AUGUSTA, Maine — Legislation that sought to abolish Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission has been bypassed in favor of a longer study into the future of the agency, which oversees development in the state’s nearly 10 million acre Unorganized Territory.
Gov. Paul LePage signed into law Friday a bill that sets forth an agenda to study the issue, which was debated at length in committee during the past session after bills were presented to abolish LURC.
Lawmakers finally killed those bills and passed one that establishes a commission to overhaul how land use is governed in the territory, reasoning that the matter couldn’t be settled in the little time remaining in the session.
The commission must issue a final report by Jan. 4, and the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry must submit a bill during the 2012 session.
During last year’s gubernatorial campaign, LePage said he would abolish LURC, which is viewed by many people, especially in areas overseen by the agency, as an impediment to economic development. Others object to oversight in the unorganized lands by Augusta and would prefer to see land development decisions made more locally, by counties.
Environmentalists, however, do not want LURC abolished and believe the law signed by LePage is written to slant the 13-member study commission in that direction.
“Our concern is that the commission is rigged to come back with a recommendation to abolish LURC,” Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said Monday.
The commission, for example, lacks slots for appointees who likely would bring diverse points of view to the discussion, Didisheim said.