BETHEL – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has proposed changes in the site-location development law and some rules are making developers worry about its impacts.

“In the 37 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never heard of any changes that are more sweeping than these,” said Darryl Brown, president of Main-Land Development Consultants Inc., at a public forum co-sponsored by Main-Land and the Bethel Area Business Association on Wednesday. “We’re not here to bash the DEP. We don’t know why or what prompted these changes.”

Main-Land representatives said DEP officials were invited to attend the meeting, but declined the invitation.

Tom DuBois, an engineer and general manager for Main-Land, said the site location development law was created in the early 1970s to deal with medium to large developments. Changes include limits on where developments can be built, designated growth areas, areas served by public sewer and others.

DuBois said a standard subdivision can only be built in growth areas.

The DEP may require performance bonds for projects with consideration given to the “compliance history of the applicant,” he added.

Municipalities already have performance guarantees in place, said DuBois, causing a redundancy.

Bob Berry, another Main-Land engineer and project manager, discussed site rules changes. New gravel roads would require revegetation within a year or be counted toward triggering a site law project.

Road and driveway grades would be limited to 8 percent. Berry said many Main-Land projects would not have been allowed under that requirement.

Buffer areas would have to be extended to 25 feet adjacent to wetland areas, 100 feet adjacent to streams, brooks, rivers, ponds and large wetlands, and 750 feet adjacent to vernal pools. Light pollution would be regulated, said Berry, with shielded fixtures required, business lights on only during business hours, and zoning of light levels.

Much of the design process, Berry said, is taken out of the developer’s hands.

“Even out in the backcountry, sidewalks are required (for subdivisions),” he said. “This is a very sweeping, broad brush way for the department to mandate site specific standards.”

Lem Cissel, a businessman with business interests in Rumford and Maryland, encouraged people to use the media to get others to oppose the changes. He also said the proposal would likely be modified by the Legislature.

Main-Land presenters said there were some positive aspects to the proposed changes, including re-permitting for long-term construction projects every 10 years instead of every five, and clarification of policy on soil types.

However, said Brown, the proposed changes as a whole will be detrimental to development when the economy is already in the doldrums.

“This is absolutely the wrong time for these proposals to see the light of day,” he said.

Main-Land will hold more forums on the DEP proposals, with the next one taking place at the Fairbanks School meeting house in Farmington from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on March 3.


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