PARIS — County commissioners heard testimony Tuesday that LURC, Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission, is blocking economic development in unorganized territories and should be abolished.

Legislators and county commissioners from Northern Maine went before the Oxford County Commission to sell their message of ending LURC and putting the commission’s duties under counties’ control.

Maine Rep. Jeffery Gifford of Lincoln explained his proposal, which would pass LURC’s duties of planning, zoning, permits and enforcement on to county commissions.

Paul Underwood, an Aroostook County commissioner, said LURC has impeded development in the unorganized territories. He said permitting fees were higher and many potential projects never get off the ground. Lumber companies, he said, bring most of their timber to mills across the Canadian border because there aren’t many in Maine.

Underwood said handing LURC duties to counties makes development “a local control issue rather than a bureaucracy that, I believe, doesn’t answer to anybody.”

Dismantling or reforming LURC has support from Gov. Paul LePage. State Sen. Roger Sherman of Houlton said the governor has paid close attention to the issue.

Commissioner Caldwell Jackson said he backed Gifford’s bill. Commissioner David Duguay said he liked the idea of more local control but was worried about the transition costs.

“Can we do it cheaper than LURC?” he asked.

Commissioner Steve Merrill agreed with Duguay. While he said he’s a proponent of local control, “as far as the county taking on the full responsibility of what LURC’s been doing, I’m not completely sold on it.”

There are currently five bills dealing with LURC, Underwood said. They range from limiting its powers to dissolving it altogether.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.