For Immediate Release
House Republican Office
March 5, 2012
For more information:
Jay Finegan, 287-1445
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AUGUSTA -The Legislature's Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) Committee voted March 1 to send an amended bill to reform the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) to the full Legislature for consideration. The vote comes after almost a year of deliberation, study and negotiation.
Last spring, the Legislature formed a nonpartisan committee of land owners, local government officials, tourism representatives, environmentalists and land use experts to develop recommendations for a reform of LURC. The Legislature turned the report into a bill, LD 1798.
"We thought it was important that the thoughtful proposals made by the LURC Reform Commission experts be put into law," said Rep. Jeffery Gifford (R-Lincoln), a member of the ACF Committee and sponsor of the bill that formed the study committee. "We put the working group together because a lot of people thought that reforming LURC was necessary, especially those who live in and around the unorganized territory." Gifford's original bill would have eliminated LURC altogether.
The LURC Reform Commission and LD 1798 proposed a number of changes. Under the plan, LURC would be given a new name and mission statement, its staff and hearings would be moved closer to the unorganized territory (UT) and the membership of LURC's Board would be composed primarily of county commissioners so as to better reflect local priorities.
In addition, LD 1798 recommends that some of LURC's duties should be delegated to the Maine Forest Service and the Department of Environmental Protection and that staff should receive training in customer service. It also stipulates that the LURC Board of Commissioners should have to report back to the Legislature annually.
Also in the proposal was a provision to allow counties to opt-out of LURC's jurisdiction and take up responsibility for their own land use regulation, provided that they kept up with those responsibilities.
However, legislators on the ACF panel were not ready to rubber stamp the recommendations. "We agreed with the broad strokes of this proposal, but there were some areas that a few of us thought needed to be changed," said Rep. Russell Black (R-Wilton). "We wanted two additional counties to be represented on the LURC BoardOxford and Hancock - because they have a lot of UT land. On top of that, the opt-out provision posed a problem for effective land use regulation."
Rep. Black's amendment to the bill, in combination with an amendment presented by Rep. Karen Foster (R-Augusta), made the changes. According to their proposals, the LURC Board of Commissioners will be made up of eight representatives of the counties with the most UT land within them. These eight must be confirmed by the Legislature, while the governor will appoint the ninth member.
Additionally, the opt-out provision will now be initiated in 2017, giving the LURC Board enough time to formulate its methods before allowing county governments to withdraw from LURC. After 2017, counties may withdraw upon the approval of the Legislature, subject to recall if the counties do not fulfill their land use duties.
"I am happy with the final product," said Rep. Foster. "It presents a reasonable solution to what most of us agreed was a problem that needed to be solved."
Rep. Black added, "I introduced my amendment to bring accountability and consensus. I wasn't happy with the original bill. I'm hopeful that when it gets to the full Legislature for a floor vote, Democrats will see the reasonableness of the approach I put forward. Their colleagues on the ACF Committee haven't moved from their original position, and I'd hate to see that kind of gridlock when it gets to the full House and the Senate."
The Committee's vote was 8-3, with all Republicans endorsing the amended LURC reform bill and three Democrats voting against it. The two remaining Democrats were absent. ###
Maine House Republicans
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