Land use planning is the study, regulation, and allocation of the uses of land (i.e., commercial, residential, mixed use, recreational, industrial, agricultural, etc.) to encourage or limit certain activities in a way that balances economic, social and environmental values of the town.
Contact: Max Johnstone, firstname.lastname@example.org
Growth Management Act
In Maine, land use planning is governed by the Growth Management Act, adopted in 1988. The purpose of growth management is to provide a framework within the community provides a vision for it future. That framework links land use planning policy (the future land use plan and zoning strategies) to community growth, operational expenditures and infrastructure investment strategies (capital improvement plan). MCOG assists member communities in the development and amendments of local growth management programs.
Maine's Growth Management Act is managed by the Municipal Planning Technical Assistance Program in the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation.
MCOG supports Comprehensive Planning processes in a variety of ways depending on the needs of the community: from managing the entire process and plan writing to more hands-off facilitation and oversight for communities with more capacity. While comprehensive planning is a fee-for-service contract, any preparation work is covered within our technical assistance program for member communities: we can provide you information and resources to get your community started.
Why does my community need a Comprehensive Plan?
Comprehensive planning is the community's opportunity to plan for change, address climate change and resiliency issues, protect critical natural resources and insure that the community has considered issues concerning housing, economic development, historic preservation, and municipal operations. The local municipal plan shall be developed within the context of regional issues and involve the cooperation of MCOG and your neighboring communities.
Your Comprehensive Plan establishes a legal basis for land use regulations. Without a Comprehensive Plan, your community has no legal ability to impose zoning, impact fees, or other land use regulations.
Funding & Grant Opportunities
Over $80 million is awarded through state grant and loan programs that either require or incentivize applicants to have a current, state-approved, comprehensive plan. These include:
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
Land for Maine’s Future
Land and Water Conservation Fund
DEP 319(h) Non-Point Source Protection Grants, and
DEP State Revolving Loan Fund
Good Community Planning Practice
Captures and communicates the community's shared vision and priorities for the town
Serves as a basis for sound decision-making in town management
Encourages communities to prepare for the future by forward establishing thoughtful growth management strategies
How long is your Comprehensive Plan valid?
Once accepted by the State, Comprehensive Plans are valid for 12 years; however, many State funding opportunities require a Comprehensive Plan within 10 years. Once your plan hits the 10 year mark, consider launching a comprehensive plan update process as most comprehensive planning processes will take 1-2 years from start to finish.
Do Comprehensive Plans establish Zoning?
No. A Comprehensive Plan lays out the community's vision, goals, and objectives including for land use. It provides the backbone for the local zoning law, but does not establish zoning law.
What is required in a Comprehensive Plan?
You can find out more about Comprehensive Plans in Maine with examples and checklist requirements on the State's website here.
Zoning & Ordinance Development
Zoning and Land Use are important organizational tools to help communities manage and protect their local environments from overdevelopment. Establishing a Land Use Ordinance can help community Code Enforcement Officers and Planning Boards with creating a written procedure and outlining standards that can ensure there is an acceptable practice throughout the community that can be used for all potential developers that wish to come to your area. Having this document in place helps guarantee protections for abutting property owners from potential developments and to encourage projects away from rural portions of the community.
Shoreland Zoning is a statewide set of rules that are issued through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to protect Maine’s waters and natural habitats from development. Shoreland Zoning was created as a result of the Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act of 1971, and is applicable to identified water bodies and up to 250 feet of land from their normal high-water line. These standards are required to be adopted by all municipalities in the State of Maine. The most recent amendments went into effect as of January 21, 2015 and are known as “Chapter 1000”.
Municipalities that have not updated their Shoreland Zoning since 2015 are strongly advised to review and amend their applicable ordinance(s) to incorporate these changes.