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. Cutler has always been a fishing town and we need to hold onto our way of life.”
Perhaps the most simple reply to the survey came from a resident who wrote, “Cutler is a nice place to live, no more — no less.”