County planning initiative earns state, national praise

CARIBOU, Maine — The National Association of Development Organizations and Maine Association of Planners are praising the Community Guided Planning and Zoning initiative, which has resulted in a new rural business development zone in selected unorganized townships in Aroostook County.

The MAP has named the Rural Business Development Zone, a joint effort of the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) and Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC), its project of the year.

The first collaborative planning effort for the CGPZ program created a new development subdistrict in the unorganized area of Aroostook County. The zone encourages creation of new, and growth of existing, rural businesses in The County and is available to applicants through a streamlined rezoning process.

The planning group determined where the new zone should be available, and developed a performance-based approach to categorizing and locating different scales and types of rural businesses within the zone, which provides additional flexibility for business owners.

NMDC also received a NADO Innovation Award for the CGPZ effort. The Innovation Award honors significant advances in community and economic development, including but not limited to small business finance, energy and infrastructure projects, housing and human services, sustainable development, workforce development, and more.

In Aroostook County, NMDC staff and a citizen steering committee worked with the LUPC to develop new zoning opportunities and improve the business climate in the county. “Thanks to the hard work of the Steering Committee, the creation of a D-RB zone was designed to should help encourage a range of small business in Unorganized townships while helping to maintaining rural character and avoiding significant impacts,” said NMDC Senior Planner Jay Kamm, who facilitated the CGPZ process.

The steering committee was comprised of 15 members made up of residents, businesses, government officials, and environmental groups that had ties to Aroostook County’s unorganized townships. They met monthly for nearly two years to develop the product which was submitted to the LUPC Commissioners.

“NMDC’s involvement in the CGPZ project was the result of recognizing the potential the unorganized territories in Aroostook County can bring to economic and community development by utilizing our regional assets such as forestry and tourism,” said NMDC Executive Director Robert Clark.
NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s regional development organizations. The association and its members promote regional strategies, partnerships, and solutions to strengthen the economic competitiveness and quality of life across America’s local communities.

MAP is a nonprofit organization with over 100 members, including professional public, private and nonprofit planners, citizen volunteers and Mainers from other professions like attorneys, landscape architects, professors and developers, all dedicated to enhancing the practice of planning in Maine.

For more information on the CGPZ effort, visit

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