Machias Valley News Observer February 6, 2008

Big Changes to Invade Unorganized Territories
by Ruth Leubecker

Rural Maine's economy and heritage is inextricably entwined with landowner rights. Beyond the confines of rural Maine, there are the 10.4 million acres – roughly half the state – of the Unorganized Territories.

This land encompasses 400 townships and many coastal islands. It's home to about 9,000 Mainers year round and many more seasonal residents. With no local, incorporated municipal government, the UT have historically existed relatively undisturbed by the town issues that ebb and flow and sometimes boil over in countless municipalities. Haggling over taxes, articles in the town warrant or budget cuts are alien to those who live in the UT. Sacrificing independence for less taxes is a palatable trade–off for many.

Now along comes Maine's Land Use Regulation Commission. About every 10 years LURC revisits the UT plan, and the time is now. “It's safe to say this draft plan is advocating a lot of change,” says Doug Denico, a retired landowner of UT property. “If you own a camp what you can do with that land in the future is just one issue.”

Both LURC and landowners agree that development in the UT has hardly been rampant – ever. About 8,800 dwellings have been built on these 10 million acres over the past 35 years. But LURC feels they need more control because they fear a trend is developing.

“The biggest issue is the continuing sprawl of development in the North Woods,” says Fred Todd of LURC. “We're trying to initiate a change to preserve, to protect what we have for the next 40 or 50 years. The numbers are not great, but it's the trend. About 55% of development is happening in the core of the Unorganized Territories, with about 45% occurring on the fringe.”

Recently property owners and residents of the UT received notification in the mail of seven dates in February described as a “2008 CLUP Public Work Session Schedule.” (CLUP is Comprehensive Land Use Plan.) Mailed by the Maine Forest Products Council and the Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine, the mailing said that “Massive regulatory changes are underway in Maine's Unorganized Territory. Property owners and residents of the UT are not represented fairly in the LURC process. The time to speak up is now.”

A couple of weeks after this notification LURC sent cards to those landowners saying that the workshops had been postponed. For further information, people may visit or call 622–9288. Updates and information will be provided as soon as LURC reschedules these meetings.

Although Todd has said there are no proposed changes in the 200–page comprehensive plan, he has also said that the trend toward core development means that certain options should be explored. These should include 1) regulations of the two– and five–lot splits 2) limit the size of the lots (which would mean less impact and a smaller footprint) 3) develop camps rather than houses, as they don't demand a lot of services.

The Forest Products Council and the Sportsmen's Alliance are urging landowners to become involved, saying the new CLUP is a blueprint for exclusive use versus the long–standing heritage of multiple use. The new CLUP, they also say, is based on unsupported assumptions and poorly analyzed data, eliminating the previous focus on economic development, and will punish much–needed business efforts in rural Maine.

Because LURC is saying there are no proposed changes in the plan, these meetings will be important to landowners. Please watch for the upcoming work–shops which, according to Todd, will probably be happening in April or May.

Previous reports on this topic at THS:
“Anti-sprawl” Campaign Calls Trescott “Fast Growing” for
LURC Land Use Control Planning

Last updated: 5/17/08