Proposal could create ‘retail hubs,’ sprawl in Maine woods
Officials who oversee development in the state’s Unorganized Territory were urged Wednesday to not make rule changes that critics say could create sprawlin the Maine woods and undermine development in northern municipalities.
Approximately 100 people attended a public hearing Wednesday in Brewer by the Land Use Planning Commission to solicit comment on a proposal that would change the commission’s development restrictions in the state’s Unorganized Territory, which comprises more than 10 million acres of land, mostly woods, that lie outside the boundaries of Maine’s cities and towns..
Currently, the commission requires that all commercial and subdivision development be within 1 mile of a similar existing development. The proposed change would allow commercial development to occur up to 10 miles from the boundary of communities designated as “retail hubs” by the commission, as long as they also are within 2 miles of a public road.
The change would set a limit on how far away commercial or subdivision development can occur outside more than 40 municipalities and plantations identified by the commission as retail hubs. The current 1 mile rule, over time, theoretically could allow limitless development as projects spring up one after another, commission staff have said.
But many who spoke Wednesday said the proposal could rapidly increase the pace and scope of development in the UT at the expense of nearby towns, some of which have suffered economically with the decline of Maine’s paper mill industry. Development in rural Maine should be encouraged in existing towns and not in abutting unorganized townships, they said.