Property owners faced off against conservationists at a legislative hearing to reconsider new rules that restrict development near shorelines where sandpipers, plovers and other migrating birds feed and rest.
AUGUSTA, Maine Property owners faced off against conservationists at a legislative hearing to reconsider new rules that restrict development near shorelines where sandpipers, plovers and other migrating birds feed and rest.
Lawmakers adopted the rules to protect shorebird habitat in June without public debate, but an angry outcry surfaced over the summer as property owners learned of the 250-foot buffer from the high tide line in areas frequented by migrating birds.
The criticism has been most intense in eastern Maine, because of its large amount of shorebird habitat and the potential impact on the real estate market.
Bruce Hoard of Bangor said his plan to build a modest retirement home on a shorefront lot in Sullivan was thrown into disarray because moving the house back would eliminate any water view and cut his property's value in half.
"I felt like I had been disenfranchised. I felt like my land had been taken," Hoard told the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. "It seemed un-American."
But wildlife advocates defended the new rules, saying critical feeding and roosting areas need protection.
"We feel that the rule that exists today is appropriate and is something that was worked on very hard in the last legislative session," said Jody Jones, a biologist with Maine Audubon.
While they cannot alter the rules, outgoing committee members agreed to recommend changes to the new Legislature for consideration in January.
One option proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection would retain the 250-foot setback for roosting areas, which are seen as most vulnerable, but reduce protections around mud flats where the birds feed.
Another option would exempt, or grandfather, single building lots that were created before the law passed.
Source: Associated Press