95% of written comments raised major concerns
NRCM News Release
Augusta — A sweeping proposal by the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) that would open up 1.3 million acres of Maine’s North Woods for development and divert investments from existing communities has received overwhelming opposition from people across Maine, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
NRCM found that 95% of the written comments submitted to the LUPC by residents raised major concerns about the proposal to eliminate the “one-mile-by-road” adjacency policy, a tool that has been the most effective way to guide development to appropriate locations in the North Woods for decades. At the most recent (Jan. 10, 2019) public hearing held on the proposed changes, the vast majority of those who testified voiced opposition and questioned why the changes were needed.
In addition, the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald editorial pages have both editorialized firmly against LUPC’s proposal, which would open up development on more than 1.3 million acres of land and 20 percent of the lakes in the region—representing the most sweeping proposed change in development in Maine’s unorganized townships in more than 40 years.
“It’s clear that Maine people don’t support the LUPC’s proposed changes because they would allow commercial and residential sprawl to spread throughout Maine’s forests, destroying one of the state’s most spectacular natural assets,” said Cathy Johnson, the NRCM’s Forests and Wildlife Project Director. “It’s time for the state to put a halt to this misguided proposal, go back to the drawing board, and work collaboratively with towns throughout the region and Maine people to come up with a more measured approach. There is no evidence of a strong constituency or base of support for what LUPC is proposing.”
Those who submitted comments raising concern about the complex, complicated, confusing, and potentially harmful nature of the proposed rules included:
- Three former LUPC planning division staff, the assistant attorney general who was the head of the Natural Resources Division and served as LUPC’s legal counsel for over 25 years, and at least one former LUPC Commissioner.
- Hancock County Commissioners Antonio Blasi and John Wombacher who testified and submitted a resolution asking the LUPC to “retain the current one-mile adjacency principle.”
- More than 80 citizens of Argyle Township who “contend that any weakening of the current one-mile adjacency rule would be detrimental to the process of protection & improvement of our natural resources” and request their township’s exemption from the proposed changes.
- John Willard, business owner in the Moosehead region, who notes that his customers “are impressed with the remote feeling of the region” and affirms that the current rule works well to maintain the character of the region: “There is no need for outfitters to have remote canoe and kayak rental shops and food trucks in remote regions of the North Maine Woods, as this rule change would allow.”
- Barbara Hartford, the Chair of the Medway Board of Selectmen, who wrote, “I must submit my objections to having the one mile rule chang [sic] to a ten mile rule… Commercial, industry or housing built in the unorganized territory of Grindstone will not benefit Medway. It only lessens the municipalities potential for growth. We want people to come to Medway to build homes to add commercial or industrial growth, reduce our property taxes, to create jobs. We want people to come and visit, shop at our stores, eat in our restaurants or move to our nice little community.”
- Gail Fanjoy, a resident of Millinocket and former President of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce, who said, “…the most egregious result of development in the UT would be the loss of tax dollars to our struggling communities – communities with an abundance of housing stock, empty buildings for small businesses, and unoccupied industrial parks. Adding insult to injury would be the cost of emergency response services imposed upon these communities to serve the residents and businesses in the UT.”
- Dr. Mac Hunter, a wildlife ecologist, who notes that the unfragmented landscape of the North Woods “has come to its current state under the existing adjacency rules, but it will be threatened under scenarios of future development that are easy to envisage under [LUPC’s] proposed modifications that generate so many nodes of development.”
In addition, the state’s two largest newspapers have each editorialized strongly against the LUPC’s proposal recently, saying:
- “Without a strong rationale for the proposed changes, and with so much public concern about the proposed changes and their consequences, the commission should set them aside.” —Bangor Daily News editorial, January 24, 2019
- “Given all the opposition to the plan, perhaps instead the commission and other stakeholders in rural development should discuss a new vision for the unorganized territory…For the most rural parts of rural Maine, there is a delicate balance between economic activity and the desire to maintain what makes them special. The commission’s plan doesn’t yet achieve it.” —Portland Press Herald editorial, February 1, 2019