Land Use Planning Commission Votes on Adjacency Principle
After 14 minutes of discussion at its April 2, 2019 meeting, the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) voted to make one of the most sweeping policy changes in its history. In eliminating the one-mile adjacency policy, LUPC has made close to one million acres of land in Maine’s Unorganized Territories (UT) vulnerable to development.
NRCM is deeply disappointed in the LUPC’s decision, which ignored overwhelming opposition from Maine people.
For more than 40 years, LUPC’s one-mile policy required new residential subdivision, industrial, or commercial development in Maine’s UT to take place within one road mile of existing, compatible development. Based on NRCM’s decades of watchdogging LUPC to protect forests and wildlife of Maine’s North Woods, we know that the one-mile policy served a critical role in effectively limiting fragmentation and sprawling development by requiring new development to reflect existing, on-the ground patterns.
What Changes to the Rules Did LUPC Make?
The Commission did make some limited changes to its rules throughout the review process in response to thousands of comments in opposition to their proposal, but we still have several concerns about the approved rules:
- Almost one million acres (close to 10 percent of LUPC’s jurisdiction in the UT) would be vulnerable to residential development. Residential subdivision development would be allowed on up to one million acres of forests and lakes (after subtracting out the lands that are already conserved).
- Commercial development would be allowed on close to 700,000 acres across the landscape and on an unknown number of lakes in LUPC jurisdiction. Given that commercial development under the one-mile rule could occur only near development of a “similar type, use, occupancy, scale or intensity” or near a “village center,” this is a significant change that could dramatically change the character of the Unorganized Territories and siphon economic development away from towns that want it.
- Allowing development along any public road within seven miles "as the crow flies" from the boundary of 39 “rural hubs” could lead to strip development. The seven mile by one mile primary development areas would allow commercial and residential strip development along currently forested, undeveloped roads (many of them scenic byways) and would undermine efforts by neighboring, rural communities to keep development within their towns as they attempt to enhance the economic viability of their local businesses.
- Allowing large lot subdivisions risks fragmentation of the North Woods. Sprawling large lot residential subdivisions, also called kingdom lots, were banned by the legislature in 2001. Under LUPC’s approved rules, large lot subdivisions (15-25 acre lots) would be allowed on hundreds of thousands of acres. Such sprawling development could take up large parcels of forestland.
Given LUPC’s decision to eliminate the one-mile policy ignored many of the concerns raised by Maine residents, NRCM will pursue other policy mechanisms to protect the natural resources and character of Maine’s North Woods while also strengthening the economies of communities that are adjacent to LUPC’s jurisdiction.
Incentivizing development to locate in existing communities will help protect forests from fragmentation while maintaining wildlife habitat and migration corridors. Furthermore, the forests, lakes, and rivers that are the backbone of Maine’s forestry and outdoor recreation industries in the North Woods will be better protected when new development is not scattered throughout the mostly undeveloped UT.
What's Next and How to Get Involved
LD 1561 would protect Maine’s globally-significant North Woods while also growing Maine’s local economies by facilitating new development to take place in existing towns:
- Commercial, industrial, or residential subdivision proposals for the UT would need to include an alternatives analysis to assess whether there are suitable alternative sites available in nearby towns for each particular proposal.
- LUPC would consult with towns within 10 miles of a proposed rezoning or development in the UT in order to consider the impacts of the proposal on those communities
- LUPC would engage in regional land use planning and zoning to consider the needs and development patterns of both Unorganized Territories and nearby towns together.
- LUPC would conduct a land use structure inventory by July 2020. The last inventory was conducted decades ago, and identifying the location of existing development will ensure that LUPC’s planning is based on accurate, up-to-date data.
- Maine’s governor would make four LUPC appointments instead of just one. This will allow a larger pool of candidates to be considered and ensure that the Commission includes members with the following areas of expertise: municipal government; fisheries or wildlife; forestry or forest-based recreation; and land conservation.
Please contact us if you would like to learn more information about this bill.
- NRCM news release: LUPC Proposal Faces Overwhelming Opposition from Maine People, February 12, 2019
- LUPC’s second public hearing on the proposal was held on Thursday, January 10, 2019.
- Read NRCM's testimony, given by Forests & Wildlife Project Director Cathy Johnson.
- Read additional NRCM testimony on this proposal below in Additional Resources.
- Bangor Daily News op-ed by NRCM Forests & Wildlife Project Director Cathy Johnson, "With Proposed Development Rule Change, Maine's North Woods Hangs in the Balance"
- Bangor Daily News editorial, "Allowing Sprawling Development Would Hurt Towns, Wildlife and Wilderness"
- Portland Press Herald editorial, "Rule Paves the Way for Wrong Kind of Growth in Rural Maine"
Banner photo: Shoreline of Square Lake in Aroostook County. Photo by J.Monkman/NRCM