The first meeting of the task force charged with reviewing Maine’s oversight of more than 10 million acres in the state will be held in Bangor on Sept. 22, officials announced Friday.
The 13-member Land Use Regulation Commission Reform Commission will be responsible for recommending to the Legislature ways to improve planning, zoning and permitting in Maine’s vast Unorganized Territories, also known as the UT.
The opening session is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Husson University’s Center for Family Business.
The task force grew out of a debate in the Legislature this past spring over whether to change or abolish the 40-year-old Land Use Regulation Commission. Some LURC critics accuse the agency of hindering economic growth in rural Maine and suggest LURC’s planning and permitting responsibilities could be better handled by county governments.
LURC supporters, meanwhile, contend that the agency is only following the policies created or approved by lawmakers and that the relatively small staff provides the services far more efficiently and consistently than the counties could. Roughly 92 percent of all permit applications filed with LURC since 1971 have been approved.
Bill Beardsley, commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation and chairman of the reform task force, said Bangor was chosen for the first meeting because it is centrally located. But the intention, Beardsley said, is to hold future meetings in areas close to or within the UT.
“We are going to try to hold meetings in the towns that are close to the LURC jurisdiction,” Beardsley said. “I wasn’t planning on any [meetings] in Augusta.”
The majority of the task force’s meetings — including the first one — will be work sessions that are open to the public but that will not include public comment periods. The legislation establishing the task force requires the group to hold at least two “listening sessions” to gather feedback from the public, however.
The 12 members other than Beardsley were appointed by Republicans Gov. Paul LePage, Senate President Kevin Raye and House Speaker Robert Nutting.