BANGOR, Maine -&nbspBangor has made it to the final round of judging for a 2008 Award for Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities in partnership with CH2M HILL, an international engineering and construction firm.

The awards, granted annually, recognize cities and towns for outstanding programs that have improved the quality of life in their communities.

In Bangor’ s case, the initiative that caught the judge’ s attention was the city’ s leadership role concerning the ecologically sensitive Penjajawoc watershed, which happens to be located near the busy Bangor Mall retail district.

Many of the measures the city has adopted to protect the marsh were the product of a 15-member Penjajawoc Marsh-Bangor Mall management commission.

The commission drew its members from essentially the same people who served on the Penjajawoc-Bangor Mall Area Stakeholders Task Force, a panel with representatives from five interest groups, namely landowners, land trusts, environmental groups, city officials and commercial developers.

Bringing the affected parties together was the city’ s approach to resolving what was becoming an increasingly bitter battle between environmental and economic concerns.

The controversy was touched off by plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter near the Penjajawoc watershed, a plan that was rejected six years ago by the state Board of Environmental Protection.

Among the outcomes were zoning amendments that prohibit development within 175 feet of the resource protection zone surrounding the marsh, and limit impervious surface for developments within 250 feet of the marsh’ s upland edge.

Residential construction near the marsh is limited to cluster subdivisions, which allow houses to be built closer together, on smaller lots, as a way to preserve more open space than otherwise would be required.

With regard to land farther away from the marsh, the city now allows cluster subdivisions to be used on low-density residential as well as rural residential district districts.

According a news release about the awards program, Bangor’ s marsh-mall program was among 173 nominated this year from 36 states, and among 57 named finalists in four population categories. Bangor falls into the category for communities with populations of 50,000 or fewer.

Nominated municipalities were judged on several criteria, including successful public-private partnerships and productive citizen and community collaborations, effective management of municipal resources, innovative government policies, project implementation with tangible results, and the ability to replicate the project in other communities.

Winners will be announced at the NLC’ s Congress of Cities and Exposition, set for Nov. 11-15 in Orlando, Fla.