City and town planners from all over Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont will be in attendance in Belfast today and Friday, September 24 and 25, for the annual conference of the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association (NNECAPA).

Robert Snyder, vice president of programs for the Island Institute, will open the conference on Thursday by talking about how the experiences of island communities inform the development of sustainable, self-sufficient communities. Over lunch, Uri Avin, practice leader for regional growth management with PB PlaceMaking, will discuss the future of transportation and transit planning in Northern New England. And on Thursday evening, a reception and award ceremony will be held at the City of Belfast's Boat House. William Roper, president and CEO of the Orton Family Foundation, will open the reception with a few words.

At lunch on Friday, Michael Shuman, director of research and public policy with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, will discuss "locally owned, import substitution" - a case for pursuing and encouraging local businesses.

Workshops will investigate ways to improve local economies from within and develop grassroots efforts to inspire and support community endeavors; finding ways for New England communities to address rising fuel costs and increased vehicle emissions through alternative transportation; and new approaches to integrating green and sustainable practices into infrastructure development.

The planners will be getting around, looking at sustainability initiatives at Unity College and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and touring historic Belfast, Penobscot Narrows Bridge, and Bayside and Temple Heights neighborhoods.

There will be a free showing of "Neighbor by Neighbor: Mobilizing an Invisible Community," sponsored by NNECAPA, at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast at 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 24. It's the story of what happened in Lewiston when the town wanted to bulldoze a neighborhood to build a highway. There is limited space, so arrive early to get a seat.