An Act To Improve Land Use Planning and Permitting in Unorganized Territories
CONCEPT DRAFT SUMMARY
This bill is a concept draft pursuant to Joint Rule 208.
This bill proposes to make the following changes to the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, referred to in this bill as "LURC."
1. The Governor or the Commissioner of Conservation would appoint an interim director of LURC to oversee reform of LURC for a term of one or 2 years. A permanent director would be hired once that term has expired.
2. The purpose, scope and duties of LURC would be amended to mirror land use governance in the organized areas of the State and to clearly state that the mission of LURC is to serve residents and property owners within the jurisdiction of LURC, promote local economies and service center communities near the jurisdiction and protect natural resources in the jurisdiction. A required component of LURC's mission would be economic development. The enabling language for LURC would be amended to make it clear that only residents and property owners in each regional planning district, as established in this bill, have standing in the planning, zoning and rule-making process.
3. LURC would be transferred from the Department of Conservation into a more economic development-oriented department, such as the Department of Economic and Community Development.
4. A central administrative office for LURC consisting of a director, a chief planner, a chief of permitting and compliance and support staff would be located in an office accessible to residents and property owners of the jurisdiction, most likely in a nearby service center community. This office would provide a variety of administrative functions, such as data collection and analysis and permit processing and backup support when needed.
5. Forestry regulation would be assumed by the Maine Forest Service in the Department of Conservation. This would result in a reduction of administrative costs, since, under the current law, virtually all forestry regulation is reviewed by Maine Forest Service staff.
6. Three regional planning and permitting commissions would be established based upon logical geographic and economic boundaries, preferably aligned with economic development districts. This would align the strategy of LURC with the State's strategy from an economic and nature-based tourism perspective.
7. The 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan would be repealed and the 1997 plan restored, which would remain effective until each regional commission implemented a new regional comprehensive land use plan. The regional commissions would develop and adopt new regional comprehensive land use plans in a staggered manner in order to use the support of the central administrative office.
8. The Department of Environmental Protection would assume jurisdiction for all projects that meet the site location of development law threshold, which would be amended to apply only to large commercial development projects. Residential subdivisions and small commercial development projects would be reviewed by the regional commissions.
9. Decisions made by the regional commissions would be appealed directly to the Law Court.
10. A new funding structure would be developed to reflect the new purpose and scope of LURC and the standing of residents and property owners within the jurisdiction of LURC and future budget needs. Property taxes and permit application fees would be the primary sources of funding for LURC, resulting in lower appropriations from the General Fund and avoiding increased permit fees.
It is intended that this bill would result in cost savings and the need for fewer LURC employees.