GrowSmart Maine Weighs in on Proposed LUPC Rule Changes

June 20, 2018

To Members of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission,

In testimony from the April hearing, attached here, I outlined GrowSmart’s concerns related to proposed revisions to the LUPC adjacency rule. While GrowSmart appreciates the need to improve the current adjacency “one-mile rule” we offer recommendations to minimize development outside of areas not appropriate for growth, to remain true to the intent of the 2010 CLUP.

Our intention is to support the viability of organized towns within/adjacent to the UT and the economic future of the region without sacrificing the unique environmental attributes of the UT. To achieve these goals, the revised rules must address a complex matrix of community, economic and environmental considerations.

Below are several recommendations to encourage protection from intensive development those areas of the jurisdiction that are particularly representative of the UT’s principal values, especially lands valued for their remote and relatively undeveloped condition.

Timing

As adjacency and subdivision both move from vision to concepts to rules, as outlined in the timeline and comment opportunity in Samantha’s presentation, there may be insufficient time for advocates and communities to review, consider potential impacts, and think through local scenarios. The two sets of rules are now just coming together in draft form. Is it realistic to schedule a September public hearing for subdivision? I recommend moving this to October at the earliest to allow adequate time for thoughtful response and recommendations and that the commission allow addition time after that hearing for stakeholders to evaluate the interrelated implications of the pair of rules.

Outreach to Towns

From our conversations, many town officials are unaware that these rules are coming together. LUPC staff shared that they reached out to some towns early on and sent a letter within the past few weeks to many more. We realized that turnover in town staff and elected officials certainly adds to the challenge, and we recommend staff follow up on these initial inquiries to ensure towns most likely to be impacted by these changes have an opportunity to get up to speed as the two sets of rules come together. GrowSmart Maine and Maine Municipal Association are willing to assist in this outreach, acknowledging that these towns are outside of the LUPC jurisdiction. It is our understanding that the PCEDC is a willing partner as well.

Identifying appropriate hubs for adjacency

We encourage additional staff time in evaluating the appropriateness of currently designated retail hubs: are these the right towns for adjacency of new development? We are aware of some township being removed based on initial feedback and encourage continued openness to feedback on both townships and retail hubs/service centers from those who live, work and recreate in and near the UT.

10-mile distance

Given the potential impact of these changes, the 10-mile distance from rural hubs is too great. It risks pulling demand for services too far from these towns while risking damage to wildlife habitat and the forest. It would be better to proceed with caution, given the potential harm; by first designating 3 miles, or perhaps 1 mile, and re-evaluate after a trial period of perhaps five years.

Scenic Byways

In addition, caution should be taken in determining appropriate locations for new development along designated scenic byways, as they serve a vital role in destination tourism being developed by local stakeholders in partnership with the Maine Woods Consortium. We will continue to engage with staff and the Commission as adjacency and subdivision rules evolve. We encourage a careful approach as these changes will have significant impact on the UT.

Sincerely,

Nancy E Smith

Executive Director

See June 22 Blog Update on this issue: Communities at Risk with Proposed LUPC Rule Changes

Below is testimony delivered to the Land Use Planning Commission meeting in Brewer on April 11, 2018 regarding proposed changes to the Adjacency Rule.

My name is Nancy Smith and I am Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, a statewide non-profit whose mission is to build lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of place that defines Maine. We work with people in rural communities as they seek to achieve that goal for their hometown.

I also bring to this discussion my prior professional experience as a forest technician and then licensed professional forester for International Paper for thirteen years, much of that based in Lincoln where I worked in forest management and oversaw harvest operations in organized and unorganized towns. For several years I managed the recreation program on 600,000 acres in Maine and NH with annual revenue of $250,000. In addition, I was co-owner of a family farm in central Maine for nearly twenty years.

Here are my concerns with the current proposed changes to adjacency rules:

These proposed changes are significant. When coupled with pending subdivision rules there will be significant changes in growth patterns in the Unorganized Territory (UT). Coordination of the timing of these two components of land use will be very helpful to all concerned.

The greatest potential for harm to the UT is in the residential development. Changes proposed for commercial and business uses appear to be appropriate. I offer caution regarding residential development because of its potential detrimental impact on the regional economy and communities.
To demonstrate this, I will point to work being done by the Maine Woods Consortium, of which GrowSmart Maine is a member. Much work is underway to acknowledge and strengthen destination tourism as an economic driver that is quite compatible with the forest products sector. The Maine Woods Rally will be held May 16-17 as a part of this effort. Proximity of residential development to unique natural resources is as much a threat to destination tourism as it is to timber harvesting.
I continue to have concerns related to the proximity of homeowners to timber management, specifically, to timber harvesting. As Mainers work with millions of federal dollars invested in the Forest Economy Growth Initiative led by Maine Forest Products Council and Maine Development Foundation, let’s not undermine their work by allowing the establishment of homes which by their very nature give new owners the assumption that in purchasing a home they also have an expectation of undisturbed natural surroundings.

I also continue to share concerns about expectations for emergency services by those who purchase homes in remote areas. Agreements signed by original purchasers will not defer requests for assistance by these initial and future occupants. Those volunteers and professionals who provide emergency services from nearby organized communities will respond to the call; and their dedication to service is commendable. But we must acknowledge the strain this will put on these communities that receive no property tax revenue from homes located in the UT.

I want to thank staff of the LUPC for their outreach and openness. I appreciate the chance to meet with them on all issues and to offer my insights on farm stand location, having been a part of farmers’ markets and a home-based farm stand for over a decade.

In closing, I thank the Commissioners for this opportunity to engage and am happy to continue to assist in this process.