Letter to the Land Use Planning Commission from GrowSmart Maine

To the Members of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission                           August 10, 2017

As noted in my testimony yesterday, I am providing a written summary of my remarks. I was encouraged to hear the Chair of the Commission state that it is not the goal of the Commission to eliminate the adjacency rule, but to improve the process.

Below are the primary points of my remarks, which are based both in the mission of GrowSmart Maine and in my long time experience as a forester (including townships in the UT) and as a farmer, because conflicts with neighbors can be quite similar.

  • GrowSmart Maine helps Maine communities adapt to change by proving tools and resources that encourage solutions focused on long term positive outcomes.  How can we keep what we love in our hometowns while creating economic opportunities for ourselves and future generations?
  • We support the overall direction of the staff recommendations but urge caution in proceeding due to the significance of the UT in both size and its various values.
  • In whatever form changes to the rule take, the purpose of the adjacency principle should be preserved. The goal is to accommodate and welcome economic growth in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the surrounding communities and environment.
  • The Objectives of adjacency listed on p.2 of the staff document are well-stated and important.
  • I would argue against the point noted on p. 5 that “service availability may not be necessary if buyers are warned in advance.”  The bullet below this one notes a similar viewpoint.  It is human nature to expect what we are accustomed to, regardless of original agreements.  With transitions in use from seasonal to year-round, transfer of ownership, even as owners age, needs change and expectations can cause conflict for local and regional service providers.
  • The primary source of conflict will likely continue to be the type of development described in the 4th principle recommended by staff on page 10 of the document.  Residential developments located within the natural resource and away from service center communities often risk “undue adverse impacts” to the community and environment and are nearly important difficult to undo.
  • Fragmentation is specifically noted as a risk.  Adjacency also related to new neighbors not accustomed to the sights and sounds of timber harvesting.  As with farming, new neighbors can create conflict with traditional management and harvesting methods.
  • It is important to respect the Citizen-Guided Planning and Zoning Process, looking to the outcome of these efforts as guidance for the desires of local residents.
  • Finally, as Maine makes good use of significant investments in federal, state, and local resources within the 3-year Sustainable Forestry Initiative, it would be a disservice to work at cross purposes with these efforts that are focused on strengthening both the forest economy and the communities hit hard by mill closures.  Let’s ensure our work here does not conflict with those efforts, so the forest economy can respond to future opportunities and the communities are strong and sustainable.  http://maineforest.org/issues-information/sustainable-forestry-initiative/

Nancy Smith, Executive Director, GrowSmart Maine