LURC to consider comprehensive plan

Posted Jan. 01, 2010, at 8:34 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — After more than four years of work, the Land Use Regulation Commission could give preliminary approval this Wednesday to the planning document that guides policy decisions on more than 10 million acres in Maine.

LURC staff will present commissioners with the latest draft of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, or CLUP, during a meeting Wednesday at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor. The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m.

If the plan receives preliminary approval from the commission, it will be forwarded to the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee for review. Absent major subsequent changes, a final commission vote on the plan is expected in the spring.

Staff members have made numerous minor alterations to the plan in recent months but no major substantive changes after a public hearing period in the fall.

For instance, in response to criticisms that the draft plan did not recognize the interests and rights of property owners and residents in lands within LURC’s jurisdiction, the phrase “including property owners and residents of the unorganized and deorganized townships” has been added in places.

LURC staff and commission members also added language to emphasize that the vast majority of land within the Unorganized Territory is privately owned.

On the issue of recreation, the draft plan states that commission planning and zoning is one of many factors that influence the type of recreational activities that take place in the Unorganized Territory.

“Ultimately, it is the landowner’s right to decide what types of recreation to allow on their lands and how to manage it, while it is the role of local, state, federal and regional recreation groups and agencies to provide support, coordination and funding,” the draft reads.

The draft also recognizes the disagreement that has emerged about the scope of development within the jurisdiction in recent decades and how changes in land ownership have contributed to that development.

“There is continuing debate regarding the extent of fragmentation that has taken place and the degree to which it poses a threat in the jurisdiction,” the draft reads. “However, the commission believes that in selected areas, fragmentation of ownership has negatively affected forest productivity and resulted in some undesirable development. The commission’s primary concern is the longer-term uncertainty created by a continuation of these trends.”

The current draft and earlier ones continue to espouse a goal of guiding future development into areas with the infrastructure and community services to support it. LURC staff members have also said they believe there should be additional discussion about whether the commission needs new tools to discourage development from fragmenting working forests and undeveloped areas.

But because the CLUP is only a planning document, it cannot force any regulatory changes. Major changes would have to be brought about through rule making or through the Legislature.

Copies of the draft CLUP are available on the commission’s Web site, www.maine.gov/doc/lurc.

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