Thursday, July 21, 2011

LURC, Democracy and Developers in Maine's North Woods

This past session, legislators contemplated eliminating the state agency that regulates development in Maine's unorganized territories, a vast region of commercial forests and undeveloped lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds that encompasses roughly half the surface area of Maine. Proponents of this approach say land use and development policy should be devolved to the counties as a matter of local control. Critics argue that the Land Use Regulation Commission should be reformed, not eliminated, or the future of the largest contiguous forest this side of the Mississippi will be dim indeed.

I explored the issue for my latest piece in Down East, which has been in subscribers' hands for a week or so, but just posted online. As you'll see, the facts generally support those who wish to keep LURC around - as do the county commissioners in that most unorganized of counties, Piscataquis, the longtime head of the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine, and the Republican legislator who helped create LURC some four decades ago.

Two documents mentioned in the article that may be of interest to Maine's political class: the memo from Haynes and Gardner from which the governor lifted his proposal to rezone 30% of the North Woods for development; and the minutes of the meeting between Sen. Raye, timberland owners, and the commissioners of the eight affected counties where the initiative to eliminate LURC was fleshed out. Enjoy.

Gov. Paul LePage and Republican legislative leaders will be appointing a special commission to look into the issue this summer and fall and report back to the legislature with their findings.

[Update, 7/31/2011: I've reposted the Haynes and Gardner memo with the missing page included.]

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