March 2022 Newsletter from GrowSmart Maine

March 2022 Newsletter from GrowSmart Maine

We can feel spring in the air, though we know there will be more snow as the seasons transitions. Changes here at GrowSmart Maine as well, as we welcome our new Membership Coordinator, advocate for smart growth outcomes in the Maine Legislature as Gov. Mills’ Supplemental Budget is considered and bills to address housing, equity, and climate action are debated. We are offering webinars on other changes as well, from our recent webinar “Exploring the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” and an upcoming event exploring the Gorham Bypass opportunities and controversies. We’re happy to share an updated Community Guide outlining Regional Approaches to Climate Action – the most urgent change for all of us.

Advocacy Update

GrowSmart Maine has been fully engaged in advocacy in the Legislature since January, and this seems like a good time to check in with you all, as the session will continue for about another month.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS A PRIORITYGrowSmart Maine is a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit organization that helps communities navigate change in alignment with smart growth. Fundamental to this is equitable access to housing choices; which has been particularly at risk in recent years with the extraordinary influx of people who appreciate our quality of place.

GrowSmart Maine was one of the over 150 organizations and individuals to submit written testimony in support of LD 2003 which detailed the recommendations from the Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine. We presented our testimony to the committee as well, at the end of a nearly eight-hour public hearing, to highlight our support for the intent of the bill and offer several suggestions to magnify its impact. Most significant of these was to encourage the Labor and Housing Committee to consider that, while housing is the impetus of the current urgency, we must ensure that at the very least, specific intersections with municipal planning to increase housing opportunities are addressed, specifically, access to affordable broadband, and transportation choices. We know that the cost of LIVING must be addressed as we design solutions for affordable housing.

EQUITY IS FRONT AND CENTER IN HOUSING LEGISLATION, AS WELL AS IN BILLS BROUGHT FORWARD BY WABANAKI TRIBES. Smart growth by definition must incorporate equity. Without equity, it simply isn’t smart growth. GrowSmart Maine met with representatives of Wabanaki Alliance as they rallied a second round of support for Tribal Sovereignty. Through board discussion, we voted unanimously to support LD 1626 “An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act” and LD 906, “An Act To Provide Passamaquoddy Tribal Members Access to Clean Drinking Water”

THE INTERSECTIONS OF SMART GROWTH VALUES are where our advocacy is most effective.  With LD 1884, we joined Maine Farmland Trust in opposing a bill that would sacrifice Auburn’s farmland zone rules in the name of adding housing.  Maine cannot sacrifice high quality soils and farmland – we must locate development where it does not compete with this asset, as Auburn’s ordinances provide for.  In addition, we joined others in the Maine Alliance for Smart Growth and MEREDA in endorsing the findings by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability that affirm the value of Maine’s historic rehabilitation tax credit.  LD 201, which provides a necessary timing extension for this investment tool, sits on the Appropriations Table awaiting final approval. Rehab and reuse of Maine’s historic buildings energize the downtown neighborhoods where they are located, and pulls development pressure off of open space and farmland, and through reuse of materials onsite and reduced demolition, lowers Maine’s carbon footprint.

IT’S THEORETICAL UNTIL IT’S FUNDED. Policy often requires funding to become real, and we are supporting exciting initiatives in the Supplemental Budget. Specifically,

– Additional planning and affiliated capacity at the state level

– Home Opportunity Program to fund regional and local technical assistance

– Investing $100M of the General Revenue surplus in roads, bridges, and MULTIMODAL TRANSIT. These transportation choices improve our quality of life while supporting Mainers who are able to reduce their dependence on single-occupancy vehicles.

Bookmark These Pages!

Learn more about the Legislative process here:

Learn about our two Coalitions:

  • Maine Broadband Coalition, is a network of public policy wonks, educational advocates, businesses, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and individuals who care deeply about Maine’s digital future. GrowSmart Maine serves on the Advisory Committee and leads the Policy Committee
  • Maine Alliance for Smart Growth, a network of individuals, municipalities, businesses, and organizations that support smart growth values. GrowSmart Maine leads this effort.

Welcome to our New Membership Coordinator

In February we welcomed Sheri Leahan as our new Membership Coordinator. Sheri is a native Mainer who grew up in Westbrook. Passionate about preserving Maine’s heritage, she brings over 25 years experience working in the philanthropic and museum fields. She has worked as a capital campaign associate for a fundraising consulting firm, assisting all types of non-profits throughout New England. After attending graduate school in Cooperstown, New York and earning a Master of Arts degree in History Museum Studies from SUNY-Oneonta, she returned to Maine to serve as Curator of Collections for the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan and most recently as Director of the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. She studied history and economics at the University of Southern Maine. Sheri lives in the foothills of Western Maine and enjoys frame drumming, camping, and exploring the trails with her husband and dog, a great-pyrenees mix named Amos.

Updated Community Guide: Regional Approaches to Climate Action

Regional collaboration could benefit your community!  In Maine, there is a long tradition of organizing, managing and governing primarily at the municipal level. At the same time, complex issues like transportation planning, environmental protection, and economic development transcend municipal borders and exceed the capacity of any individual community to find meaningful solutions.

Exploring the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on YouTube

Did you know GrowSmart Maine has a YouTube Channel, where we post all of our our recorded webinars, forums, and summits? Watch our most recent webinar hosted on February 3rd.

Help Us Continue to Help MAINE

Please join us! Protect the things that are special about Maine, while encouraging sustainable prosperity now and in the future.

With your help, we can make these values an integral part of Maine’s legislation and state and local policy.

Did you know GrowSmart Maine is online in many ways?

  • Our Website – our board and staff, our calendar, our blog, event summaries and results
  • Follow us on social media.We are on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube. Follow us, like, and share our posts! Join us for future events, talks, and webinars.
  • Become a GrowSmart Member – Our annual memberships give you discounts to all of our events and supports our efforts in your neighborhood and beyond.
  • Give Smart to GrowSmart – make a recurring monthly donation of your choice to GrowSmart Maine
  • Support Small Businesses – live out the smart growth principle of creating and securing a strong sense of place, by shopping at locally owned businesses all year long.

Every effort counts. THANK YOU for your support of our work in giving communities choices in how they respond to growth and change.

Nancy E. Smith

Executive Director