Adjacency Proposal Summary

Last Updated: April 19, 2019


The LUPC is proposing to update the adjacency principle, which is an initial screen for where new zones for development of a residential subdivision or business can be created. This high-level screen is just the first step – the rezoning process still applies and permits would still be required for most uses. The adjacency principle guides most development toward existing development and away from undeveloped areas. This helps lower tax burdens, ensures land remains available for forestry, agriculture and recreation, and promotes the health of existing communities.

Since the 1980’s, the LUPC’s comprehensive plans have said that the policy should be updated. Maine’s changing economy makes that need more urgent. Planning ahead now will increase economic opportunity and improve protections for remote areas. This page describes how the proposed new system for applying the adjacency principle would work for different types of development, and discusses some of the limitations of the current system.

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Zoning for Commercial Development

A proposal for new commercial or industrial development larger than a home-based business may require a rezoning if the property is not already zoned for development. Rezoning for commercial uses would be possible in primary locations if the use is a good fit for the site and the neighboring uses.

Large commercial/industrial facilities that rely on three phase power would be sited on a case-by-case basis using criteria (see Section 10.08,B,2 of the proposed rule revisions), which would be incorporated into rule. Home based businesses are also considered in this proposal, and would be regulated like today, but with some additional options to expand in size. Ffarm stands would be allowed in some places where they are not presently allowed.

Skip ahead: Primary and Secondary Locations

Zoning for Residential Development

The proposed rule changes would apply to proposals to develop residential subdivisions. The rule changes would not affect single family homes on individual lots.

In most cases, development of a residential subdivision would require rezoning and the proposed site would have to be in a primary or secondary location; the developer would have to demonstrate that emergency services could be provided; and that lot owners would have legal access. Some subdivisions would be allowed by permit if located in a primary location, and if they meet other criteria such as being close to a road and not on a waterbody. The proposal also considers rezoning for “low density” subdivisions that have lots in the 12-25 acre range, which is a substantial departure from past policy. Low density subdivisions would have their own zone, and would only be allowed in certain places to minimize fragmentation.

Outside the primary and secondary locations, the proposal would continue to allow residential subdivisions on some lakes that are already developed with camps or homes, and near motorized or multi-use trailheads, but would eliminate options for residential subdivision on undeveloped lakes.

Camps are common on lakes in the Commission’s service area, and subdivision near a cluster of camps is possible today. The goal of the proposed changes is to continue to allow camp subdivisions but to proactively direct it toward lakes that are already developed, and away from undeveloped lakes. The proposal would use information contained in the lakes management program, and some basic criteria, to determine if a lake is developed enough to qualify for residential subdivision. (For more information about adjacency on lakes, see Considerations for Rezoning on Lakes.)

Skip ahead: Primary and Secondary Locations

Zoning for businesses that have to be near a natural resource

Not all uses can locate “near town” in a primary or secondary location: some uses are resource dependent. Examples include operations that process forest products to reduce bulk and make them cost-effective to transport; extraction of natural resources such as water and gravel; the rental of gear on-site for recreation in areas that are distant from town; and trail centers that need certain kinds of terrain and a lot of open space to operate. These resource dependent uses should be located in a manner that does not undermine the quality of the surrounding natural resources or unduly increase the demand for services.

The proposal identifies types of locations for each use and establishes criteria. For example, businesses that supply recreational day users with gear or food could locate near busy multi-use trail heads or boat launches, so long as there is enough space for parking and activities would not create a problem for neighboring uses or resources.

Limitations of the Current System

Today’s policy allows rezoning for development within a mile of existing development. The one-mile test is a blunt planning tool, long-recognized as needing improvement. Existing, dispersed development can provide a springboard for new development into remote areas or onto undeveloped lake shores. This can affect the cost of providing public services (e.g., fire protection, ambulance) and impact forestry operations, wildlife habitat and the character of the UT.

Today's policy allows leapfrogging


Many people agree that the best place for residential subdivision is “near other development.” Camps are common in the Commission’s service area, especially around lakes, and tend to be scattered across the landscape (sort of like freckles). Today’s policy says that new zones for residential subdivisions should be within a mile of an existing group of homes or camps, no matter where they are located. Because of the historical pattern of development, the existing adjacency system can result in new development in scattered locations, which can be hard to serve for fire and ambulance providers. The problem will increase over time as more homes are built.

Example: The policy would potentially allow residential development on undeveloped lakes and ponds that are within a mile of any group of homes.

Lack of flexibility

The one-mile test is not a nuanced enough tool to locate new types of commercial uses, particularly those that need to be farther from town and closer to natural or recreational resources.

The current system tends to treat all commercial development the same, when in reality, uses can be pretty different from each other and a more nuanced approach would lead to better outcomes.

Today’s policy requires most commercial development to be within one mile by road, or in places where roads could be built, of existing compatible development (shown in the diagram above as a 1 mile radius).

Today’s policy requires most commercial development to be within one mile by road of existing compatible development (shown in the diagram above as a ruler).

Primary and Secondary Locations

Update! At the April 2nd meeting, the Commission voted to adopt revised adjacency and subdivision rules. As a result of the decision, the configuration of primary and secondary locations has changed from what is show below. A new map of primary and secondary locations is being created and will be posted soon. Visit the adjacency rules page for more information about the rule changes that were adopted.

This proposal uses proximity to public roads and populated areas that provide services to locate most types of residential subdivision and commercial activities. The goal of locating these uses near towns, townships and plantations with substantial services (called “rural hubs” in this proposal) is to provide services in a cost-effective manner and avoid the negative effects of development in distant areas. The negative effects of distant development include increased costs for services such as fire, ambulance, sheriff, solid waste, education, and roads; disruption in land needed for timber, agriculture and recreation economies; impacts to wildlife habitat; uncertain future private road access; and reduced viability of local communities that need a “critical mass” of people in the area to support hospitals, schools and other community services.

The proposal is to allow most residential and commercial uses in areas that are generally no more than 7 miles from a rural hub and 1 mile from a public road, which are called primary locations. Some subdivisions could be located up to 3 miles from a public road if a legal right of access and emergency services are available, and these places are called secondary locations.

Guide to the Map:

Location Description What can happen here

Primary Locations

Web map symbology for Primary Locations
  • < 7 miles from the boundary of a rural hub town, and < 1 mile of a public road;
  • < 1 mile from a public road in certain townships and plantations; or
  • The shoreline around management class three lakes
  • Residential subdivisions by permit if not on waterbody and < 1/2 mile from a public road
  • Rezoning for residential subdivision, provided services and legal access for lot owner can be provided (certain high value lakes excluded)
  • Rezoning for most businesses

Secondary Locations

Web map symbology for Secondary Locations
  • < 3 miles from a public road in towns, townships, or plantations that share a border with certain towns (Rural Hub towns are shown outlined in purple on the map).
  • Rezoning for residential subdivision, provided services and legal access for lot owners can be provided (certain high value lakes excluded)

Resource based locations (areas not in orange or orange hash marks)

  • Areas not included in primary or secondary locations if not near sensitive resources
  • Recreation-based residential subdivision on certain lakes and near multi-use trailheads
  • Resource extraction and processing in certain locations near raw materials (in the woods, or on the farm)
  • Recreation support businesses and recreation day use facilities in certain locations (e.g., gear rental, food services for recreational users, trail centers, etc.)

Map of Primary and Secondary Locations Based on the Adopted Rule (PDF 6.2MB)