A public hearing on legislation affecting land use in 10 million acres of Maine’s North Woods will be heard at 1 p.m. Thursday in room 206, Cross Building.

LD 1798, An Act to Reform Land Use Planning, was supposed to improve planning and permitting efficiencies for the unorganized territories; instead, it will fragment planning, politicize land management, limit access and degrade water quality.

The bill’s most serious flaw permits counties to opt out of the new planning commission. This is equivalent to abolishing planning for the unorganized territories, most of it wilderness and home to Maine’s irreplaceable “gem lakes.” Opt-out will produce different standards for different places, and degrade the pristine lakes for which Maine is famous.

Resulting sprawl will limit public access for fishing, paddling, swimming, sightseeing, snowmobiling and hunting. Opt-out also will load new costs on residents as county governments create capacity to handle planning, permitting, enforcement and appeals.

All commissioners are to be appointed without legislative review, six by county commissioners, who may name themselves, and three by the governor. No other state regulatory board has members elected by local constituencies.

Commissioners should be appointed by standard procedure: gubernatorial nomination, legislative committee hearing and Senate confirmation.

The bill also shifts responsibility for permitting large projects to the Department of Environmental Protection, which doesn’t have the capacity to review development impacts on the character, scenic values and existing recreational uses of the North Woods, or impacts on businesses reliant on the area’s natural resources.

Maggie Shannon

Belgrade


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