As a Franklin County Commissioner for 23 years, I am pleased that the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee has unanimously approved reforms for the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC).

As the planning, zoning, and permitting agency for Maine’s 10.4 million acres of North Woods and Unorganized Territories, LURC is very important.

As originally written, L.D. 1798 would have hamstrung LURC and handed over its authority to the counties. It would have allowed counties to opt out of LURC and county commissioners to appoint themselves as a LURC commissioner, among other things.

I strongly opposed the bill as originally written and testified against it. After weeks of hard work by legislators on both sides of the aisle, the provision allowing counties to opt out was removed. This is a major improvement to the bill.

However, I continue to have concerns with the bill. It still allows county commissioners to serve as LURC commissioner at the same time.

County commissioners do not handle land-use issues. We do not review or provide permits for development projects, nor do we do zoning. Furthermore, I believe it is a major conflict of interest and would politicize the LURC board.

As LURC commissioners, county commissioners will be faced with unavoidable situations of divided loyalty where they are trying to further the interests of their county constituents while at the same time trying to fulfill their obligations on a statewide regulatory board.

The bill is in good shape, and I hope it passes. However, it will be critical for Maine people to carefully watch the implementation of these changes to ensure that the new LURC board is acting in the best interests of the state.

Gary McGrane

Franklin County commissioner