NRCM calls on planning agency to drop proposed changes that would harm wildlife, recreation, and local economic development
NRCM news release
Augusta – People from across Maine, and the state’s leading environmental advocacy group are calling on the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) to drop a proposal that would allow widespread development on more than 1.3 million acres of land and 20 percent of the lakes in the North Woods.
On Thursday, January 10 in Brewer LUPC will hold a public hearing on a proposal to eliminate the “adjacency rule,” a tool that has been the most effective way to guide development to appropriate locations in the North Woods. If adopted, LUPC’s proposal would be the most sweeping expansion of development pressures in the North Woods in the past 40 years, posing a serious risk of diverting new homes and businesses out of existing towns and into the Unorganized Territories.
“The proposed change threatens the character, forests, waters, and wildlife of Maine’s storied North Woods,” said Cathy Johnson, the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s forests and wildlife project director. “Without a doubt, it would destroy the special places where Maine people love to camp, hike, fish, and hunt, and would harm the guides, sporting camps, and outfitters that depend on these undeveloped areas for their livelihoods.”
LUPC’s revised proposal that will be reviewed on January 10 comes after a public hearing in June 2018 where the vast majority of Maine people who attended the hearing rejected LUPC’s proposal. Many of the communities bordering the North Woods are struggling to retain existing population and businesses. Making development easier outside of the towns would result in the loss of potential tax revenue, undermining efforts currently underway to revitalize the economies of these communities.
“The proposed rule would have a significant negative impact on the towns in the economically hard-hit Katahdin region,” said Gail Fanjoy, a resident of Millinocket and former President of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce. “We need a plan to drive businesses into our communities where there is room for growth and needed tax revenues. Instead of proposing these changes, LUPC should be engaging local towns in a comprehensive planning process for our region.”
LUPC’s proposal includes the following:
- Areas targeted for development would be expanded to any area within 7 miles as the crow flies from any one of 41 “rural hubs,” an arbitrary term LUPC created that has never been used before in the region’s planning.
- Lengthy stretches of five designated scenic byways would be impacted by potential development.
- More than 1.3 million acres and 20 percent of the lakes in the North Woods would be opened to residential subdivisions. 824,000 of those acres would be targeted for commercial development.
- Large lot subdivisions referred to as “kingdom lots,” which were banned by the Legislature in 2001, would be allowed.
LUPC is a state agency responsible for planning and zoning in the 10.4 million acres of unorganized townships (roughly half of the state) that do not have local governments with planning and zoning capacity. The “one-mile-by-road” requirement has, for decades, required new proposals for development to be located in areas that are within one-mile-by-road from compatible development that is of a similar “type, use, occupancy, scale, and intensity.”
“We urge LUPC to step back from this proposal, and, instead, work with communities that border the North Woods to find ways to both enhance the economic health of those communities and protect the forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife that make Maine’s North Woods nationally renowned and loved by residents and visitors alike,” said Johnson.