Maine Land Use Planning Commission to Discuss Revisions to Its Adjacency Principle

Staff of the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC or Commission) will introduce for discussion at the February 14, 2018 Commission meeting proposed revisions to the Commission’s application of the adjacency principle, which guides where new zones for businesses or residential subdivisions can be located.

Under the present adjacency principle, new zones for subdivisions or commercial development must be located within one road mile of existing compatible development. This principle, intended in part to encourage lower tax burdens and to maintain land for forestry, agriculture, and recreation, is – in the Commission’s own words – “too blunt a tool.” Finding that such a blanket principle does not always have the intended effect of directing new development to the most suitable locations, and that it actually may be unsuitable to certain proposed developments (e.g., barring solar energy farms from areas near essential existing transmission infrastructure), the Commission initiated a review of the adjacency principle two years ago.

Staff’s freshly released proposed revisions would eliminate the one road mile rule of thumb. In its place, staff developed a set of general criteria, based on the objectives of the adjacency principle, to guide the Commission’s decisions on rezoning. The proposed criteria are:

  1. Proposed commercial or residential development that is dependent on proximity to natural resources to produce, refine, or otherwise process goods or services, or to provide certain recreational experiences for residents or visitors, may locate near natural resources, provided that the location does not result in undue adverse impacts on existing uses or resources.
  2. To minimize potential impacts on the values and resources of the Commission’s service area, and to limit development near productive natural resources, proposed commercial or residential development not dependent on proximity to natural resources shall be located near other existing development and infrastructure.
  3. New development subdistricts shall be located to separate uses that may be in conflict and to co-locate compatible uses. 
  4. Establishment of new development subdistricts shall not unreasonably alter the character of the area, including, but not limited to, negative impacts on traffic levels, scenic resources, or historical patterns of development. 
  5. New development subdistricts shall be located where fire and ambulance services can be provided by the county or nearby communities without adding additional capacity, unless a petitioner can demonstrate that additional capacity to provide services to the new development could be added efficiently and economically over time. The Commission may determine that emergency services are not necessary for some resource-dependent uses.

Using these criteria, staff created four types of locations in which rezoning for development could occur that would satisfy the adjacency principle: primary locations, secondary locations, three phase power locations, and resource-dependent locations. The proposal for these four locations would replace the one road mile rule of thumb in all rezoning decisions.

At its meeting this week, the Commission will address primary locations, secondary locations, and three phase power locations. These uses are not resource-dependent and therefore can be located within a reasonable distance from services (such as roads, fire and ambulance, waste disposal, and education). The Commission will address the fourth category, resource-dependent uses, at its meeting in March.

No formal action is expected at the February or March meetings. Staff intends to hold stakeholder discussion groups in various locations in late March/early April, with oral public comment at the April Commission meeting. Staff anticipates public comment on the proposed rule at the June Commission meeting, with adoption of the adjacency rule and any guidance in August.

The Commission will be meeting on February 14, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. at Jeff’s Catering, 15 Littlefield Road, Brewer, Maine. Materials for this meeting are available here

If you have any questions about these proposed revisions, or would like assistance or input in drafting comments for submission upon opening of the comment period, please contact Brian Rayback (207-791-1188) or Lisa Gilbreath (207-791-1397).