Good afternoon Senator Davis, Representative Martin, and members of the State and Local Government Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am a resident of Alna and the Forests and Wildlife Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I am here today on behalf of the 20,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) to speak in opposition to LD 1082, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Granting of a Variance from the Dimensional Standards of a Zoning Ordinance.
We are concerned about this bill because it makes significant changes in the variance process that could allow widespread use of variances to allow development that is inconsistent with the regulations. This would defeat the purpose of the regulations, which is to protect both the environment and the waters of the area, and the character of the neighborhood.
This bill would allow a variance:
• Even if it is practical for someone to comply with the existing regulations;
• So long as it is consistent with the general condition of the neighborhood, which means that every other home in the neighborhood would also qualify for a variance; and
• In the regulations related to impervious surface space and open space using this lower requirement for a variance than is required under the general variance procedure that impervious surface and open space requirements are currently required to meet. This would decrease protections for water quality, wildlife habitat, and the character of the area.
This bill makes several changes related to the shoreland zone, the effect of which is unclear. If you proceed forward with any section of this bill, we encourage you to clarify that any change does not decrease protections in the shoreland zone.
Making changes to the variance requirements that leave boards of appeals without sufficient standards by which to determine whether a variance should be granted constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the board of appeals. We believe that the deletion of the existing standards in the law related to the first two bullets listed above (Paragraphs A and C of the existing law) step over that line into an unconstitutional delegation of authority without sufficient standards.
Based on these multiple policy and legal concerns about this bill, we urge the Committee to vote ONTP on LD 1082.