Current development patterns and increased tax pressures in local municipalities combine to harm both Maine’s natural resources and its quality of life. Previous initiatives such as the implementation of zoning laws did not fully result in the desired outcomes. Zoning laws were often too flexible and often did not resist market and political pressures to change zoning regulations to allow development with possible economic growth. A sound taxation system or fee structure may be the solution to slow down development in natural areas and direct it towards areas appropriate for growth.
To protect Maine’s natural resources more successfully from future development, more cooperation from current and future landowners as well as developers is needed. In today’s society, there is the desire among many to own a home surrounded by natural beauty and away from urbanization. This life-style causes many valuable acres to be consumed for low-density development. Despite the visible harm to the environment, the demand for low-density development in natural areas continues and shows no signs of slowing, partly due to flexible development regulations at the local level. Besides environmental harm, new development, especially in rural areas, creates externalities for the community at large. Externalities such as increased demand on public services have often been overlooked or ignored in the planning process. This causes the actual costs of the development to be considerably higher than municipalities initially assumed. To recover the actual costs of new development, economic incentives or disincentives may be applied, which either recover the true costs or simply discourage development in rural areas.
New England Environmental Finance Center and Muskie School of Public Service, "Guiding Growth: A Survey of Tax Incentives" (2003). Legislation. 1.
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