Spring is in the air, the daffodils are blooming, and summer will be here soon. This past month we were heavily engaged in advocacy with a variety of bills impacting funding, land use and housing, and equity. GrowSmart Maine continues to conduct our advocacy through collaboration with the Maine Alliance for Smart Growth and Maine Broadband Coalition. We offered a forum on the Gorham Spur, a conversation on navigating change in alignment with smart growth principles, and are pleased to host a series of upcoming Maine Climate Action webinars with Maine Audubon. We’re happy to share a link to our Community Guide on Maximum Lot Size, as it ties directly to our support of LD 2003. The bill was part of a signing ceremony on April 27th, and we were there!
GrowSmart Maine Legislative RoundUp for Second Regular Session, 2022
While the second regular session is often thought of as less intense than the longer first session, that was not what we saw in 2022! We were heavily engaged in advocacy with a variety of bills impacting funding, land use and housing, and equity. GrowSmart Maine continues to conduct our advocacy through collaboration with the Maine Alliance for Smart Growth and Maine Broadband Coalition.
We are deliberate in prioritizing our advocacy towards three critical outcomes:
- Development will mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Land regulation will be equitable, sustainable, and resilient.
- Communities will be fiscally sustainable while providing amenities such as affordable and responsible housing and transportation choices.
In our evaluation of the key bills below, these goals are achieved through ensuring funding and resources for housing and transportation choices that support municipal and regional approaches, while setting statewide policies and shared goals.
Funding in the Supplemental and Highway Budgets support housing opportunities, land use planning capacity, and transit; three essential components of smart growth outcomes.
Housing and Land Use bills threaded the needle in meeting our three critical outcomes by encouraging growth and redevelopment in locally-designated growth areas and supporting the distinction of agriculture-priority zones. GrowSmart took a lead role in support for LD 201 with Maine Alliance for Smart Growth partners, and devoted much time to negotiating agreement on LD 2003. We opposed LD 1884 and offered qualified support of LD 1694. We worked with the sponsor on LD 1240, with its inception coming from our Summit 2020 as attendees offered potential solutions to regional barriers to housing.
Equity bills earned GrowSmart’s strong support in written testimony, while Wabanaki Alliance boldly led these advocacy efforts. We believe both LD 906 and LD 1626 offered equitable and timely solutions to support Tribal communities in achieving the critical smart growth outcomes we highlighted.
BUDGET AND SPENDING
|Bill Number and Title||Sponsor||Final Disposition|
|LD1995, Supplemental Budget||Governor’s Bill||Amended and passed, Governor Mills signed it as an Emergency Enactor (effective upon signature) on April 20th.|
|What It Means: Funding the Housing Opportunity Program in LD 2003 with two staff positions and $2.5M to support municipalities in updating their zoning and ordinances.
The Bureau of Resource Information and Land Use Planning added ten positions to support programs including Municipal Planning Assistance Program, Land Use Planning Commission (for unorganized territories) and Land for Maine’s Future.
|LD1996 Transportation Budget||Governor’s Bill||Amended and passed, Governor Mills signed it as an Emergency Enactor (effective upon signature) on April 14th.|
|What It Means: $15M will be transferred from the Highway and Bridge Capital program, Other Special Revenue Funds to the Multimodal Transportation Fund for investments in transit.|
HOUSING AND LAND USE with Climate Impacts
|Bill Number and Title||Sponsor||Final Disposition|
|LD2003 ” An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions”||Speaker Fecteau||Amended multiple times to earn majority support in both House and Senate, the bill was part of a signing ceremony on April 27th (and we were there!).|
|What It Means: This bill captured the recommendations from the Commission on Housing and Zoning formed by last year’s Legislature. It contains significant changes to municipal land use rules and provides $2.5M in funding through the Housing Opportunity Program in Dept of Economic and Community Development. Changes include allowing a duplex wherever single-family housing is allowed, Accessory Dwelling Units by right, a density bonus in designated growth areas for affordable housing, ensures compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act, and allows municipalities to regulate short term rentals.|
|LD201 An Act To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Promote Weatherization in the Buildings Sector by Extending the Sunset Date for the Historic Property Rehabilitation Tax Credit||Senator Libby of Androscoggin||Carried over from 2021, the bill was passed from the Appropriations Table and signed by the Governor during a ceremony on April 27th.|
|What It Means: This follows a highly affirming Report from Office of Program Oversight and Government Accountability. The bill extends the sunset of the tax credit from 2025 to 2030 and allows for a longer timeline for eligible projects by reframing the period of certification to allow for projects commenced by the sunset date.|
|LD1240 Resolve, To Establish a Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Land Use Regulations and Short-term Rentals’||Senator Vitelli of Sagadahoc||It was carried over from 2021 and late in the 2022 session, was amended to the final language and passed in the House and Senate on April 25th. Awaiting final action from the Governor.|
|What It Means: The original language, proposed by GrowSmart Maine, called for updating Maine’s Growth Management Law and addressing other regional barriers to housing choices. The Commission formed in this Resolve allows an opportunity to review relevant information and consider measures that would encourage municipalities to increase available housing, including but not limited to municipal incentives and statewide regulation of short-term rentals.|
|LD 1694 An Act To Create the Maine Redevelopment Land Bank Authority||Rep. Melanie Sachs of Freeport||This bill was carried over from 2021 and significantly amended by a stakeholder group. It became law on April 24th without Governor Mills’ signature.|
|What It Means: We provided qualified support for this bill, while expressing significant concerns for several components. As amended, we fully support this bill, which establishes the Community Redevelopment Land Bank Authority to coordinate the acquisition of blighted, abandoned and environmentally hazardous or functionally obsolete property for redevelopment and municipal redevelopment authorities to coordinate property ownership and redevelopment.|
|LD 1884 An Act To Create Affordable Agricultural Homesteads||Rep. Bickford of Auburn||The Ought Not To Pass committee report was accepted in the House and Senate. This bill is dead.|
|What It Means: The defeat of this bill has preserved Auburn’s unique zoning ordinance intended to preserve its agricultural lands by requiring that any new housing accommodate households with a certain percentage of income coming from farming.|
|Bill Number and Title||Sponsor||Final Disposition|
|LD 1626 An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act||Rep Rachel Talbot Ross of Portland||This bill has passed in the House and Senate, and at the request of the Governor, has not been advanced to her desk at this time.|
|What It Means: To understand the value of this bill, with final passage unlikely, is best captured in the Wabanaki Alliance Statement on LD 1626. We look forward to continued collaboration with this important alliance.|
|LD 906 An Act To Provide Passamaquoddy Tribal Members Access to Clean Drinking Water||Rep Rena Newell for the Passamaquoddy Tribe||Signed by Governor on April 21st|
|What It Means: This bill removes jurisdictional barriers for the Sipayik Tribal government to provide safe drinking water to its people.|
Also check out:
BDN OpEd on Addressing Housing Needs
Earlier Update on Key Housing Bills in 2022
Join Maine Audubon and GrowSmart Maine for a three-part webinar series highlighting climate change actions YOU can take:
This Climate Action Webinar Series is free, and is held Noon to 1 pm on three consecutive Thursdays. Please Join Us!
Maine Broadband Coalition Legislative Wrap Up for 130th Legislature
As Chair of the Maine Broadband Coalition Policy Committee, GrowSmart Maine’s executive director, Nancy Smith, contributed a post to MBC’s recent blog about the bills MBC followed in the second session of the 130th Legislature. The 130th Legislature will adjourn following May 9th when any Governor’s vetoes or unfinished business may be addressed.
Click here to read Nancy’s post
Community Guide: Maximum Lot Size and Densities in Rural Zoning Districts
Watch the Recording: The Gorham Spur
Did you miss our April 7th webinar on The Gorham Spur: Spurring Growth Without Spurring Sprawl? Planners from Gorham, Scarborough, and Standish spoke about policies they are developing to bring smart growth solutions to their communities, as Maine Turnpike Authority, Smart Growth America, and Greater Portland Council of Governments, offered their perspectives on navigating growth in alignment with smart growth principles.
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Nancy E. Smith