Good afternoon Senator Davis, Representative Dunphy, and members of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry 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 16,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) to speak in opposition to LD 549, An Act To Recognize Preexisting Uses.
For 45 years, the Land Use Planning Commission (and its predecessor, the Land Use Regulation Commission) has adopted and enforced rules designed to protect the waters, forests, and wildlife of the unorganized townships, while providing opportunities for businesses and residences in appropriate areas. Maine’s unorganized townships are natural and economic assets that are unrivaled in all of the eastern U.S.
Historically, the LUPC laws (12 M.R.S. §682(10))* have allowed the continuation of uses that were legally occurring at the time any new laws or rules were passed, even if those uses would no longer be allowed under the newly adopted law or rule.
This is a simple policy of fairness. If a use was legal when it started, it is allowed to continue.
LD 549 would upend that long-standing and sensible policy. This bill would allow uses that were illegal when they began to continue, as long the uses continued for 20 years without getting caught.
This bill essentially invites those who would undertake illegal activities in the unorganized townships to sneak around until they get away with it for 20 years. Then suddenly, if this bill were to pass, the use, which had never been legal, would be presumed legal.
The LUPC is responsible for land use in over 10 million acres. They have a staff of less than two dozen people. They cannot possibly see everything that goes on in the unorganized townships.
To adopt the policy embodied in this bill would undermine the LUPC’s ability to enforce the laws and rules that have been passed to protect the lakes, rivers, streams, forests and wildlife of the unorganized townships.
We urge you to vote Ought Not to Pass on LD 549.
*12M.R.S. §682(10). Nonconforming use. Nonconforming use shall mean a use of air, land, water or natural resources or a parcel of land, lawfully existing at the time of adoption of district regulation or subsequent amendments made thereto, that does not conform to the district regulations. (Emphasis added.)