GrowSmart Maine Testifies in Favor of LD 1528, “An Act to Provide Livable, Affordable Neighborhoods”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
in support of LD 1528,
“An Act to Provide Livable, Affordable Neighborhoods”
May 16, 2013

Senator Boyle, Representative Welsh and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Nancy Smith and I live in Monmouth. I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places.

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 and quality of place. We believe this bill fits that description.

GrowSmart Maine evaluates legislation from several perspectives as we consider the relevance to our mission. We have found value in reviewing the benchmarks highlighted in the Measures of Growth in Focus Annual Report, released each year by the Maine Economic Growth Council, under the Maine Development Foundation. For this legislation, we find relevance for sixteen of the twenty-six benchmarks, including those for Prosperity, Business Innovation, Business Climate, Civic Assets, Disparities, Health and Safety, Stewardship, Development and Environmental Quality. In fact, this bill has the potential to strengthen nine of the ten policy areas tracked by the Maine Economic Growth Council as part of their annual report.

If you are looking for one single measurement that captures this notion of prosperity for Maine, it would be what I hear most often when I travel across this state. We want better for our children. We want our kids to be able to live in Maine and to WANT to live in Maine. Selfishly, we want our kids and grandkids in easy distance for regular visits. Selflessly, we want to leave Maine stronger and better for them. With this bill, we have the chance to focus on major policy areas where regulations have the potential to either limit or broaden our ability to do just that. This bill provides a way to see transportation, rural lands and communities within a set of strategies to strengthen our communities and our economy in a way that conserves both working and open lands and that reduces the costs of delivering services such as transportation, health care and housing.

There are tools available for communities to achieve these goals. What is lacking is an understanding of how to find and use them and perhaps the capacity to assist municipalities in these efforts. This bill will provide a place to make those connections and will result in a set of reports back to this committee on how to achieve this fundamental goal of making Maine a place where future generations thrive.
In a quick bit of outreach to see which groups would be interested in engaging in this work, I have received confirmation from:

Maine State Chamber
Maine Municipal Association
The Nature Conservancy
Maine Association of Planners
Maine Audubon
Maine Farmland Trust
Maine Rural Partners
Natural Resources Council of Maine
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
Maine Association of Realtors
Maine Downtown Center
GrowSmart Maine


I am waiting for responses from several other organizations, including those representing realtors and developers.
I encourage this committee to move this bill forward and am happy to answer any questions.