by Cathy Johnson, NRCM North Woods Project Director
Good afternoon Sen. Simpson, Rep. Beaudette and members of the Committee. My name is Cathy Johnson. I am the North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine and I am here today on behalf of the 12,000 members and supporters of Natural Resources Council of Maine in strong opposition to L.D. 741.
The Land Use Regulation Commission is a state agency that was established in 1971 to provide planning, zoning, and permitting oversight to roughly half of the state of Maine that is comprised of unorganized townships – those townships that have no local government. LURC’s responsibilities include providing for appropriate residential, recreational, commercial and industrial uses while also preserving ecological and natural values.
In the course of its work, LURC regularly reviews applications for many types of development, from wind farms, to sawmills, to subdivisions, to resorts. When those developments meet the statutory criteria, they are approved. When they do not, they are denied. Overall, LURC approves the vast majority (over 90%) of proposals it reviews.
This bill would establish a very harmful precedent. It would allow a developer who was denied a permit from the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) to go shopping for a different decision maker who might give a more favorable decision. This would enable developers to do an end run around LURC and would undercut LURC’s ability to carry out its statutory responsibilities.
An actual example of what could occur if this bill were to pass involves a proposed subdivision on the southeast side of Moosehead Lake. A developer (not Plum Creek) proposed a 70 lot subdivision on the most visible peninsula on the southeast side of the lake, the Burnt Jacket peninsula. Half of the proposed lots would have been right along the shore. The other half would have been located on the steep slopes of Burnt Jacket Mountain, visible from all around the lake. LURC denied the developer a permit for this project for a wide variety of reasons.
The area in question, the Burnt Jacket peninsula, is immediately adjacent to the organized town of Greenville. If this bill were to pass, the developer could petition the town of Greenville to annex the land originally proposed for development, seek a permit for the original 70 lot subdivision, and completely undercut LURC’s ability to protect the public values in the unorganized townships.
Instead, in its denial, the LURC Commission noted that a different development, located on another portion of the property would be more appropriate for residential development. Subsequently, the developer submitted a new application for a smaller project in a more appropriate location on the parcel and that subdivision was approved.
Approximately 160 of the unorganized townships share a border with an adjacent organized town. Therefore, jurisdiction shopping could occur with 150 different organized towns. LURC’s ability to guide development to appropriate areas and protect the natural values of the jurisdiction would be significantly hampered if this bill were to pass.
From NRCM’s perspective, this bill is not about wind power. In fact, NRCM actively supported development of wind turbines on Black Nubble Mountain, part of the area proposed for annexation in this bill during the LURC proceedings. Our colleagues at Maine Audubon opposed the wind project. But NRCM and Maine Audubon are united in opposition to this bill. Even more important than NRCM’s strong support of wind power is our support for due process, good governance and public decision-making. Whether development is wind power, sprawling subdivisions or something else, we need our rules and regulations to be clear and enforceable. We believe the adverse impacts of passage of this bill are far reaching and would have a very detrimental effect on Maine.
Therefore, we strongly urge you to vote Ought Not To Pass on L.D. 741.
Thank you for your attention.