Growth Management
(from Maine Townsman, July 2000)
by Geoff Herman, Director of State & Federal Relations, MMA

Nestled in the introduction to the state’s Growth Management Act – right after the section that exclaims the "legislative purpose" and "state goals" and right before a cluster of sections that outline the necessary components of any local growth management program – there is a thorny section of law that declares every municipal land use ordinance of any kind to be "void" after January 1, 2003 unless the ordinance is "consistent" with a local comprehensive plan and unless the plan is consistent with the state’s growth management laws.

Under this law, for those towns without comprehensive plans, all local land use regulation will quite obviously come to an end on January 1, 2003. With no comprehensive plan, after all, there is nothing for any land use ordinance to be consistent with. Even when the community has adopted a comprehensive plan, its ordinances governing such land-use issues as junkyards, minimum lot size, generic commercial activity under site location review, timber harvesting, amusements, adult entertainment, building permits, towers, etc., could be struck down for their "inconsistency" with the local plan, or the plan’s "inconsistency" with the Growth Management Act.

In short, in just over two years all 493 municipalities in Maine must have growth management programs in place that are – if not actually certified — at least certifiable by the State Planning Office as consistent with all the goals and policies of growth management established in state law. Either that, or the town loses some (or perhaps all) of its rights to regulate land use activity. There is a remarkable irony to this impending municipal punishment. If the town doesn’t manage growth according to the state’s specifications, then the logic of this law takes the position that the town shouldn’t be allowed to manage growth at all.

Maine law has long held that zoning ordinances must be consistent with a comprehensive plan. When decisions are made to allow, prohibit, or specially regulate certain land use activities in specific geographical sections of a community, the law in Maine and elsewhere has long held that those decisions have to be grounded in a planning document formally adopted by the legislative body of the municipality. The comprehensive plan serves the function of a grounding document that lends stability to the geographical organization of the community and provides something of an ongoing "due process" for the benefit of the property owners who are directly affected by those zoning decisions.

But the drop-dead deadline of January, 2003 goes well beyond the old law governing zoning ordinances. This little sentence in Maine law, in one blanket sweep, strikes down every single lawfully adopted but "inconsistent" land use ordinance, including the focused, stand-alone ordinances that govern a certain type of land use activity no matter where it is located in the municipality.

Current Status of Maine’s Growth Management Program

When originally enacted in the spring of 1988, the state’s growth management program established an extremely ambitious schedule whereby:

• every town and city in Maine would adopt a comprehensive plan in the early 1990s, but no later than January 1, 1996;

• each comprehensive plan would, at a minimum, identify and designate a growth area suitable for commercial, industrial and residential development and a rural area to be protected from uncontrolled development;

• every town and city would implement those plans with a consistent package of implementing land use ordinances, all of which needed to be adopted by January 1, 1998; and

• also by 1998, the combination of the comprehensive plan and the package of consistent ordinances (referred to as the municipality’s "growth management program") would be submitted to a specially-created Office of Comprehensive Planning for state-level review and state certification.

At present count, four years after the deadline for all towns to have adopted a comprehensive plan, 174 municipalities have a plan in place that is considered by the Planning Office to be "consistent" with the state’s growth management program. Eighty-one communities have adopted plans that are not considered to be consistent by SPO. Two hundred and thirty-eight Maine municipalities have yet to adopt a comprehensive plan. To put it another way, if January 1, 2003 were tomorrow, 65% of the towns and cities in Maine would be in trouble.

Two full years after the deadline to have adopted a complete growth management program (a package of comprehensive plan and implementing ordinances), there are only five certified growth management programs in Maine, although the State Planning Office believes there are another 15 municipalities that have adopted growth management programs that are eligible for certification. To frame the data differently, if nothing changes in two years, 96% of the municipalities in Maine will be forced to defend the legal integrity of some or all of their land use ordinances because a local comprehensive plan has either not been adopted by the voters or is deemed inconsistent with a set of land use management goals that are found in the state’s growth management program.

This article is an attempt to identify the various factors that are responsible for this remarkable gap between the vision of growth management articulated in 1988 and the reality 12 years later.

State Support for Growth Management

In order to ensure the necessary resources to accomplish the task established by the Legislature 12 years ago, the 1988 law included a pledge on the part of the state to fund at least 75% of the local costs of developing these plans and implementing them into consistent land use regulatory schemes on the local and regional level.

Then the recession hit, and political support for mandatory growth management programs in the Legislature evaporated. In 1991, three years after the Growth Management Act was adopted, the Legislature eliminated the Office of Comprehensive Planning and swept through the growth management law striking out the phrase "the municipality shall…" almost everywhere it appeared and replacing it with the phrase "the municipality may…" or "the municipality should…". An entire section of the original law that established the state’s financial and support obligations was repealed and a short time later, a much more modest system of financial and technical land use planning assistance for municipalities was re-created in the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). Ultimately, this partially resurrected program was transferred to the State Planning Office (SPO) in 1996.

The history of state financial assistance dedicated to the development of local growth management programs runs hot and cold, tracking the economic landscape. Before the state pulled the plug on the growth management mandate, it was investing some serious resources into the program. There were originally 22 state employees working in the Office of Comprehensive Planning. With the changes in 1992, 16 of those positions were eliminated in DECD, and when the state’s technical assistance program was moved over to SPO in 1995-1996, the number of employees financed by the state’s General Fund was cut again, from eight "full time equivalent" positions down to five. To keep the program going through the lean times, SPO has spliced in some revenue from the plumbing permit fund and financial resources from the federal Coastal Zone Management Program to keep a seven-person Land Use Planning team in place, and a three-person Code Enforcement Training team.

Following the same pattern, between 1989 and 1992 the Legislature appropriated from the state’s General Fund approximately $1 million a year, on average, to provide grants to the towns and cities to help accomplish the growth planning mandate. That level of support slipped precipitously, and between 1993 and 1997 just $300,000 a year, on average, was made available in grants for growth management planning and implementation purposes, and not all of that funding, by any means, came from the state’s General Fund. In order to sustain the critical mass of a comprehensive planning program, both DECD (when the program was in that department’s jurisdiction) and SPO patched up the shortfalls in General Fund appropriation with federal Coastal Zone Management funds and Community Development Block Grant funds.

In both 1998 and 1999, the appropriation available to the State Planning Office to provide grants to municipalities to help pay for their planning and implementation efforts was $250,000 per year. In a program update provided to a legislative task force eight months ago, the Planning Office predicted that at the level of $250,000 per year, it would be the year 2025 before all towns were offered planning and implementation grants with which to develop their growth management programs. There are 157 towns (32% of all the towns and cities in Maine) that have yet to receive any planning grants from the state. Because planning, obviously, precedes its implementation, a much greater number of municipalities (343) have received no implementation grants.

In the supplemental state budget adopted in the spring of this year, the Planning Office was requesting $3.5 million for growth management initiatives, $2.7 million of which was to be specifically earmarked to boost assistance for municipalities to develop their growth management programs. In the budget finally enacted, just half the requested amount, $1.7 million, was appropriated to cover a range of growth management initiatives. According to SPO Director Evan Richert, approximately $500,000 of that appropriation will go out to the regional planning agencies to support their technical assistance services, $200,000 will fund downtown revitalization pilot projects, and $1 million will be devoted to "smart growth", which is the new catch-phrase that encompasses growth management.

What is not entirely clear is whether "smart growth" is the state’s growth management policy dressed up in a new name or whether the new name suggests some change in direction of state policy. SPO’s heightened interest in "smart growth", for example, raises the question of whether state funding for municipal planning purposes will be doled out according to a new set of priorities. Should the 157 towns that have yet to receive any grants for comprehensive planning be the first in line for state assistance? How about the communities that have received no implementation funding? Or should the state be targeting its limited financial assistance toward those municipalities that are facing the sharpest development pressures? And how do the funding priority preferences comport with the 2003 deadline?

According to SPO’s John Delvecchio, the existing criteria that govern the granting out of planning or implementation funding gives preference to high-growth communities and service center communities. With limited resources, slow-growth or no-growth communities are not considered the highest funding priorities, which puts those communities in a tough spot with respect to the looming deadline of 2003 to have a plan or lose regulatory authority. Until now, Delvecchio adds, municipalities that received a planning grant were not eligible for additional planning assistance from SPO to update their plans, but this year’s $1.7 million appropriation opened the door to a limited amount of assistance for that purpose.

‘Real World’ Growth Management

Developing and adopting a comprehensive plan and implementing a growth management program are easier said than done. It takes the dedication of resources and hardworking volunteers. Assembling the actual plan takes a good deal of time and facilitation. Even with extensive public hearings, the plan can easily run into significant resistance on the town meeting floor, or a plan of real substance can get adopted but the ordinances to implement the plan, which themselves can take a year or more to develop, can hit a political buzzsaw at town meeting. Even the mere perception of governmental influence on the marketability of real estate generates political implications, and exerting a meaningful influence on market-driven development patterns is just plain difficult. All-in-all, growth management is a lot of work.

Drifting down from the northern tip of Maine southward, here are some examples of what is going on in the field.

Madawaska. On June 13, 2000, primary election day, the voters in Madawaska approved the town’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance by an overwhelming 3-1 margin (723-254). The approval of the town’s growth management program didn’t come easily, however. The vote represented the culmination of five year’s work, and the plan was rejected twice at open town meetings before it was finally adopted at a secret-ballot referendum election.

According to Madawaska Town Manager Arthur Faucher, the town selectmen began recognizing the need to update the town’s 1976 comprehensive plan in the early 1990s. The growth management effort was underway statewide, but more significantly to Madawaska was the realization that local planning efforts needed to be accomplished to dovetail with the state and federal planning efforts that provide important grant funding for wastewater treatment programs, community development grant programs (CDBG), and the like.

Even beyond the implications for state and federal grant revenues, the selectmen heard from the town planning board and the various department heads regarding their respective needs for land use regulatory guidance and capital investment planning.

For Madawaska officials, the link between growth management and state and federal grants was a strong motivating factor. That same link, however, fueled the opposition view that comprehensive planning was a pact with the devil of regional or centralized government and would result in an inexorable loss of local control.

The Madawaska planning process began in earnest in 1995 and after three years of work, the growth management program was brought to the town meeting for adoption. At the public hearings and at that 1998 town meeting, opposition to the plan took two forms. One group of opponents believed that the adoption of the comprehensive plan would result in a diminishment of local control. Regional planning groups, it was feared, would assume new authority over the lives of Madawaska residents as some people believed was happening just over the Canadian border. Opposition to the plan also came from area developers who preferred fewer rules that might interfere with the marketability of their properties.

According to Faucher, if comprehensive planning could be separated from mandatory zoning, the adoption of a plan would have occurred much earlier in Madawaska. It was the zoning program that made the town’s comprehensive plan such a bitter pill to swallow.

When the town meeting defeated the comprehensive plan in 1998, the selectmen sensed the need to provide more time for the community to understand the plan and there was no rush put on to bring the plan back to the voters. Two years later, in March of this year, the town meeting was again presented with the growth management program, which was ultimately rejected for a second time by a single vote on a written ballot. The selectmen then decided that more of the voters should get involved in making a decision on the proposed plan, and placed its consideration on a referendum ballot on the June 13th statewide election.

Where a few hundred people would be the most to attend a Madawaska town meeting, nearly 1,000 voters turned out at the polls on primary day, and the comprehensive plan was resoundingly approved. Voter turnout was one reason given for the plan’s new-found success, as was a presentation of the plan on a local access cable channel. Faucher says that a number of voters told him that they didn’t understand all the advantages of the plan, such as the relationship between local planning and state and federal grants, until they saw that televised presentation.

Sangerville. John Simko was the town manager in Sangerville from 1997 until just recently, when he moved over to manage in Greenville after long-time town manager, Dave Cota, moved over to Carrabassett Valley. The story Simko tells of Sangerville’s comprehensive planning efforts bears some resemblance to a saga that repeats itself in any number of communities.

As was the case in Madawaska, the planning effort began in Sangerville in the early 1990s with the grant funding that became available under the original Growth Management Act. The town secured some able assistance through the regional council of governments (PVCOG) and from 1992-1994 a comprehensive plan was developed under the supervision and with the energy of a local comprehensive planning committee. Although various small controversies emerged when the draft plan was initially presented to the public, the biggest impediment to moving the planning process along was some turnover in the position of town manager between 1994 and Simko’s arrival in 1997, as well as the inevitable turnover on the board of selectmen and planning board. During the same time period, the energy level of the comprehensive planning committee began to wane as members retired from the committee and moved on to other efforts and other places.

When Simko became manager in 1997, he was informed that the remaining money in the planning account would be just enough to photocopy the plan and take it to the voters for adoption. The problem with that strategy was that in the five-year period since the planning process began the town had changed and those changes were not reflected in the planning document. The implementation of E-911 had changed the names of many town roads. Various projects that were in the draft plan’s to-do list had already been completed. The names of several of the municipal officials and state-contact officials had changed. Although the State Planning Office reviewed the plan and found it to be "consistent" with the state’s program, the plan was, unfortunately, no longer "consistent" with the town.

At the same time, a land use conflict was brewing in the community. A citizen of the town began operating a farm of sorts on a very small lot close to the village. In response to complaints regarding the incompatible land use activity, the code enforcement officer and other town officials discovered that the town had a "livestock" ordinance on the books that prohibited the keeping of livestock within a certain radius of a village area. At that point in time, Sangerville had a comprehensive plan that was partially obsolete and had never been adopted by the voters, a land use activity that was in violation of an old town ordinance, and a state law that said that the town ordinance was "void".

According to Simko, Sangerville is now in the process of bringing its plan into the year 2000, but it looks like the updating process will push a town vote on the matter into 2001 at the earliest.

Ellsworth. Over in Hancock County, the city of Ellsworth is also in the process of retooling its comprehensive plan, which was adopted by the city council in the "growth management" years of the 1990s but never blessed with the "consistency" designation of the State Planning Office. According to City Manager Tim King, SPO was looking for some teeth in Ellsworth’s plan to ensure more in the way of watershed protection standards and increased control of curb cuts on state aid roads. There were sentiments within the community that resisted writing language into a local comprehensive plan merely to obtain a "consistency" designation from the state, and that general philosophy has not disappeared in Ellsworth. "If elements of the plan make sense from the city’s point of view regarding growth management’" says King, "then the city council is prepared to adopt reasonable measures." King expects the updating process to be completed within a year, although he would also like to see the updated demographic data from the year 2000 census included in the revised plan, and it is not entirely clear when that will become available.

Norway. One hundred miles to the west, the town of Norway finds itself in a situation similar to Ellsworth’s. According to Town Manager David Holt, local officials worked for two years with planners from Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments (AVCOG) and developed a plan that was acceptable to the community but did not achieve its "consistency" designation from the SPO. The state agency felt that the plan did not sufficiently protect the rural zone from development. Holt believes that the provisions in the plan for rural land protection go about as far as the citizens in that community are willing to go. A growth management goal in state law, he points out, cannot force farming to become profitable, and for the people who own the rural land in town, their land holdings are their investment and they are legitimately concerned about regulatory impacts on its marketability.

To add to the town’s frustration, it seemed as though the plans of other towns, with very similar language regarding the rural zones, were found to be consistent. The town tried to work out a compromise with SPO but that effort fell through. The community was not willing to go as far as the state wanted it to.

In the several towns where he has been a manager, Holt says that he has encountered very different ideas at the local level regarding rural land development. In his understated way, he sums up one of his concerns with the state’s growth management program. "Putting out one set of values across the entire state of Maine is a tough challenge."

Norway is now in the process of assembling the necessary resources to update its plan. The town manager believes the process could take a couple of years, and he is quite sure the town will not adopt a plan it doesn’t believe in simply to obtain a designation of "consistency". "The voters will do what is right for them," Holt says, "and then we will deal with the consequences."

Windham. The town of Windham is much less concerned about whether it will have a growth management program in place to meet the state’s liking than it is worried whether its growth management program, whatever it may entail, will actually do the job.

In Windham, the issue is subdivisions. Specifically, subdivisions that evade the process of being locally reviewed.

Windham Town Planner George Dycio describes how a great deal of residential development in Windham is occurring without local review because of a provision in Maine’s subdivision law which permits a person to convey "gift lots" to relatives without those newly created lots being considered part of a subdivision. In the ideal, the purpose of the law was to relax the regulatory burden when parents want to convey a lot to a child for the purpose of building a home on the family estate. In contrast to the ideal, Windham officials often see the law being stretched to allow developers to convey tracts of development to a string of relatives who then hold the title as the properties are developed outside of the subdivision review process. After a five-year waiting period required by law, the developed properties can then be conveyed to a third party.

In some cases, Dycio reports, the relative holding title to the property simply can’t wait and seeks subdivision approval for the developed lot before the expiration of the five-year period. Although this technically triggers a subdivision review encompassing all the divisions occurring to the "mother lot", from a practical perspective it creates the odd phenomenon of reviewing a one-lot subdivision.

Windham is just beginning to embark on the development of a new comprehensive plan. The town council last adopted a comprehensive plan in 1993 and there is a complement of town ordinances on the books that generally implements the direction of that seven-year-old planning document. A major component of the new planning process will entail a careful examination of where the growth in Windham has been occurring, and a central issue to be addressed by the plan will be how to ensure that the development that will inevitably occur in the Portland suburb can be reviewed by the local planners before it occurs.

Falmouth. Falmouth is also smack-dab in the middle of significantly updating and revising its growth management program. A neighbor to Windham and an immediate neighbor to Portland, the planners in Falmouth are taking a unique approach to the task in an effort to employ the planning principles of the state’s growth management system in a way that makes some sense to the community.

According to Falmouth Town Planner George Thebarge, there is a fundamental flaw with the growth management law the state adopted in 1988. According to Thebarge’s analysis, the basic model of Maine’s growth management law was taken from programs developed in Oregon and Florida which have much stronger systems of regional government and where development is often completely dependent on the availability of utilities to service it. In those circumstances, it makes sense to apply the growth zone/rural zone planning model on the regional level, because it is regional government that makes decisions about the location, extension and limits of supporting infrastructure. Maine, on the other hand, has a municipally-based governance system and residential development in Maine, generally speaking, is not dependent on the extension of water and sewer systems. What the 1988 Legislature did was take a regional planning model and grafted it onto each town and city, which doesn’t work very well. When jammed into a much smaller universe, a rational system of regional planning can easily become an unwelcome mandate that creates something of a lose-lose situation. For the property owners in the town’s rural zone, there are pressures put on individual property rights and real or perceived threats to property values. At the same time, the property owners in the growth zones are forced to deal head-on with the pressures and anxieties of growth in their neighborhoods.

In order to accommodate the growth management law as it is given to us, Thebarge is trying a somewhat unique, almost homeopathic application of its planning principles in Falmouth. Since the practice of chunking-out growth areas and rural areas over vast acreages doesn’t fit very well when a municipality is substituted for a much larger region, Thebarge is taking the same core planning theories into individual neighborhoods in Falmouth where residential growth has been occurring. On average, there are 100 new housing starts each year in Falmouth. Just as the Windham officials are doing, the Falmouth planners are assessing the areas of town that have grown most significantly and identifying the future residential growth areas. Then the planners are conducting individualized planning processes in each of the eight identified neighborhood areas in town. With the focus on each neighborhood, Thebarge believes the core values in each of the micro-communities can be accurately matched to the overall goal of planning for projected development in these neighborhoods. From the various neighborhood plans, a master plan will be quilted together which in aggregate will meet the state’s growth management goals without the lose-lose dynamic that so frequently occurs when the entire municipality is presupposed to exist as a single, discreet neighborhood.

Kennebunk. Like many high-growth, Southern Maine communities, Kennebunk has had a comprehensive plan and implementing ordinances in place since the early 1990’s, and is now on track to update the local growth management program. The Kennebunk experience is often positively cited by the State Planning Office because all of the town’s subdivision activity has been located in the town’s growth zone since the management program was adopted. According to Town Planner Judy Bernstein, the teeth in the town’s growth management system was the mandatory clustering of subdivision development in the town’s rural areas, but the subdivision statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.

One reason all subdivision growth went into the growth zone is because the town deliberately expanded its village zones to accommodate that growth, but future expansion of the growth areas may not be practical, appropriate or politically feasible.

Another factor that influences Kennebunk’s success story is the phenomenon that Windham is also encountering head on. While it is true that no "subdivisions", as that term is legally defined, have been created in the town’s rural zone, residential development that resembles subdivision activity is nonetheless occurring at a brisk pace in the rural zones. As the planners in Windham noted as well, the loophole exceptions in subdivision law ("gift lots" to relatives, transfers to abutters, etc.) allow for fairly intense speculative development without triggering subdivision review.

With the growth areas becoming saturated, Bernstein sees the aesthetics of development as a possible key to the next phase of growth management in Kennebunk. As the town begins to update its comprehensive plan, the planner is currently searching for a good set of development design standards to introduce into the discussion. "We may encounter a problem," Bernstein predicts, "if we’ve got to expand our growth areas and at the same time we can’t show a way to obtain aesthetically pleasing development."

Conclusion

There is a cluster of reasons why the Legislature’s expansive vision of effective growth management in 1988 has yet to become a reality in the year 2000.

Money. To implement such an ambitious plan takes a significant financial commitment on the part of the state. Starting from scratch, there are the state-local partnership costs of creating 493 plans and 493 packages of land use ordinances that give some effect to all that planning, and there is an ongoing financial commitment to updating all those programs periodically, which is necessary to properly maintain any growth management system. The record shows that the state’s financial commitment for the development growth management programs has been extremely uneven. A second type of financial support that would be most beneficial is infrastructure revenue to give the municipalities some resources (other than the property tax) to install the roads, power, water and sewer that give real meaning to a growth zone. Although just such a trust fund was created over 10 years ago, it has never received any funding from the state.

Two Maines. There are very significant geographic areas of the state where the idea of restricting or limiting development activity of any kind doesn’t make a great deal of sense to the people who live in those communities. During the most recent debate in the State House on the so-called "smart growth" legislation, more than one legislator asked if the "sprawl" development that was afflicting some communities could be shipped up to that legislator’s region, where the problem is not how to manage the development but how to attract it.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All. In Madawaska, mandatory zoning was an impediment to adopting a comprehensive plan, and town managers who have served in several communities, like Norway’s David Holt, see remarkably different community perspectives on land use from town to town and region to region. It is unfortunate that there isn’t more flexibility in the law with regard to what state goals make sense for communities that are facing no significant development pressure. For those communities that should be more actively managing their growth, a similar flexibility of method would not be unwelcome.

The Missing Regional Link. Maine has never developed or adopted a comprehensive plan for the entire state. For reasons of leadership and as an educational exercise, such an effort might prove valuable. Without some influence from a larger unit of governance, the hundreds of municipal programs can lack cohesion. George Thebarge of Falmouth makes a good point with his suggestion that creating 493 very small growth management programs may not serve the land use planning model very well. At the same time, one might ask what alternatives are available in a state that lacks strong regional government and maintains a real commitment to local control.

Development by Loophole. The tools to implement the direction of a local planning document are limited. Beyond the ad hoc, stand alone ordinances, there are zoning systems in a variety of stripes, site location review for commercial development wherever it might be located, and subdivision review. The trend is to sandwich all the ordinances into a unified document called the "land use" ordinance. None of these ordinances are any stronger than the political will to abide by them. That tension between the theoretical rule the community adopts and the rule-in-practice that the community is willing to enforce is constantly being played out at both the local and state level. In subdivision law, this tension is manifested in the various exceptions to what is considered a subdivision lot. As a result of the exceptions, the subdivision review "tool" in the local toolbox is a considerably duller instrument than it might appear to be. Just ask the planners in towns like Kennebunk and Windham, which are experiencing a good deal of shadow development that is escaping local review.

Local Difficulties. Responsibilities for growth management exist at both the state and local level. The state responsibilities are goal-centered, advisory and financial. The local level is where the "rubber meets the road". It is presumably obvious to all observers that the implementation of local laws that direct development to certain areas of the town and restrict it in other areas is a difficult task at best. Beyond the inherent difficulties in imposing rules on people that are often perceived as restricting their property rights, a number of events occur on the local level that are barriers to enacting growth management programs. Planning is a never-ending process and too much process can exhaust the most committed comprehensive planning committee after a few years. To add to that frustration, the hard work of a planning committee can be rejected at a town meeting – sometimes respectfully and sometimes disrespectfully – which can result in a serious setback to the planning effort. On top of all that, if a hard-fought local growth management program is ultimately adopted but then weakened through exemptions, exceptions, loopholes and non-enforcement, enthusiasm for the effort can wane away altogether.

Growth Management Task Force. As an offshoot of the growth management legislation enacted this last session (PL 1999, chap.776), the Legislature passed a "joint order" that creates a 16-member task force to undertake a "targeted review" of the growth management and subdivision laws. Three members of that task force are to be representatives of municipal interests.

The task force has an enormous amount of work to do, and very little time in which to do it. By the terms of the joint order, the task force is supposed to complete its work and issue a report to the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee by November 1, 2000, just three months away.

It was MMA’s understanding that the Legislature created the task force by joint order so that the appointments could be made very soon after adoption, rather than waiting-out the 90-day period it takes for non-emergency legislation to become law. Apparently the idea of moving quickly on this task force was not the intention, because the necessary appointments by the legislative authorities have yet to be made. We are told that those appointments are currently "in the works".

Perhaps some of the difficult issues that are at play as the towns and cities work to further develop and implement the state’s growth management vision can be addressed by this task force.