Testimony in support of LD 1372 “An Act To Encourage the Redevelopment of Upper Floors of Buildings in Downtowns and on Main Streets”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine

in support of LD 1372

“An Act To Encourage the Redevelopment of Upper Floors of

Buildings in Downtowns and on Main Streets”

May 11, 2015

 

Senator Volk, Representative Herbig and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, my name is Nancy Smith. I live in Monmouth and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine.

I am speaking today in support of LD 1372, and I want to begin by providing the committee with a bit of background on this bill.  Work on this proposal began about a year ago, and this is still a work in progress.  A small group of us have been studying barriers to the redevelopment of upper floors, particularly in Maine’s downtowns and along our Main Streets.  GrowSmart Maine, the Maine Downtown Center, Maine Preservation and Kennebec Valley Council of Governments came together after first identifying a federal issue, the loss of a subsidy for federal flood insurance, and researched additional barriers.  To support our effort, Rep Dick Campbell submitted the bill title you see today and we continued to work on the content through the summer and fall and even into last week. The good news is that, over the course of about a half dozen meetings, we have yet to identify a state-level issue requiring a legislative solution.  We know that new information is often brought to public hearings and we are open to that potential. 

Our group found that concerns related to MUBEC can be addressed through education of code enforcement officials, property owners and community decision makers as well as through the established process within the MUBEC board. Many of us in the non-profit and quasi-government sectors offer educational outreach to municipal officials and engaged citizens.  KVCOG works directly with their municipal members and the three non-profits have statewide reach in our work. 

Options for the committee to consider include the draft amendment prepared by the committee analyst for Rep Campbell, which would incorporate a specific mention of the redevelopment of upper floors into legislative language describing the comprehensive planning process or perhaps to carry over the bill to allow for additional time to research the issue.

Why does this matter?  Because there is strong market demand for people to live and work within Maine’s more populated places, from village center like the Main Street in my town of Monmouth, to the downtowns of our largest cities as well Skowhegan, Waterville, and other mid-sized cities across Maine.  If we can find ways for developers and property owners to meet this demand, existing infrastructure is better utilized,  we reduce development drift, a phrase this committee heard just last week, is minimized, and our working and natural landscapes will continue to be healthy and productive.  I ask this committee to work with the supporters of this bill to seek a suitable next step for this proposal.

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