The concept of merging natural resource departments is not new. There are real challenges and opportunities, as I’m sure you will hear today. In my professional experience as both a farmer and a forester, I believe this could work, if it is done well. It is encouraging that the motivation behind this proposal seems to be greater collaboration and efficiency, rather than cost savings. I hope that the savings identified in this bill are redirected to the new department.
An appropriately staffed and effective Technical Building Codes and Standards Board is critical given that it is anticipated that implementation will require the Board to resolve conflicts and undertake rulemaking to adapt the provisions of the Code. I am not sure that this bill, as currently drafted, will achieve this objective or the purpose stated in the bill summary of “creating efficiencies in the administration and enforcement” of the MUBEC.
GrowSmart Maine strongly believes that our state would benefit greatly from the strategic use of bonding to enhance economic development efforts, fund research, development and commercialization projects, invest in infrastructure improvements, and continue the state’s commitment to the Land for Maine’s Future and Communities for Maine’s Future programs. We urge the committee to include these important investments in a bold and balanced bond package this year.
Senator Hastings, Representative Nass and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, a statewide non-profit, membership-based organization working to improve Maine’s economy, protect its distinctive character and communities, and enhance our state’s quality places.
We believe this bill will work in direct conflict with those objectives. I say this, acknowledging the real concerns from landowners. But this is not the solution.
Amending the current law which governs the use of tax increment financing to allow TIF funds for appropriate IF&W projects is appropriate because it acknowledges outdoor recreation as a key component to economic development for much of Maine. Investing in infrastructure that builds on the economic value of quality places is a sound investment of public resources. Allowing the TIF financing mechanism to be used for fisheries and wildlife purposes has the potential to advance much needed sustainable economic growth in rural areas of the state in a manner that conserves Maine’s unique quality of place.
We believe this bill, in many respects, is a well-grounded, thoughtful proposal that strengthens Maine’s economy while protecting the unique natural and working landscapes. When land use planning is done thoughtfully, with a focus on balance and additional attention where there is potential for conflict, we can provide for economic growth without risking the unique character of the area.
We support most of the proposal outlined in LD 1798, with great appreciation for the efforts of the people who served on the LURC commission and those who attended the numerous meetings held across the state. As we look to redesign the Land Use Regulation Commission, the challenge is to incorporate both the local and regional perspective. Some residents of the UT believe their voice has not been heard, and they are looking for acknowledgement that their statements have been respected in the outcome of this legislation.
In my eight years as a state legislator, we debated numerous efforts to evaluate the impact and cost of tax incentive programs, but made little progress. We even looked at the legislative process, hoping to encourage more collaboration between legislative policy committees to measure the value of tax policy proposals. I endorse this bill because it does provide a comprehensive, thoughtful approach to accomplish these goals.
-Markos Miller, Guest Blogger
Residents and visitors to Maine alike appreciate our special Quality of Place, whether it’s the coast, the woods, farms, or downtowns. Since its founding, GrowSmart has been dedicated to the preservation and strengthening of such assets. The special character of our downtowns is particularly affected by the connection between our transportation and land-use policies. The City of Portland is currently engaged in a re-examination of the auto-centric transportation planning from the last half of the 20th century in order to restore a sense of Place to a desolate transportation corridor in the heart of the city.
As a part of our commitment to strengthening Maine’s economy, GrowSmart Maine is particularly enthusiastic about well grounded, thoughtful and creative proposals which seek to grow the economy in a sustainable manner while at the same time preserving our state’s unique character. We believe this bill fits that description, and I’m eager to engage in the conversations today and afterwards, as we all seek to measure the impact related to the various reports highlighted in the bill summary.
Maine’s long held tradition of open recreational access to private lands is truly unique in this country. Landowners are facing increasing challenges related to this open access, and their concerns as outlined in Tom Doak’s testimony, warrant addressing. GrowSmart Maine has attended several meetings on this topic hosted by the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine and the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine and we support their efforts.