Bad ideas have a way of turning up again and again in the Maine Legislature and there's a doozie coming up again this year — abolishing LURC.
The Land Use Regulation Commission is the zoning and planning board for about half of the state, the half with very few people and lots of trees. That includes portions of Franklin and Oxford counties.
It has the unenviable job of overseeing the largest chunk of undeveloped land east of the Mississippi, a task that often leaves everyone unhappy.
It involves pulling together the incompatible interests of everyone, including sportsmen, environmentalists, logging companies and wind developers.
Oh, and that's not even counting the people who live and work under its jurisdiction.
Let's just say LURC performs the role of balancing Maine's precious outdoor resources, a job that leaves it with few good friends.
Last year, a bill to abolish the agency never made it out of committee. This year, Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, has proposed shutting down LURC and transferring its work to eight rural counties, an idea which, by the way, has left some commissioners of the affected counties aghast.
The problem with LURC, according to Davis, is that it does not move quickly enough. Of course, to environmentalists and wind power opponents, it moves way too quickly.
Critics cite the five years and $25 million it took LURC to handle the Plum Creek development plan for the Moosehead Lakes region.
Way too long, they say, and way too expensive, both of which may be true.
But let's consider two other things. First, this wasn't exactly like landing a new Walmart in Auburn.
Plum Creek started out proposing the largest development in Maine history for perhaps the most pristine and undeveloped recreation area in the state.
It wanted 975 house lots, 575 of them on waterfront, many on remote trout ponds.
It wanted two resorts, one of which would be a 3,000-acre resort on Lily Bay, including a lodge, marina, horse stables and tennis courts.
Plus three RV Parks, 600 acres of commercial development, a 1,000-acre commercial/industrial park and four new sporting camps, all twice as large as current law allowed.
It was a very complex project and, in the beginning, a Critical Insights poll found Mainers disapproved of it by a two-to-one margin.
Second, this whopper of a plan was thrown at an agency that had just been hit by state budget cuts and forced to dismiss five senior planners.
Phyllis Austin, writing in the Maine Environmental News, said in 2004 that "environmentalists agree that LURC has sidelined itself by concentrating so much on customer service and fast permitting."
Fast permitting? Too much customer service? Holy cow!
LURC heard everyone's side of the Plum Creek deal, contracted for research and waited for multiple redrawings of the plan.
What resulted was a compromise plan that included much of what Plum Creek wanted and much for sportsmen and environmental groups to applaud.
The final plan is a better result than would have occurred if the land had been left to slow, piecemeal development and far better than Plum Creek's first idea.
The Legislature should look carefully at the Plum Creek process and identify areas for improvement.
But dumping LURC outright without a solid replacement plan would be foolhardy and shortsighted.