by Cathy Johnson, NRCM North Woods Project Director
Good afternoon Sen. Nutting, Rep. Pieh and members of the Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am the North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I am here today on behalf of the 12,000 members and supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine in opposition to L.D. 1370.
LD 1370 would transfer planning, permitting and zoning responsibility from LURC to 13 separate county governments. While most of these 13 counties likely have some capacity for regional planning, counties generally do not have planning boards and boards of appeal. Counties generally do not have the administrative structures in place to issue permits and amendments to permits, to check for compliance with permits, investigate potential permit violations, and carry out enforcement proceedings when necessary. Counties would likely need additional rulemaking powers or powers to develop ordinances in order to implement their new plans. Eliminating LURC would require setting up these duplicative administrative entities in 13 separate counties. Maintaining “uniformity of land use and planning throughout the unorganized territory,” as directed by the bill, would be an impossibility under so many different jurisdictions. In addition, projects that span two different counties, like Plum Creek’s development proposal, for instance, would face duplicate processes and potentially very different permit requirements.
The substantive review of proposed project applications for permits, such as complex development proposals like Plum Creek’s two resort/2000 lot development or multiple high elevation wind power projects, would be significantly more cumbersome also. Currently, LURC can call on the expertise of sister agencies, including IF&W, the state soil scientist, the Maine Natural Areas Program, DEP, and BPL, among others. It would be much more time consuming and expensive for these agencies to provide similar project evaluations to 13 separate counties.
While NRCM has not always agreed with the decisions of the Land Use Regulation Commission, it is an agency which is lean and hardworking. We do not believe that replacing LURC with 13 separate decision making bodies makes sense financially nor would it provide better planning, zoning and permitting services for the unorganized territories.
For all of these reasons, we urge you to vote Ought Not to Pass on L.D. 1370.
Thank you very much for your attention.