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Maine Attorney General Appeals LURC Court Decision
April 15, 2011
AUGUSTA ? Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider today announced he has filed a notice of appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Portland seeking review of a recent Superior Court decision regarding the Land Use Regulation Commission?s (LURC) decision conditionally approving Plum Creek?s Concept Plan for the Moosehead Lake Region.
An April 7 Superior Court decision vacated LURC?s approval of the Plum Creek Concept Plan on procedural grounds. The Court found that LURC commissioners needed to hold an additional adjudicatory hearing on the proposal before finally acting on it. The decision remanded the LURC decision and ordered further proceedings.
The State?s appeal seeks review of the Superior Court?s determination that LURC afforded the concept plan insufficient process, according to the Maine Attorney General?s Office.
Gov. Paul LePage said, ?The Maine Attorney General has set forth a thorough, reasoned appeal. It has my full support.?
?At the same time, this seemingly endless use of Maine?s complex regulatory system to stop Maine landowners from investing in their own land, in creating jobs and building the tax base, not by merit of their arguments, but simply by endless regulatory uncertainties and delay, is a travesty and must end,? the Governor continued. ?This is why I feel so strongly about regulatory reform. We need regulations that are tough, fast, reliable and fair.?
?We are eager to complete this appeal to settle once and for all the question of whether due process was served by the reviews and public hearings that were conducted by LURC,? said Attorney General Schneider.
?The LURC board and staff carried out an exhaustive, inclusive, comprehensive review and deliberative procedure,? said Commissioner Bill Beardsley of the Maine Department of Conservation. ?They assured an area larger than Baxter State Park would be set aside as conservation easements. They held 300 hours of public hearings, attentively following state procedures over years, before making their reasoned decision. Even with this positive decision to allow Plum Creek to develop just 2 percent of their Maine properties, Plum Creek must now still go through a permitting process before it can start developing the related area for residential and seasonal homes and a resort not unlike the Kineo resort of 100 years ago.
?I simply believe the State?s appeal to the Maine Judicial Court is strong and will prevail,? Commissioner Beardsley said.
Established by the Maine Legislature in 1971, LURC, housed within the Maine Department of Conservation, acts as the planning and zoning authority for the state?s unorganized area consisting of townships that have no local form of government. LURC also serves certain towns and plantations that choose not to administer land use at the local level. LURC?s jurisdiction covers more than 10.4 million acres, almost half of the land area in the state. The commission is supported by a staff within the Maine Department of Conservation.
LURC?s decision, made in September 2009, permanently conserved about 392,000 acres of land for sustainable forestry and public recreational access, while setting aside about 16,000 acres, or about 2 percent of Plum Creek?s land holdings in Maine, to allow for residential and seasonal growth in targeted areas.
Following years of planning by Plum Creek, LURC began its formal review of Plum Creek?s proposed concept plan in the summer of 2007, and held four full weeks of adjudicatory hearings on the proposal in December 2007 and January2008.
Twenty-six parties to these hearings presented almost 170 witnesses during this phase of the process and all witnesses were made available for cross-examination. Additionally, the agency held four full days and evenings of public hearings around the state in which nearly 500 Maine residents expressed their point of view on the plan.
Following the close of the hearings, LURC developed amendments to Plum Creek?s proposed concept plan based on the evidence presented during the hearings. The amendments were developed over a period of 18 months and repeatedly posted for public notice and comment. LURC issued its final decision approving the concept plan as amended in September 2009.
Three of the 26 parties that participated in the proceeding before LURC appealed the decision to Superior Court.
CONTACT: Brenda Kielty (207)626-8577