Join or Donate

Press Release: GSM Testifies Against Legislative Proposals to Abolish or Weaken the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC)

PRESS RELEASE

May 17, 2011

GrowSmart Maine

309 Cumberland Avenue

Suite 202

Portland, ME 04101

207-699-4330

 

CONTACT: Kimberly Ballard

Testimony of Daniel Hildreth, Chair, GrowSmart Maine Board of Directors in Opposition to LD 17:

“An Act to Reform the Land Use and Planning Authority Within the Unorganized Territories of the State”, LD 1258: "An Act To Improve Land Use Planning and Permitting in Unorganized Territories", and LD 1534: "An Act To Reform the Land Use and Planning Authority in the Unorganized Territories"

May 17, 2011

 

Senator Sherman, Representative Edgecomb and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. My name is Daniel Hildreth, and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors for GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places. I’m appearing before you today on behalf of the GrowSmart Maine Board and Executive Director Nancy Smith to offer our testimony in opposition to LD 17.

GrowSmart Maine notes that LURC was created in 1971 with bipartisan support to provide for planned development, and for preservation of natural and ecological values in Maine’s unorganized townships—a diverse region of over 10 million acres that includes the largest contiguous undeveloped area in the eastern United States. Since that time, LURC has provided significant protection of the principal values of the land within its jurisdiction. In particular, LURC has worked with stakeholders to encourage well planned development while at the same time striving to maintain environmental standards which are essential to maintaining the rural quality of the North Woods and other Unorganized Territories throughout the state. We believe that there is an ongoing need for LURC to be retained in its present form and strongly oppose any effort to abolish or significantly weaken this important regulatory agency.

From the perspective of sustainable economic development and the need to preserve the unique natural resource of the North Woods and other parts of the Unorganized Territories, GrowSmart Maine believes that abolishing LURC will actually result in a significant long term setback to the northern Maine economy and a real threat to the overall sustainability of the natural resources of the North Woods that are such an important part of Maine’s overall economy and quality of place.

In addition, GrowSmart Maine opposes the abolishment of LURC because we believe that LURC provides a consistent and relatively efficient means of regulating the largely undeveloped Unorganized Territories across the State of Maine. Retaining a single regulatory body for all the unorganized territories provides a level playing field for thoughtful and sustainable development efforts which promote local economies without destroying the fundamental rural character of the unorganized territories.

With regards to the particular proposals included in LD 17 and 1534, transferring the authority for land use planning from LURC to the county in which the unorganized territory is located, with or without with the assistance of a transition advisory board, is an idea fraught with administrative and financial problems. Aside from the previously mentioned lack of a level regulatory playing field from county to county, there are many unanswered questions about each county’s willingness to assume these duties to say nothing of their ability to absorb the significant additional cost associated with either maintaining a separate administrative agency or significantly expanding existing municipal or county organizational structures.

With regards to the particular concepts proposed in LD 1258, transferring a significantly weakened LURC from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Economic and Community Development with an added mission of economic development represents a less than desirable policy shift. LURC should be solely focused on land use planning and not saddled with an inappropriate additional duty of promoting economic development. In addition, the proposal to establish three regional and planning commissions is likely to result in a relative lack of a level regulatory playing field across the state from region to region. Finally, there are many unanswered questions in this concept draft about how the three regional commissions would be funded. Proposing to create 3 additional organizational entities strongly suggests significant additional costs and a certain loss of administrative and financial efficiencies.

Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks. Please contact me with any questions regarding GrowSmart Maine’s opposition to LD 17.

 

Testimony of Daniel Hildreth, Chair, GrowSmart Maine Board of Directors in Favor of LD 819

“Resolve, to Improve the Predictability of Land Use Regulation in the Unorganized Territories”

May 17, 2011

 

Senator Sherman, Representative Edgecomb and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. My name is Daniel Hildreth, and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors for GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places. I’m appearing before you today on behalf of the GrowSmart Maine Board and Executive Director Nancy Smith to offer our testimony in strong support of LD 819.

GrowSmart Maine notes that LURC was created in 1971 with bipartisan support to provide for planned development, and for preservation of natural and ecological values, in Maine’s unorganized townships—a diverse region of over 10 million acres that includes the largest contiguous undeveloped area in the eastern United States. Since that time, LURC has has provided significant protection of the principal values of the land within its jurisdiction. In particular, LURC has worked with stakeholders to encourage well planned development while at the same time striving to maintain environmental standards which are essential to maintaining the rural quality of the North Woods and other Unorganized Territories throughout the state.

In keeping with our commitment to work towards the continual improvement and effectiveness of governmental agencies, we believe that LURC could be significantly improved by the proposals in LD 819 which require that LURC continue with efforts to provide prospective zoning for a portion of the Unorganized Territories, take action to establish a stakeholders group to implement LURC’s 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan and make further use of the “permit-by-rule” process for certain routine procedures administered by the commission.

Thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks. Please contact me with any questions regarding GrowSmart Maine’s enthusiastic support for LD 819.

 

* * *