Growth Management Law Change
Impediments to Local Planning
The Comprehensive Planning and Land Use Regulation Act, AKA the Growth Management Act (30-A M.R.S.A. §§ 4312 - 4350), is the statute regulating review of local Comprehensive Plans for consistency with state policy. Preparation of a local Comprehensive Plan is a time-consuming job (12-18 months) that demands money ($10,000-$25,000 depending on complexity and whether you can achieve some efficiencies or get some free help) and a lot of volunteer time.
Relieving the burden on small local planning committees, this task is focused on creation and adoption of regional data and policy. Each town can then tie the regional data and policy to its local comprehensive plan.
If you need training or assistance in using the on-line mapping tools please contact Judy East (454-0465).
Help Can Be Harder to Get
With the loss of the Maine State Planning Office (SPO) and transfer of municipal land use support functions to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (MDACF), communications regarding the Growth Management Act to communities declined. Closure of the SPO caused confusion about where the Land Use Planning staff and function was located, who to contact, and how to get information. The result was frustration; a decrease in contact with communities; and in many towns, less planning. Communications and provision of data has improved over time but lack of funding and inadequate locally specific data remains an issue. The Municipal Planning Assistance Program at the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is maintaining on-line access to the technical assistance materials developed over the last decade.
Money is No Longer Available
Over the past 8 years, all state funding for the completion of comprehensive plans and ordinances has been eliminated. Completion of a comprehensive plan can cost as much as $25,000 and ordinances range from $6,000 to $12,000. Financial support to Regional Councils from the State’s General Fund, used to assist municipalities with adhering to the Growth Management Act, has also declined. Municipalities wishing to update their Comprehensive Plans and ordinances must do so with their own limited resources. Some have done so, often through multi-year appropriations; many have not.
Data Needs are Intensive yet Tough to Fulfill
MDACF continues to provide data for communities wishing to develop plans. Data is gathered from State agencies and posted on the MDACF’s website. However, the data is at times missing or incomplete, generic or statewide in scope, complex and not explained very well. There is no analysis and volunteer lay board members have difficulty using it. Though generic information is provided, the Growth Management Act requires town specific information. Towns must spend a great deal of time gathering and analyzing local data with resultant volunteer “burn-out” before spending time on goals, policy and strategies for the community.
Census data for Comprehensive Planning can be compiled through a variety of on-line tools with search functions - see the Office of Policy and Management Economics and Demographics page (off site link). With the abandonment of the "long form" in the 2010, census data is gathered with greater frequency (1-year, 3-year and 5-year intervals) by the American Community Survey. However rural areas are on the 5-year interval and sample sizes are very small. The result is substantially higher margins of error and data sets that cannot be compared to one another until the end of the consecutive, and comparable, 2005-2010 and 2010-2015 American Community Survey periods.
Many Comprehensive Plans are Expiring
In 2012, 29 communities in Aroostook County and 33 communities in Washington County had comprehensive plans developed under the guidelines and found consistent with Maine’s Growth Management Act (download PDF of Aroostook County map image here of by clicking image at right). By January 1, 2014, twenty-one (21) of those plans in Aroostook County and 9 in Washington County expired under the 12-year provision for the Act.
However 3 out of 9 Washington County towns (Baileyville, Princeton and Indian Township) are near completion on updates to their Comprehensive Plan and two others are starting (Roque Bluffs) or planning (East Machias) to update their Comprehensive Plan in 2014.
Please contact Judy East if you have questions about how to prepare or update your municipal Comprehensive Plan in Washington County.