Giving LURC's work to counties makes little sense

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.

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Ed Enos's picture

I have served on my town's

I have served on my town's planning board, so I can understand the complexities of the planning process. Each town has developed, with state help, its own planning ordinances. I'm not aware the counties have them. At the town level, these ordinances must be voted on. Will this now happen at the county level to develop at County ordinance? Each town will have to have a town meeting to vote on this. Does every town have to agree? Do you expect people to volunteer for a county planning board? There are so many potential problems and will be a very long development time to establish a county planning ordinance. This needs to be thought through before abolishing LURC.

John Ponte's picture

LURC needs to go BY BY

If I want to work on my home in Oxford county all I have to do is call one person ask for a permit pay a small fee and I am on my way.
If I want to work on my camp in the LURC control county I have to hire a lawyer and make out a permit so conplex and so costly it is not worth it at all .
LURC has become way to coplex to deal with .If you don't plan the job to there liking LURC will cost you so much it will cost you more than the job itself.
There is no one that likes dealing with LURC up north no one at all.Down here no one really understands this ,here in the southen part of the state, because we have people in the towns and citys that handles the permits needed with out all of LURC's red tape .
Instead of LURC working with the owners to get the job done ,they have become more of a enforcer over the land and home and camp owners.
The people in the north are just as smart as the people in the southen part of the state .We don't need LURC here in the south so why are they needed in the north .
I feel if you own the land you hould be able to do what you need to do with out LURC telling any one they can't do it , as long as the owner works with in the laws and the codes.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture


Do counties have the staff and resources to evaluate large development projects in wilderness Maine? Do they have rules and procedures for how to conduct these evaluations?? How would counties co-ordinate a project covering more than one county?
this is a pretty dumb proposal unless of course the counties are expected to rubberstamp corporate exploitation of rural Maine. These projects could dilute or destroy Maine's unique character for the benefit of a few out-of-state corporate behemoths.
Bad idea.

Alice Barnett's picture

plum creek

i saw a video where LURC received like 1700 letters explaining why the writers were against Plum Creek. LURC received 6 letters for Plum Creek. Let the people speak.
Hopefully people write to LURC how they really feel about Wind Turbines ruining pristine Maine.
People, e-mail LURC, does not matter when, just tell them. LURC wants to know.

Mark Wrenn's picture


"dumping LURC outright without a solid replacement plan would be foolhardy and shortsighted", unless, of course, your plan is to put the fox in charge.


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