Good afternoon Senator Saviello, Representative Tucker, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources 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 628, “An Act to Amend Municipal Subdivision Laws,” and LD 1081, “An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Granting of a Variance from the Dimensional Standards of a Zoning Ordinance.” The effective language of the two bills is identical.
We are concerned about these bills because they would create a huge loophole in our subdivision laws, allowing the development of multiple lots without the review currently required for a subdivision.
Whether a proposed development is considered a subdivision or not is important because there are a wide variety of issues that a developer must address when proposing a subdivision. These issues range from traffic flow, erosion control, soil suitability, and safety to protection of water quality in rivers, lakes, and streams, wetlands, and aesthetic, cultural, and natural values. If a development is not considered a subdivision, many of these issues need not be addressed.
Current law defines a subdivision as the “division of a tract or parcel of land into 3 or more lots within any 5-year period.”
The definition of subdivision is found not only in the municipal context addressed in these two bills, but also in the laws administered by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and in the laws for the 10.5 million acres of unorganized townships administered by the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC).
Subdivisions in all three of these contexts have various exemptions. While the language is not always exactly the same, the exemptions generally mirror each other.
The exemption at issue in these bills is the transfer of a lot to an abutter. Under current law, this lot need not be counted as a lot for subdivision purposes if it is held for five years (or the lot is merged with the rest of the parcel and the entire parcel is sold at one time).
These bills propose to remove the requirement to hold the lot for five years. This means that any landowner could convey a lot to an abutter and the abutter could turn around and sell the lot the next day and the lot would not be considered a lot for purposes of determining whether a subdivision was being created.
Passage of either of these bills would open up a huge loophole in the law, effectively allowing the creation of subdivisions without having to comply with subdivision law. This would also set up a system that is in conflict with the laws administered by DEP and LUPC.
The five-year threshold for holding the land creates a very clear, bright line as to whether a lot is considered part of a subdivision. Removal of this requirement would leave the question subjective and unclear.
We urge you to vote Ought Not to Pass on LD 628 and LD 1081.