Maine’s Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) is moving forward a proposal to rewrite the rules for where and how new development can occur in Maine’s unorganized territories. The LUPC makes planning and zoning decisions for those areas of the state without their own local government — some 10.4 million acres of the state — mostly in Northern, Western, and Downeast Maine.
Now they’re proposing to open thousands and thousands of acres to residential subdivisions and commercial development. Maine Audubon has been following this issue for years, and continues to have major concerns.
At their meeting last week, the LUPC formally proposed a new rules for development in these important lands, departing from a principle that has shaped Maine’s landscape for decades. At stake is what’s known as the “adjacency principle,” which states that new development must occur within one road mile of existing compatible development, like an existing business or cluster of camps.
According to the LUPC, the current system “helps lower tax burdens, ensures land remains available for forestry, agriculture and recreation, and promotes the health of existing communities.” It also protects undeveloped areas from scattered development and extensive road-building, all of which threaten the unorganized territories unparalleled wildlife and wildlife habitat
But the LUPC is proposing to change the adjacency principle, potentially allowing some residential and commercial uses in areas that are up to 7 miles from a “rural hub” and 1 mile from a public road, and some subdivisions up to 5 miles from a public road. This is the most significant proposed policy change in the history of both the LUPC and its predecessor, the Land Use Regulation Commission, and has the potential to irrevocably alter the character of Maine’s unorganized areas by unduly encroaching on habitat and further fragmenting the largest intact temperate forest in North America.
Maine Audubon is very concerned about the size and scope of the proposal and the real possibility of unintended consequences. We have urged the Commission to proceed carefully and conservatively, as these changes would be permanently alter the landscape.
On Wednesday evening, the LUPC decided to post the rules for public comment. There will be a public hearing on the rules on January 8, with a snow date of January 10, location TBD. The public comment period will close in early February, with Commission deliberation and decision anticipated in March or April.
Maine Audubon is continuing to engage on this important policy development, advocating in the best interests of Maine’s wildlife and habitat. We encourage you to be a part of this public process too. When the proposed rules are posted for public comment, you’ll hear from us about how to submit your own comments. We strongly encourage you to put January 8 on your calendar now – your comments will have the most impact if they are delivered at the public hearing.