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Maine Senate Passes Bill Requiring Economic Impact Studies of Big-Box Projects

First in the Nation legislation headed to Governor's desk for signature into law

June 18, 2007 Press Release
Augusta,ME-The Maine legislature has given its approval to a bill that requires cities and towns to evaluate the impact of large-scale retail development on jobs, local businesses, and municipal finances, and to approve only those projects that will not adversely affect the local economy. The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation.

Late Friday afternoon, the Maine Senate passed the Informed Growth Act, LD 1810, 19-16. This follows earlier passage of the bill in the House 82-49. The legislation will go for final enactment votes in each body later today and then onto the Governor's desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.
"This is a tremendous victory for the people of Maine, our communities and small businesses throughout the state,"said Daphne Loring of the Maine Fair Trade Campaign. "It gives communities a real voice in development projects and ensures that we make informed decisions about how we grow."
In the final vote in the Senate, three Republicans joined sixteen Democrats in voting for the bill. The bill's passage was the result of the work of a broad coalition of over 180 Maine businesses, numerous labor, environmental, and community organizations, and municipal officials.

Topsham Select Board member, Michelle Jones sees the Informed Growth Act as a valuable resource,"Towns throughout Maine stand to benefit from the passage of LD1810. The Informed Growth Act will provide an unbiased process for citizens and local officials to assess the positive and negative aspects of large-scale retail development and make responsible decisions."
Jerry Keay, owner of H.L. Keay and Son, a hardware and lumber store in Albion, lauded the bill's passage,"Small businesses are the backbone of Maine's economy. In sharp contrast to big box stores, we ensure the vitality of downtowns and strengthen our communities by keeping money in the local economy. This bill will bolster our small business sector and strengthen local economies."
:"Too often communities must decide whether to approve big-box development without any objective information about the impact on the local economy,"said Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. "Maine is leading the nation by giving towns a tool for weighing the costs and benefits."
The Informed Growth Act stipulates that municipalities conduct an economic impact analysis for proposed big-box retail stores larger than 75,000 square feet. The analysis is performed by an independent consultant chosen jointly by the town and the developer, and paid for by a fee charged to the developer. It evaluates the effects of the proposed store on existing businesses, jobs, wages,vacancy rates, the cost of municipal services, and the volume of "sales revenue retained and reinvested"in the community.
After the analysis is complete, the town must hold a public hearing. It is then up to town officials to evaluate the information, consider the benefits and costs, and make a determination about whether the project would create an undue adverse impact on the local economy and municipal finances. If so, the law gives the town the authority to reject the development.
The act ensures that even in areas zoned for commercial development, citizens and local officials will always have an opportunity to evaluate big-box development and make informed decisions about whether to approve or reject such projects.

Organizer, Maine Fair Trade Campaign
(207) 777-6387 cell:(207)266-5895




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