MAINE, USA — They came back to the table for the first time since June.
On one side is a council, and others, who don’t want the uninhabited, undeveloped land in Maine’s North Woods to become urbanized.
On the other side is a commission, which is looking to evolve with Maine's economy, especially when it comes to tourism in Vacationland.
"This would completely change the character of Maine's North Woods,” said Natural Resources Council of Maine’s Forest and Wildlife Project Director, Cathy Johnson.
Johnson said the Land Use Planning Commission has been proposing a change to the current adjacency principle for years.
"The adjacency principle is the fundamental tool that has kept Maine's North Woods the way they are, and this is the biggest policy proposal in 40 years,” said Johnson.
The current principle requires new development to be within one mile of existing, comparable development.
A previous proposal by the LUPC would have changed this one-mile rule to ten miles, but after June's meeting, the commission went back to the drawing board.
"Since June, we've done an awful lot of public outreach,” said Land Use Planning Commission Director, Nick Livesay.
Now, it's proposing seven miles, which it sees as a compromise of sorts, after listening to public comment for the past seven months.
"In our view, that still has the same fundamental flaws,” said Johnson.
Thursday’s meeting was an extension of LUPC's public outreach on an ongoing issue of whether, and how to spruce up acres upon acres of the North Woods.
"In the existing proposal there's less sprawl by trying new development near communities, not near existing development patterns that may or may not be near towns,” explained Livesay.
Johnson said the new proposal will still pull development out of the towns and into the woods.
Her group has proposed regional planning as another approach, similar to what has worked in the Katahdin region “where you have organized towns and unorganized towns that are interspersed with each other."
The public comment period is open through January 22nd. According to Livesay, the following week will be open to rebuttal comment and is the final chance for the public to weigh in on the issue before the LUPC moves forward with its plans in March or April.