GrowSmart Testifies on LD 322

Testimony of Lock Kiermaier, Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator of GrowSmart Maine,

Neither For Nor Against LD 322,

“An Act to Repeal the Informed Growth Act”

February 23, 2011

Senator Thomas, Representative Cotta and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State & Local Government. My name is Lock Kiermaier and I am the Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator for GrowSmart Maine. As many of you know from our previous interactions with the committee, GrowSmart Maine is a statewide non-profit membership-based organization working to grow Maine's economy, protect its distinctive character, and enhance our state's quality places. Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine, and the GrowSmart Maine Board have asked me to appear before you and offer our testimony on LD 322.

As you know, the Informed Growth Act (IGA) authorizes a process by which proposed large scale retail developments involving more than 75,000 sq. ft. are required to undergo a comprehensive economic impact study which can cost no more than $40,000 and is to be paid by the developer of the proposed project. Current law requires that the study must determine whether there is a net “undue adverse impact” on the local economy resulting from the project. Most importantly, the study is to be considered by the governing municipal body that has the sole authority to make the final determination as to whether the proposed project has an undue adverse impact on the community. If the governing municipal body concludes that there will be no undue adverse impact, a land use permit may be granted to allow the proposed project to be completed.

The intent of the IGA is to provide a process by which a municipality would gather data for careful consideration of potential economic impacts of a proposed large scale retail development on the host municipality. The IGA came about because many municipalities simply did not have existing municipal ordinances in place to adequately deal with the broad impacts of large scale retail developments.

To the best of our knowledge, since the IGA was signed into law in 2007, the process has been used once. The IGA came into play with a proposed Wal Mart currently under construction in Skowhegan. According to Representative Jeff McCabe (District 85- Skowhegan), the IGA process was useful and helped the Skowhegan Planning Board administer a more complete overview of the proposed project.

It is also important to note that when the proposed IGA was under consideration by the Legislature in 2007, GrowSmart Maine did not take a formal stance on whether the bill should become law. Then, as is now, members of the board were somewhat divided as to whether municipalities should be compelled to undergo the process required by the IGA. During its most recent meeting in January of this year, the board reached a consensus in concluding that the IGA could be significantly improved if it were amended to provide municipalities with the option of using it at their discretion. Making the IGA optional would preserve the original intent to provide municipalities with a regulatory framework to carefully consider the prospect of large scale retail development. Amending the IGA to allow it to be optional would further allow municipalities to invoke the requirements of the act if it is felt that existing municipal ordinances are not adequate to carefully consider this scale of proposed development.

I would be pleased to try to answer any questions that you might have regarding GrowSmart Maine’s proposed amendment to LD 322. I anticipate being present during the committee’s work session on this bill.