LURC head steps down as changes loom

Posted Jan. 05, 2012, at 1:48 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 05, 2012, at 2:20 p.m.
Catherine Carroll
Catherine Carroll

AUGUSTA, Maine — The longtime director of the Land Use Regulation Commission has stepped down from her post and taken a job at a sister state agency, state officials announced Thursday.

Catherine Carroll’s departure from LURC comes at a time when lawmakers are poised to make substantial changes at the agency responsible for overseeing planning and permitting on more than 10 million acres in Maine.

Carroll stepped down as LURC’s director on Wednesday after 24 years with the commission — including 10 as the top staffer — and began work as a senior planner within the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. Both LURC and the parks bureau are part of the Department of Conservation.

She said in an interview that it was entirely her decision to leave LURC.

“I felt like it was right and I felt like it was time,” Carroll said.

Samantha Horn Olsen, manager of LURC’s planning division, was appointed by Gov. Paul LePage to replace Carroll.

“We will miss Catherine at LURC, yet look forward to bringing her planning and management skills to Maine’s public lands,” Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley said in a statement. “She has been with LURC for over half of its 40-year existence, and we will continue to draw on her historical knowledge and professional insights.”

LURC has long been the target of criticism by some landowners and companies doing business in Maine’s Unorganized Territory, who contend the commission’s policies and staff have stymied economic development. And as LURC’s most public face, Carroll was occasionally singled out by some of those critics but also praised by others — including commission members — for her management skills.

Carroll’s tenure coincided with an unprecedented workload at LURC as the commission reviewed numerous applications for commercial wind power projects — often several simultaneously — as well as Plum Creek’s Moosehead Lake development plan, the largest such proposal in state history.

LURC’s future will once again be a hot topic in the State House beginning this month when lawmakers consider the report of a task force charged with recommending ways to improve planning, permitting and zoning in the 10.5 million-acre Unorganized Territory.

The task force did not recommend abolishing LURC, as some had wanted and others had feared. Instead, the panel recommended giving county governments more say over LURC decisions, most notably by reserving six of the nine seats on the reformulated commission for representatives of counties with the most acreage within the Unorganized Territory.

Carroll said she was proud of her accomplishments at LURC but pleased that Beardsley expressed a strong desire in her staying within the Department of Conservation.

Carroll said she began thinking about changing jobs about a year ago but she wanted to remain with the commission as lawmakers and the task force debated the agency’s future. But now that those changes are coming, she believed it is time to bring in new blood.

“I think this administration, rightfully so, needs to pick a new leader … to see the commission through those changes,” Carroll said.

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