Sunday, December 12, 2004


Maine Embraces Smart Growth

On Friday, December 10th, the first annual Maine Smart Growth Summit was held at the Civic Center in Augusta, Maine. This conference, which had close to 500 people in attendance, was long overdue for the state that boasts that it is "the way life should be." Ironically, this first conference on combating sprawl was held at a facility that has helped incubate some of the states finest examples of big box debauchery and highway spur development. Nevertheless, I wouldn't have missed the opportunity to attend the first conference in Maine dealing with the issues that I care so deeply about.

Unfortunately, Maine's long standing reputation as the home of genuine people, beautiful vistas, and real towns and villages, has been severely threatened by the slow creep of suburbanization "from away" (the term us Maine'ers use to describe something that is not endemic to our beloved home state). The growth of sprawl, like everything else that finally makes its way to Maine, has been slow and incremental. Yet, in the last 20 years it has compromised the quality of life that that is so crucial to those who not only live, but work in Maine.

This very important point was emphasized by key note speaker, former Governor Angus King, who told the attentive audience that though Maine lacks many of the essential mechanisms needed for sustained economic growth, the state has always been able to use its extraordinary quality of life assets as a key selling point. This means that though business moguls do not move their companies to Maine for its low taxes, or its warm weather, people are attracted to Maine because it offers refuge from the terrible places that many are forced to call home.

Thus, if Maine loses the battle to sprawl, it loses twice. That is to say, not only will Maine continue to be further homogenized by sprawl and all its culture sucking accoutrements, but that the state will lose its power to draw those from away (tourists) who keep the Maine economy alive. Thus, for the state of Maine, smart growth is smart business and yesterday's conference should serve as a battle cry to keep Maine, Maine.

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