Where are You on the UT?

In wildness is the preservation of the world.

– Henry David Thoreau

 

On May 12, we sent you a letter informing you on the various bills before the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee that would abolish Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC). That letter is included below. Today, we want to alert you to the latest developments as we work together to prevent the elimination of LURC.

First, the good news: due to tremendous support for improving LURC rather than dismantling it, the original strategy to eliminate it has been set aside. But, it is likely to re-appear at the beginning of the next session, in the form of recommendations from a task force.

We need your help now to continue efforts to keep LURC intact. Most likely LD 1534 will be where the battle is fought, and we are encouraging Legislators to join in supporting efforts to improve LURC rather than eliminate it. We anticipate this bill to be debated and voted on by both bodies early next week.

Please contact your Legislators now, particularly your State Representative, and ask them to support the Minority Report of LD 1534. “The McCabe amendment” lays the groundwork for improving planning and permitting within LURC. A task force would be charged with addressing concerns such as creating uniform standards across the unorganized territories for forestry and wildlife habitat, incorporating local input in decisions, assigning a LURC staffer to act as Ombudsman to assist applicants through the permitting process, and ensuring that LURC has the benefit of local economic development agencies while still maintaining the goal of advancing public welfare, balancing competing interests, and providing efficient and effective decisions on proposals to develop, utilize and conserve resources within Maine’s unorganized territories.

LURC is important because these unorganized territories matter to Maine; to those of us who live and work there, and to those who visit, hunt, fish, and hike there.

This point was well made in a May 31st Bangor Daily News editorial:

LURC has protected the landscape without shutting down development. It has approved more than 90 percent of building and development permits and rezoning requests. This doesn’t seem “heavy-handed.”

Since 2006, the average time for approval of a building permit has been 11 days; 115 days for a subdivision permit. LURC has protected the North Maine Woods from haphazard development that would have diminished the region as a national and international draw for thousands of sportsmen every year.

The region, first made famous by naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau, continues to draw hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers and others to its unspoiled waters (home to one of the country’s last populations of wild brook trout) and scenic vistas.

 

Please contact your Legislator today and tell them you value a statewide agency to promote the interests of all Mainers by protecting the values of statewide significance in Maine’s Unorganized Territories, values that define our natural heritage and provide Mainers the quality of place we rely on for our ecosystems and economy. Ask them "Where are You on the UT?" Ask them to support the Minority Report of LD 1534. Here's how to find your Representative and Senator and how to contact them.

Thank you.

=========================================================================

from GrowSmart Maine info@growsmartmaine.org
date Thu, May 12, 2011 at 3:30 PM
subject GrowSmart Maine Opposes Legislative Proposals to Abolish or Weaken the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC)

 

GrowSmart Maine Opposes Legislative Proposals to Abolish or Weaken the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC)

Several bills in the Maine Legislature (LD 17, LD 1258 and LD 1534) would abolish or radically weaken the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) by assigning its responsibilities to county governments. GrowSmart Maine opposes these bills and supports efforts to improve the effectiveness of LURC like LD 819, sponsored by Representative Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan).

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.

LURC was created 40 years ago with bipartisan support to provide public oversight of development and to protect the natural heritage of the more than 10 million acres of Maine’s North Woods where there is no local government. Since that time, LURC has served as an important guardian of the extraordinary qualities of Maine’s Unorganized Territory. In particular, LURC has worked to encourage thoughtful and 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.

GrowSmart Maine believes that abolishing LURC and distributing regulatory responsibility for land use planning and certain environmental and conservation purposes to 13 different counties would result in a fragmented and inconsistent regulatory environment which would effectively inhibit sustainable economic development in any of the Unorganized Territories.

An inconsistent regulatory approach for a statewide entity such as the Unorganized Territories simply makes no sense and is likely to result in poorly conceived development efforts which will do little to provide sustainable economic prosperity for the residents of the Unorganized territories and will significantly detract from the larger statewide effort to promote and preserve Maine’s unique quality of place which is its largest and most significant economic development tool.

GrowSmart Maine is strongly in favor of constructive proposals to improve the effectiveness of LURC such as LD 819, “Resolve, To Improve the Predictability of Land Use Regulation in the Unorganized Territories”. This bill, sponsored by Representative Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan, proposes 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 the “permit-by-rule” process for certain routine procedures administered by the commission.

Other Reasons why is it important to keep LURC

  • LURC’s jurisdiction represents last place in the eastern United States with pristine lakes, ponds, rivers, and mountains in an area as large as the rest of the New England states combined.
  • Maine’s forest industry depends on a sustainable source of wood. Scattering development throughout the Maine Woods would harm the state’s forest products industry.
  • Maine’s Unorganized Territory comprises the largest remaining undeveloped wildland region in the eastern U.S. Reducing protection of the unique environmental and economic values of this extraordinary area jeopardizes Maine’s unique natural heritage.
  • Maine’s North Woods have a unique set of values to the state; their economic importance to the timber and tourist industry is a very significant of the state’s overall economy and is inextricably tied to the need to preserve this extraordinary natural resource.
  • Lands within LURC jurisdiction provide habitat for a tremendous diversity of plants, animals, and natural communities. As the largest undeveloped forest in the East, this region provides “source populations” for adjoining areas—large, healthy animal populations that can repopulate fragmented and isolated habitat patches, where those populations are at risk. The healthy forests of Maine’s North Woods support some of the largest populations of birds and mammals in the entire Northeast, including moose, loons, black bears, and black-throated blue warblers.
  • LURC was created as a statewide agency to promote the interests of all Mainers by protecting the values of statewide significance in Maine’s Unorganized Territory, values that define our natural heritage and provide Mainers the quality of place we rely on for our ecosystems and economy.
  • Those who favor the abolishment of LURC have called for more predictability in Maine’s environmental regulatory programs. However, assigning LURC’s responsibilities to multiple counties would create less predictability, more inefficiency, and greater administrative costs.
  • Tourism is Maine’s largest industry. Misplaced development and diminished protection of our natural areas will jeopardize forest-based tourism and income that is essential to Maine’s economy.
  • LURC represents all the citizens and interests in the State of Maine. Without LURC, the general public would lose the ability to take an active part in the future of our natural heritage and our resource-based economy.
  • The number of landowners in Maine’s North Woods dramatically increases each year as the land is cut up into smaller and smaller parcels. Turning LURC’s planning, zoning, and permitting duties over to 13 separate counties would only serve to increase fragmentation and destroy the integrity of Maine’s North Woods. Nor do the counties have the additional funds to take on these duties.
  • Implementation of these bills would be expensive. For instance, the fiscal impact of LD 17 is estimated to be more than $1 million. Rather than saving money, breaking up LURC would cost taxpayers at a time of economic recession.

Public Hearings on LURC Proposals to be held on Tuesday, May 17th at 1 PM

A public hearing will be held on LDs 17, 1258, 1534 and 819 on Tuesday, May 17, at 1:00 pm at the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee in the Cross State Office Building, Room 206, Augusta, Maine.

GrowSmart Maine urges its members and supporters to oppose LDs 17, 1258 and 1534 and to support LD 819.

Here is What You Can Do:

1. Attend the hearing on May 17 at 1:00 pm at the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee in the Cross State Office Building, Room 206, Augusta, Maine. The easiest parking is usually available at the parking garage on the corner of Sewell and State Streets. Be prepared to speak for 2 or 3 minutes with regards to these LURC bills. Bring friends to help fill the room.

2. Submit written testimony. Mail or deliver 20 copies before the hearing to: ACF Committee Clerk, 100 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0100. Please note that current legislative procedure requires that separate written testimony be provided for each LD being heard regardless of similarity of purpose. (See more tips on providing legislative testimony below.)

3. Contact legislators on the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee. Call and/or write to urge them to Vote Ought Not to Pass on LDs 17, 1258 and 1534 and Ought to Pass on LD 819. Contact information for ACF Committee members is at www.maine.gov/legis/house/jt_com/acf.htm

4. Write a letter to the editor of the major news outlets in Maine and your local newspaper. Letters in the news media reach readers and many government officials who monitor the news. There is a list of Maine newspapers at http://www.usnpl.com/menews.php

What to do when you write or call your legislator
1. Tell who you are, where you live, and how long you have lived there.
2. Identify the bill by number and title and state whether you support or oppose it.
3. Give up to 3 reasons for your position.
4. Give a local example showing how this bill would affect your waterway or community, if you can.
5. Try to be specific. Choose among such values as recreational resource, economic value, wildlife habitat, drinking water source (if appropriate), etc.
6. Keep it brief.
7. Be respectful.
8. Never overstate.
9. Close by thanking the legislator for his or her time and consideration.

Testifying at a Public Hearing
1. Each bill receives a public hearing. It is important to have a good show of force at these hearings. You need to print 20 copies of your statement and give them to the Clerk of the Committee when you stand up to speak.
2. Arrive at least 30 minutes early. Park in the free garage on the corner of Sewall and Capitol Streets http://www.maine.gov/education/directions.htm The outdoor parking adjacent to the Capitol Building is time-limited.
3. Greet the two committee chairpersons by name. Also greet the "Distinguished Members" of the particular committee. Here's the link to the state web site where you can see who chairs and sits on each committee:http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/jtcomlst.htm.
4. Tell who you are, where you live, and how long you have lived there.
5. State the bill number, title, and whether you support or oppose it.
6. Give up to three reasons for your position.
7. Give a local example showing how this bill would affect your waterway and your community. Try to be specific.
8. Keep your testimony to two minutes if you can. Don't exceed 3 minutes. Try not to repeat what others have said, but you can briefly refer to earlier testimony to strengthen your position.
9. Never exaggerate.
10.The committee members may want to ask you questions. It is all right to say, "I don't know, but I can find out for you."
11.Close by thanking them for the opportunity to address them.

* * *

To find out who your Legislators are:http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/townlist.htm Click on their names for their contact information.
To look up a Bill's status by it's LD#: http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/search.asp From this site you can also look up the bill text and sponsors.
For more information, go to our Advocacy page, or contact us at info@growsmartmaine.org or 207.699.4330.

filed under: Uncategorized