The Power of Home Rule and the Potential for Regional Solutions WEAVING COMMON THREADS 


What:  GrowSmart Maine hosted a forum one week after its Summit  2020, inviting participants to delve further into the summit  theme: the power of home rule and the potential  

for regional solutions, focusing on three key issues that  arose from Summit breakout sessions: 

  1. Increase Access to Renewable Energy:  Focus on removing barriers to renewable energy  as outlined in the State Climate Action Plan. Recruit  leading communities for a campaign to make it  easier to align zoning and ordinances with this goal  by demonstrating the tangible benefits of solar and  other sustainable energy sources, in order to allay  community concerns. 
  2. Housing Choices: Focus on broadening the  diversity of housing types and rent-to-own and less  conventional housing acquisition arrangements. Treat  housing as a key economic development tool in both  new development and adaptive reuse. Acknowledge  that property ownership is an equity issue.  
  3. Land Use Regulation and Enforcement: Focus on improving certainty, coordination and  communication. Local character can be preserved in  ways that don’t add to the cost and complexity of  development. 

Why Regional:  

Whether ecological, fiscal, or of shared values, communities  can recognize commonalities among one another. Working  together can lighten burdens and boost outcomes. 


Municipalities or coalitions beyond geographic proximity that  share features or aligned interests, supported by regional  planning organizations and nonprofits. Organizations that can  help to facilitate the discussion include: 

  • Maine Alliance for Smart Growth, a program of  GrowSmart Maine  
  • American Association of Retired Persons of Maine 
  • Councils of Government and Regional Planning  Commissions across Maine  


  • Existing funding from regional entities, additional  funding from revenue sharing and tax policy  


  • Achieve buy-in through inclusivity, communicating  shared values, and actionable strategies. 

The Power of Home Rule and the Potential for Regional Solutions WEAVING COMMON THREADS 


Held Thursday, October 29th, 2020 

In its post-Summit Forum, GrowSmart Maine looked at  how to build regional approaches based on the strength of  home rule. Whether ecological, fiscal, or based on shared  values, communities can recognize commonalities among one  another. Working together can lighten burdens and boost  outcomes. 


Regionalism can be more than geographic proximity. There  are common threads that encourage regional collaboration,  such as aggregate organizations, similar assets or challenges,  and/or businesses with shared or aligned interests. 



WHAT would define a region for this thread? WHO LEADS? 

  • Who needs to be engaged in the process? 
  • Cape Cod Commission as a model to explore for  Maine? 
  • COGs/RPCommissions/GSM – have regional  experience value 


  • Existing funding sources that could be administered by  regional entities? 
  • Implications of tax policy (TIFs, revenue sharing,  service centers/rural hubs’ mil rates vs surrounding  areas, county tax levies) 
  • Important to ensure a sense of fairness among/ between collaborating municipalities 


  • Achieve local public buy-in for regional approaches • Public engagement process: include storytelling and  shared values. 
  • Need for skilled, trusted facilitators: what is the role of  nongovernmental agencies in facilitating collaboration  between towns? 
  • Ensure inclusiveness and diversity in who is  participating 
  • Affirm why this common thread is important  2 



There was discussion on the need for a corporate-style  shared vision. The 2006 Brookings Report, “Charting Maine’s  Future,” did provide shared vision – does it need to be re vetted? GrowSmart Maine reinforced this action plan in 2012  with Charting Maine’s Future:Making Headway.  

A vision now needs to reflect needs and aspirations related  to climate change. It was noted that corporations instill  their corporate vision via a strong and focused internal and  external communications plan. 



Issue polling: Housing and Climate Action Plan (CAP) each  had six votes, arts/culture and land use planning each had  two votes. For choosing a breakout session, none chose arts/ culture. 


  • Economies of scale vary with topics/problems. • Likely we will need an incentive system for local  elected officials to engage in regional efforts. People  who are involved in local government do so because  they are invested in that town. So regional-level  efforts may be received with wariness, which needs to  be overcome.  
  • Should look at effects of development and land  use at a more regional/state level as is done in  

transportation via MaineDOT and MPOs. Consider  funding at that level.  

  • Climate Change similarly is a regional issue and may  be helpful in springboarding municipalities to adopt  regional action. Municipalities don’t have sufficient  capacity to take on some key issues on their own. 



Participants: Ann Marie Kane (individual), Jeff Levine (GSM  Board and Levine Planning Strategies, Karen Campbell  (UMaine Center on Aging/AARP), Kate Raymond (KVCOG),  Lucas Benedict (Acorn Engineering), Maggie Fleming (GSM  board and Town of Falmouth), William Harper (KVCOG) 

Key Points: Housing needs immediate attention;  choice is simply not available. Housing  should be looked at as a form of economic  development as well as a basic equity issue. 


  • Who is the audience for your housing project…a  senior who does not always drive, for instance? 
  • Challenge of siloed approaches, “How do we  coordinate this better?” 
  • Overall cost of housing/construction/ownership as a  barrier. 
  • Developers are focused on vacancy rates and  required space for parking 
  • Deregulation of local control: Reams of paperwork  required to be put on a waiting list, no consistency in  this process across municipalities. 
  • Property ownership is key to equity issue around  housing.  



  • Cost of ownership/building is barrier to home  ownership 
  • Land banks are a tool.  
  • Consider existing housing stock available, is there  support for renovating these so they are safer, clearer,  more appropriate for the needs of people today? 
  • Rent to own options tied to philanthropy. Are there  models in Maine? (Millinocket Housing Initiative) • •Section 8 has this option, but not activated in Maine.  Opportunity? 
  • Ownership is core to equity as well; land use decisions  begin with land/property ownership. 
  • Town-owned property; either sell it and devote funds  to new housing or adaptive reuse. (Freeport and  Cumberland did this.) 
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) as a tool: GSM will  share our educational brief. 



  • Post-COVID-19 reuse of commercial space as  housing; big box space as well 
  • Newly vacated office space could be turned into  co-housing – excellent opportunity for downtown  housing. 
  • Look at adaptive reuse of current housing stock. Will  zoning allow it?  


  • AARP “Age-Friendly Community” designation  has been earned by 70 towns all over Maine. This  network could have value in communications and  non-geographic regionalism. The designation includes  criteria and guidance for items such as transportation  and housing. Lori Parham serves on the steering  committee of Maine Alliance for Smart Growth, a  program of GrowSmart Maine, as one connection. 
  • Comment by Anthony Flint was ‘what’s good for  seniors is good for all.” 
  • DECD should have a housing policy division  coordinating with economic development with ability  to push back on home rule. 
  • Perhaps housing and land use could merge around  smart development zones, adding transportation.  Smart development zones (locations that support  denser development with reduced red tape) are a  great idea, have been discussed before as part of  Sustain Southern Maine, and work in other places 
  • Disincentivizing sprawl as we grow. Vermont does it  well, albeit much smaller 
  • Portland has a proposal to allow overlay for tiny  houses. 
  • Land banks lead to ownership. 
  • Offer some kind of tax incentives for adaptive reuse if  it can be rehabbed/marketed as affordable housing. 3


Participants: Ann Marie Kane (individual), Carol Morris (Morris  Communications and GSM board), Jason Rauch (Regulatory – Energy  and Environmental Policy for CMP), Pat Pinto (AARP Maine), Sarah  Haggerty (Maine Audubon), Tom Rumpf (GSM Board) 

Key Points: Making broad access to renewable  energy easier is a critical and urgent need to  mitigate climate change. 


  • Best way to reduce climate change is through smart  growth, and Climate Council misses this. 
  • Discussion of the need for energy data, both for  buildings and at the municipal level to create metrics for  energy saving. There are some confidentiality issues but  Jason indicated there are ways to manage that being  evaluated in Boston. (This data need was brought up in  a summit session as well.) 
  • Noted that transportation is #1 in emissions, buildings are  #2, so clean power generation is a high-value priority. • Emissions: transportation and buildings are low hanging  fruit, then power generation.  
  • Discussion around the need to get renewable energy  on the ground more quickly in more places, and that  large solar array generation is hard because it needs to  be approved town by town by town, which is slow and  expensive  
  • Like wind power, solar is hitting NIMBYism 
  • Strength of home rule is where some communities lead,  and convince others this is the way to go. 
  • We hear back from solar developers that rooftop and  brownfield development is cost-prohibitive. Not sure if  it’s actually cost-prohibitive or just cheaper to build on  greenspace…It’s up to the developer to make those  choices. There are projects like this in Portland. 


  • Carol volunteered to lead a group to discuss this further. • What kind of research should be done to make this a  more productive meeting? 
  • We have to make it easy. Right to Solar law exists in  other states, which overrides local land use regulations.  • The possibility of creating a multi-town education  campaign to help in moving these through the process  was discussed. 
  • Moved to discussion of forming a YIMBY-like group  focused on approval of solar generation – YOMRT  (rooftop) or YIMLF (Yes in my landfill) YOMBrownfield.  This group could be a combination of individuals and  NGOs. Provide tools to towns. Maine Audubon has  been focusing on this and has resources. 


  • Call it “Freedom for Solar” or something to disallow  municipal barriers. 
  • CAP recommendations will have a section on energy  and who might be the players; perhaps plug in the  energy of this group to that effort and help implement  directive and campaigns that come from this. 
  • Put solar on top of parking garages? Capture sun and  provide protection to vehicles underneath from the sun  and snow. No need to plow the roof. 


Participants: Andrew Glassberg, (individual), Becca Casey  (GSM board and Senior Architect, SMRT), Donna Larsen  (lk planning), James Fischer (Deer Isle Town Manager, MAP  board, Chair of Hancock County Planning Commission ), Ruta  Dzenis (Municipal Planning Assistance Program at MEDACF),  Tom Miragliuolo (Municipal Planning Assistance Program at  MEDACF) 

Key Points: Regional thinking for land use and  development will help economic growth and  prosperity; incentives are needed for municipal  officials to adopt regional thinking on these  topics 


  • Need collective mission/path/big picture to offset silos  of town by town: provide reasons and incentives to  communicate/share culture.  
  • Focus now is on regulation and enforcement capacity  and mechanisms. 
  • Regional Planning Commissions are the right fit for this,  lacking MaineDOT equivalent. Can’t come from top  down. 
  • Coordination and communication, streamline and make  regulation more uniform so people understand what is  required.  
  • Local character can be preserved in ways that don’t add  to the cost and complexity of development. 
  • Would like to have shared code enforcement. 


  • Need something comparable to MaineDOT for land  use; coordination and streamlining 
  • Local elected officials often solely invested in their town.  Is there a way to create more of an incentive system for  regionality? Opportunity to parallel regional chambers/ economic identity (example Blue Hill Peninsula). How  to find “one voice” – Blue Hill easier because of clear  geographic boundaries. 
  • Regional land use planning and taxation issues need to  be addressed. 


  • The Climate Action Plan came up with doable  ideas for getting renewable energy on the ground. Carol  Morris volunteered to lead the follow-up process with  several others offering to join in. 
  • Land Use: No one stepped forward to lead. • Housing: GrowSmart Maine has developed a  two-phased program, “Housing Choices for a Well Rounded Community” which could form the basis for  following up on these discussions. It begins with an  educational workshop outlining local tools available to  create a variety of housing choices, and then moves  to developing a prioritized list of strategies for a  municipality or a region. 
  • Nancy to bring these concepts to the Maine Alliance  for Smart Growth steering committee to engage key  partners and communities in moving forward. 


As background, below are notes from the earlier breakout  sessions that followed Summit keynote presentations and  discussions. Each venue hosted a mix of virtual and in-person  participants in facilitated discussions with the goal of identifying  actionable steps. These have been broken out into:  

  • Key points from Summit Breakout Sessions • Common threads with potential for systemic  regional approach 
  • Successes and ongoing efforts in regional  collaborations 


  • Sharing administration is easier than sharing services • Purchasing of materials/supplies easier to share than  sharing services 
  • Environment ignores municipal lines; landscape  approaches needed 
  • How to succeed: shared values, storytelling, unbiased  trusted third party to facilitate 
  • Loss of State Planning Office still has an impact on local  capacity and ability to coordinate among municipalities  as well as perceived value of planning 
  • Tax policy/revenue sharing rules impact regional  approaches 
  • State Climate Action Plan requires regional approaches – Community Energy Committees mentioned.  

– Are there regional/statewide connections 

 between them? 

  • Economic Development and tourism marketing have  regional potential 


  • Housing came up several times as needing regional  approaches, as it may be difficult to address locally • Arts/culture as a regional economic driver opportunity • Climate Action Plan, which puts much of the  implementation on municipalities 
  • Land use Planning and Regulation: ordinances/MUBEC  and code enforcement/zoning: are municipalities  

prepared to handle new sustainability aspects? 

  • Transportation (also listed in successes, addressed  currently within existing \regional and statewide  

infrastructure) 5


  • Community/Economic: Our Katahdin as regional  collaborative 
  • Community/Economic: Aroostook and  Washington County communities worked with the  LUPC to do a regional planning and comprehensive  plan 
  • Economic/Environmental: a group of  municipalities in Washington County has unified a single  regional shellfish ordinance for the same water body 
  • Transportation: KVCAP transportation system /  Calais bus 
  • Transportation: Regional transportation entities  such as PACTS provide regional framework (NOTE:  This framework is required by federal law for funding  dissemination) 
  • Arts/Culture: Libra Foundation and others in  Monson area 
  • Culture/Tourism: Maine Woods Consortium 
  • Culture/Tourism: Lewiston and Auburn are  connected across a variety of spheres including planning  for the bicentennial parade, annual Balloon Fest ,etc 
  • Culture/Tourism: Damariscotta also does this with  adjacent communities for the Pumpkin Festival 
  • Culture/Tourism: the Boothbay peninsula is doing  a regional marketing and signage project 


  • Culture/Tourism: There are also regional multi community trail systems (like Hallowell Augusta,  Farmingdale, Gardiner Kennebec River Rail Trail) 
  • Climate: Lincoln County coastal communities have  assessed their risks (along with many other coastal  communities) and are seeking state assistance in  addressing them. 
  • Climate: South Portland/Portland climate  sustainability collaboration: • Environmental: The Brunswick-Topsham region  joined together to evaluate the health of the amphibian  ecosystem along the Androscoggin River 
  • Environmental: Southern Maine, Cumberland  region, Androscoggin region and Bangor have all  united to share information and collaboration on  delivering incredibly expensive services to meet clean  water requirements that should have been done by  the state—like public education campaigns—to meet  permitting requirements. 
  • Municipal Services: Many regions share refuse  services, code enforcement and animal control, shellfish  wardens etc. 
  • Municipal Services: Public Safety: Many  public safety mutual aid cooperation agreements exist  between police and fire departments including such  items as training personnel, fundraising, combating  opioid addiction, reducing competition for finite donor  resources, and joint use of technical expertise and  specialized equipment.