AUGUSTA — A proposal to overhaul the agency that regulates development in the nearly 10 million acres of Maine known as the unorganized territories is heading for votes by the Legislature.
A vote Thursday by the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee to send the bill to the House and Senate followed nearly a year of deliberation, study and negotiations prompted by a bill to abolish the Land Use Regulation Commission.
The bill that emerged with support from the committee’s majority would put eight representatives of counties with the largest portions of unorganized territory on the commission’s board. It would allow counties to take responsibility for their own land use issues from the commission, but not until 2017.
The final form of the bill was developed by lawmakers after a nonpartisan, 12-member panel of landowners, local government officials, tourism representatives, environmentalists and land use experts met several times last year and developed recommendations to overhaul LURC.
“We agreed with the broad strokes of this proposal, but there were some areas that a few of us thought needed to be changed,” said Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton, a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
Because it received divided support on the committee, with a Republican majority of eight members supporting it and at least three Democrats opposing it, the measure is expected to generate debate.
Environmental groups have questioned giving development oversight to county officials, saying they lack statewide perspective to properly manage development.
The unorganized territory encompasses roughly half of the state’s land, where there are no organized, incorporated municipal governments.