In Support of LD 54

Testimony of Nancy Smith, CEO of GrowSmart Maine in Support of LD 54, An Act to Require Compliance with Natural or Agricultural Resource Protection Ordinances

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May 15, 2023 

Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich and Honorable Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources,

My name is Nancy Smith, I live in Ellsworth,  and I am the CEO of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan non-profit organization helping communities navigate change in alignment with smart growth.  We advocate for comprehensive policies and funding for smart growth practices and outcomes. 

One focus of GrowSmart Maine’s advocacy aligns with our Planning for Ag programming to protect farmland and farm viability. We have spent much of this session in other committees supporting our Policy Action 2023 focus on addressing barriers to and creating incentives for equitable, sustainable growth and development that strengthens downtowns and villages of all sizes while pulling development pressure away from productive and open natural areas. 

LD 54 attempts to strike that same balance, in ensuring that zoning put in place to protect natural and agricultural lands is acknowledged as Maine addresses the housing crisis. LD 2003 did this as well, by allowing for a duplex and an accessory dwelling unit where residential use is allowed in areas outside of locally-designated growth areas or areas with sufficient sewer and water infrastructures, In these areas where the local intent is to promote additional development, the law allows for up to four dwelling units, so long as setbacks and other rules are followed. 

LD 54 affirms municipal zoning intended to ensure ongoing agriculture use as well as protection of natural areas. For instance, the City of Auburn allows for some residential development within their agricultural zones, but only for households actively engaged in farming. This is a creative strategy that strikes the right balance. We want to ensure this sort of municipal advocacy for farmland protection and farm viability is allowed to continue even as Mainers address the current housing crisis.

GrowSmart offers a unique advocacy perspective, as we remind legislators and municipal leaders that addressing the housing crisis must be done without undoing the good work to address the climate crisis, and without creating the next crisis of access to farmland and food.