Changes Bring Flexibility to Rural Economy, Protect the Environment

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Changes Bring Flexibility to Rural Economy, Protect the Environment

On April 2nd in Farmington, the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC or Commission) voted to change the rules that guide the location of development and the design of subdivisions in the LUPC’s service area. The LUPC serves those places that have no local government or in which local government has chosen not to regulate land uses – an area that includes roughly half of the State of Maine.

The revised rules encourage most new zones for subdivision and commercial development to locate close to towns that provide public services. At the same time, the rules allow some new outdoor recreation and woods-related businesses – important to our evolving economy – to be farther away. In some cases, new zones for subdivisions would be allowed away from town, but only on already developed lakes. The rules protect important habitat, keep development away from remote undeveloped lakes and ponds, protect consumers and support our rural economy. 

“The new adjacency and subdivision rules are a practical approach to providing economic opportunity while still protecting Maine’s environment and controlling costs for public services,” said LUPC chairperson Everett Worcester. “The Commission worked hard to include a broad array of people interested in the future of the UT, and to make sure the review process was thoughtful and transparent.”

Rule changes about the location of development (sometimes called the “adjacency principle”) increase flexibility for recreation-based or woods-based businesses such as trail centers, mobile gear rental operations, or new kinds of wood fiber processing, while still protecting sensitive resources. Revised subdivision standards introduce new protections for wildlife habitat, ensure legal right of access for lot buyers, and give property owners more flexibility to tailor a subdivision design to the local area. Also, for the first time, the Commission is adopting visual impact standards specifically for hillside development. Hillside development standards will ensure that views from public places, which are important to Maine citizens as well as to the tourism economy, are protected.

The adjacency review process took place over the last three years and included surveys, focus groups, community meetings, and hundreds of conversations with people who live, work, own property or recreate in the unorganized and deorganized areas, often called “the UT.” Officials from municipalities near the UT and officials from counties that administer public services in UT areas have participated in the public process. The rule changes will ensure that local emergency service providers are consulted before new subdivisions or businesses are approved so public costs can be minimized and any new development will not overburden rural fire departments and ambulance services. 

In adopting the rule revisions, the Commission recognized the significance of the change.  “The LUPC is committed to monitoring development trends closely to ensure that the changes we adopted have the positive effects that we anticipate,” said Betsy Fitzgerald, Commission Vice-chair. The new rules will become effective this spring. More information is available on the Commission’s website at: