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EPA, DOT and HUD To Hold Conference on Smart Growth in New Hampshire and Maine

Release Date: 06/08/2000
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are holding a first-of-its-kind conference June 15 devoted to issues of growth and sprawl in the fast-growing region of southern Maine and southeastern New Hampshire.

The "Forum on Growth and Transportation" will be held from 8:30 am to 4 pm June 15 at the Holiday Inn Express in Saco, Maine. The conference will include discussions of the renewed rail service from Boston to Portland, which is expected to start up in 2001, and the impacts this service could have on the region. The conference also will address transportation planning issues, offer tools for smart growth and include an overview of growth patterns in southern Maine and New Hampshire.

"This conference is an important opportunity for local and state officials, planners and environmentalists to tackle the biggest environmental challenge facing southern Maine and New Hampshire - unchecked development and the threat it poses to the region's environment and character," said Mindy S. Lubber, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office.

The conference comes amid an unprecedented development boom in southern New Hampshire and Maine in the past two decades that has resulted in a host of new challenges and pressures. Among the sprawl-related facts:

New Hampshire, the fastest growing state in the Northeast, experienced a 55 percent increase in housing units between 1980 and 1998, with 7,000 new homes built in 1998 alone. Most of that growth was in the southeastern Seacoast communities.

In Maine, between 1970 and1995, the public school population fell by 27,000 students, yet the state spent $727 million on new school construction, nearly half of it on new buildings in fast growing towns.

Among the speakers at the June 15 conference will be Mindy S. Lubber, Regional Administrator for EPA New England; Mary Lou Crane, New England representative to the secretary of HUD; Evan Richert, director of the Maine Office of State Planning; Cliff Sinnott, executive director of the Rockingham Planning Commission; and John Melrose, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation.

The conference will include workshops on the following topics:

      . Traffic Growth Trends
    • Overview of Growth Rates and Patterns in Coastal Maine and New Hampshire
    • Smart Growth Opportunities in the Rail Corridor
    • A panel of speakers from towns that will have stations (Saco, Wells, Dover, Exeter)
    • Tools for Smart Growth
EPA has awarded a total of $500,000 in Smart Growth grants to New Hampshire in the past year, including a recent $50,000 award to 20/20 Vision, an organization of Concord citizens who will use the money to help create a plan of what the city should look like 20 to 25 years from now. The agency also announced this month a $20,000 grant to the Office of State Planning to help identify sprawl patterns in the state and recommend solutions.

Earlier this spring, the Rockingham Planning Commission and the Strafford Regional Planning Commission received $96,000 for a project to develop a regional framework to protect the environment of seacoast communities by incorporating alternatives to conventional zoning and planning practices that promote sprawl and unmanaged development.

Last year, a public-private partnership led by the Concord-based New Hampshire Comparative Risk Project received a $117,000 Sustainable Development Challenge Grant for its project called "Living Free, Developing Sustainably - Minimum Impact Development in New Hampshire."

The Conservation Law Foundation received $200,000 for its Northern New England Rail Action Project to help protect regional air quality by planning and public education around expansion of a regional rail network in northern New England.

Additionally, EPA New England has awarded $270,000 of Smart Growth grants to the State of Maine, including the rail project. The Maine State Planning Office received $40,000 last March for its "Home Town Maine" project, an education campaign to encourage development that better protects the quality and health of the state's cities and towns. The South Portland Land Trust also received $30,000 for its efforts to preserve open space and neighborhood commons that are important to the unique character of the neighborhood.