May 30, 2024

LURC cuts to affect applicants, enforcement

Budget cuts at the Land Use Regulation Commission will likely mean less code enforcement and longer waits for developers seeking permits for projects in the Unorganized Territory, officials said Wednesday.

LURC officials have proposed relocating two field offices and eliminating several staff vehicles in order to meet the budget reduction goals requested by Gov. John Baldacci. Additionally, the commissioners agreed to meet every other month rather than monthly and to delegate more responsibility to LURC staff, as allowed under state statutes.

Commission director Catherine Carroll said she has proposed relocating the Rangeley office to Farmington and moving staff in East Millinocket to the Ashland office. No staff members would be eliminated, but the moves would mean the agency is becoming even more centralized, she said.

Baldacci’s staff is reviewing the cost-saving plans submitted by LURC and all other state agencies as they seek to close a large budget hole.

A division of the Department of Conservation, LURC has an annual budget of approximately $2 million. It is funded entirely from the General Fund, although the agency generates some revenue through fees and enforcement penalties.

Meeting every other month would save the commission approximately $11,000 annually. Another proposal to reduce by half the number of cases reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office is estimated to save another $10,000.

Carroll said she did not intend to double the amount of work squeezed into each meeting, which frequently last an entire day. Rather, the commission will simply handle fewer issues during the year, Carroll said.

“We need to make it very clear and be proactive in informing the development community about this … that we are going to be slowing this way down and that they are not going to be accommodated in the way they have in the past,” said commissioner Ed Laverty.

Scott Rollins, manager of the permitting and compliance division at LURC, warned that the cuts would make it even more difficult for staff to enforce the commission’s regulations on the 10.5 million acres within commission’s jurisdiction.

To underscore the current staffing situation, Rollins pointed to an enforcement case on the commission’s agenda on Wednesday. The property owners made unauthorized changes to their camp more than 20 years ago but LURC staff learned about it only recently.

“We don’t have the staff presence to know really what is happening out there,” Rollins said.


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