Message from Al Smith, MCDA President

2000 is moving rapidly and MCDA has a full plate of activities working on the affordable housing issue, organizing our program for the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) Annual Convention and participating in the Maine CDBG Program rule making process. As proposed, the 2001 CDBG Program will remain essentially the same for both funding methods and the program budget. Many of us strongly urge DECD to add at least another $400,000 to the Housing Assistance Program.

MCDA has initiated a housing summit process. We are working with the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA), the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Builders Program, and others. We have held four regional meetings around the State to solicit input on current housing issues and concerns. Meetings were held in Saco, Wiscasset, Skowhegan, and Ft. Fairfield.

Once again, affordable housing has become a "front burner" issue. Our housing stock is old, and is often lacking adequate repairs and upgrades. There is now a growing rental housing shortage in various parts of the State. The cost of both homeownership and rental housing is a big problem. Decent and safe affordable housing is critical to the promotion of economic development in Maine.

This year we have joined forces with Maine Planners Association (MAP) to put together a daylong program at the MMA Annual Convention to be held in Bangor. Our two groups will sponsor four workshops on Thursday, October 19th including Affordable Housing; Downtown Initiative and State Investment Strategy a la 2600; Smart Growth Tools for Municipalities; and, Access Management. MCDA will hold our Annual Luncheon Meeting the same day at Millerís Restaurant.

I hope all new CDBG communities will join us at MCDA to help promote community development efforts throughout Maine. Our next meeting will be in Bath on Friday, September 16th. Besides our work meeting, visitors would have the opportunity of playing golf, touring the historic downtown, riding a jet boat, or visiting the Maine Maritime Museum. H


Are you a person, municipality, or firm employed by or interested in economic and/or community development? If so, then you should be a member of the Maine Community Development Association. The benefits to becoming a member are professional growth, training & workshops, education, networking, leveraging, legislative advocacy, and affiliation with a variety of organizations. An annual membership fee is $50. To request an application form, please contact the Maine Community Development Association at (207) 623-8428 or 1-800-452-8786.

A State Definition of Downtown

Peter Lyford, KVCOG Community Development Specialist

LD 2600 alias "the Smart Growth Bill" was one of several legislative initiatives resulting from the work of the Task Force on State Office Building Location, Other State Growth-related Capital Investments and Patterns of Development. Upon enactment at end of the 119th Maine Legislature and subsequent signature by Governor King, the bill became Chapter 776 of the Public Laws of Maine.

Sections of the new law address and support the importance of downtowns as well as efforts to sustain and revitalize these centers of many communities in Maine. One of the most significant elements of the new statute is a state definition of downtown that is broad and inclusive.

According to the new law, "Downtown" means: A.) The central business district of a community that serves as the center for socioeconomic interaction in the community and is characterized by a cohesive core of commercial and mixed use buildings, often interspersed with civic, religious and residential buildings and public spaces, typically arranged along a main street and intersecting side streets, walk able and served by public infrastructure; or B.) An area identified as a downtown in a comprehensive plan adopted pursuant to existing state law.

Prior to this, the definition of a service center community has been used as a de facto definition of downtown. This has had the effect of excluding Maine communities with real and viable downtowns that do not happen to meet service center criteria. Clearly, this new definition of downtown is more inclusive and should be used by state agencies to determine eligibility for any available funding for downtown revitalization efforts.

The new law took some small steps toward providing more technical assistance and resources for downtowns. It created the Maine Downtown Center in the State Planning Office (SPO) to encourage downtown revitalization in the State. The Center is supposed to serve the following functions: A.) To advocate for downtown revitalization; B.) To promote awareness about the importance of vital downtowns; C.) To serve as a clearinghouse for information relating to downtown development; and, D.) To provide training and technical assistance to communities that demonstrate a willingness and ability to revitalize their downtowns.

Unfortunately, the Legislature chose not to provide funding for new staff to run the Center, but the sum of $100,000 was appropriated to the SPO by the statute to provide matching funds for grants to be used to revitalize downtowns. As of mid-July 2000, SPO is working to coordinate the activities of the Downtown Center and to develop guidelines for the downtown matching grants in accord with state rulemaking requirements. SPO may have the application materials ready and may seek proposals by the end of this year.

Several years ago, the Legislature created, but did not fund, the Municipal Investment Trust Fund, which was supposed to provide financing for public service infrastructure projects. The new law adds a category called "Downtown Improvement Loan" that could be provided by the Municipal Investment Trust Fund. "Downtown improvement" is defined to include facade, utility relocation or extension, historic preservation and parking and road improvement; elevator, sprinkler system and traffic control devices installation; purchase of development rights for a park or open space and construction of park and open space amenities; and public toilet, streetscape, sidewalk and curb installation or upgrade. Again, however, the Legislature failed to appropriate any funds for the Municipal Investment Trust Fund.

Overall, the "Smart Growth Bill", now known as Chapter 776 of Maineís Public Laws, can be seen as a step forward, albeit a small one, in the Stateís recognition of downtowns as vital and complex areas that deserve increased attention, technical assistance, and coordinated funding resources. This new statute sets up a structure in State government to support downtowns. Now, the communities with downtowns and their proponents must present a detailed and documented case for increasing available funding necessary to implement downtown revitalization projects.

Communities Take Notice: New Criteria May Affect Eligibility for State Funding

Peter Lyford, KVCOG Community Development Specialist

LD 2600 alias "the Smart Growth Bill" was one of several legislative initiatives resulting from the work of the Task Force on State Office Building Location, Other State Growth-related Capital Investments and Patterns of Development. Upon enactment at end of the 119th Maine Legislature and subsequent signature by Governor King, the bill became Chapter 776 of the Public Laws of Maine.

The new law covers many issues, and this article attempts to summarize only the sections that can significantly change the eligibility of communities seeking public funds for new public infrastructure projects. The Effective Date of the funding restrictions is January 1, 2001. The growth-related capital investment definitions and eligibility requirements will apply to state capital investment programs for which applications are accepted as complete by the state agency funding the project after January 1, 2001. The Maine Community Development Block Grant program is among the most important types of funding that will be affected.

The new law defines Growth-related Capital Investment to mean investment by the State, whether using state, federal or other public funds and whether in the form of a purchase, lease, grant, loan, loan guarantee, credit, tax credit or other financial assistance for the following types of projects: a) Construction or acquisition of newly constructed multi-family rental housing; b) Development of industrial or business parks; c) Construction or extension of sewer, water and other utility lines; d) Grants and loans for public service infrastructure, public facilities and community buildings; e) Construction or expansion of state office buildings, state courts and other state civic buildings that serve public clients and customers.

Having defined the types of projects affected, the new law then prescribes the Areas Eligible for State Funded Growth-related Capital Investments. In other words, communities must be able to meet at least one of four geographic criteria to be eligible for public funding of projects defined above as growth-related capital investment. The four geographic criteria are: a) A locally designated growth area in a town/city with adopted consistent comprehensive plan; b) An area served by a public sewer system with capacity for growth; c) A MDOT Compact area; and, d) An area designated as a Census Designated Place. The new statute does allow a limited exception for projects located in a municipality that has none of the previous geographic areas and that prior to January 1, 2000 formally requested but had not received funds to assist with comprehensive plan preparation, AND municipalities that received funds to assist with comprehensive plan preparation within the previous 2 years. This exception expires for a municipality two years after such funds are received.

However, the new statute allows some exceptions to the definition of Growth-related Capital Investment. It does not include investment in the following: a) Operation or maintenance of a governmental or quasi-governmental facility or program; b) Renovation of a governmental facility that doesnít significantly expand the facilityís capacity; c) General purpose aid for education; d) School construction or renovation projects; e) Highway or bridge projects; f) Programs that provide direct financial assistance to individual businesses; g) Community revenue sharing; and, h) Public health programs.

The new law also includes the following list of Exceptions Allowing State Funding for Specific Types of Projects.

(1) Project certified to the Land and Water Resources Council (LWRC) as necessary to remedy a threat to public health or safety or to comply with environmental cleanup laws.

(2) Project related to a commercial or industrial activity that due to operational or physical characteristics typically is located away from other development, such as an activity that relies on a particular natural resource for its operation.

(3) An airport, port or railroad or industry that must be proximate to an airport, a port or a railroad line or terminal.

(4) Pollution control facility.

(5) Project that maintains, expands or promotes a tourist or cultural facility that is required to be proximate to a specific historic, natural or cultural resource or a building or improvement that is related to and required to be proximate to land acquired for a park, conservation, open space or public access or to an agricultural, conservation or historic easement.

(6) Housing projects serving the following: individuals with mental illness, mental retardation, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, brain injuries, substance abuse problems or a human immunodeficiency virus, homeless individuals, victims of domestic violence, foster children, or children or adults in the custody of the state.

(7) Project certified by the head of a state agency to the Land and Water Resources Council (LWRC) as having no feasible location within the four municipal geographic categories, if by majority vote of all members, the LWRC finds that extraordinary circumstances or the unique needs of the agency require state funds for the project.

The result of all these definitions, eligible area descriptions, and exceptions is that communities have to consider a new threshold requirement to determine their eligibility to seek public funding. Communities will have to determine whether their project meets the definition of "growth-related capital investment" and whether the project area meets one of the state criteria. State agencies will have to ask towns and cities to prove their eligibility. If a project meets the definition but will not occur in one of the specified geographic areas, communities will not be able to proceed with a public funding application. Since January 1, 2001 is less than six months away, towns and cities should begin now to learn these new definitions and determine if any of the geographic areas apply to them. The State Planning Office and regional planning agencies can assist communities in this effort.


News from the Office of Community Development

Orman Whitcomb

As usual, itís a busy time at the Office of Community Development. We sponsored a CDBG Program Administratorís and Rehabilitation Technician certification course May 2nd and 3rd. Forty-six people attended the program. Of the people attending, thirty-five successfully completed the course and received their program administrator certification and four successfully completed the course and received their rehabilitation technician certification. The next course session will be in late October or early November of this year. A training session for HUD Sec 8 Housing Quality Standards inspectors or the new Uniform Property Conditions Standards training will be offered sometime before or about the same time as the certification program classes.

On June 22nd and 23rd, the OCD provided an implementation workshop at the Augusta Civic Center.

It is hard to believe but the 2001 CDBG program statement/program rule making process has begun. The 2001 CDBG Proposed Program Statement has been mailed. The three formal public hearings were held in Augusta, Bangor and Presque Isle on August 8th, 9th and 10th. The estimated time for adoption of a final program rule is mid September with the first applications due the first week of December.

During the 2000 CDBG program application process, the OCD received the following:

30 Community Planning Grant 16 were offered funding
26 Housing Assessment Planning Grant 10 were offered funding
10 Downtown Revitalization 3 were offered funding
22 Housing Assistance 9 were offered funding
24 Public Facilities 11 were offered funding
33 Public Infrastructure 15 were offered funding
4 Public Service 4 were offered funding
Micro Loan 1 was offered funding
12 Economic Development Infrastructure  8 were offered funding to date
4 Business Assistance 2 were offered funding to date
12  Development Fund 2 were offered funding to date
Regional Assistance 2 were offered funding to date


The Office of Community Development is in the process of a web page revision, which should be completed by mid June. The site has been redesigned and will include digital pictures and/or short video clips to showcase projects completed with the help of CDBG program funds. The intent is to feature a different community each month. If you would like to show off your community project, please contact Orman Whitcomb at 287-8458.

Maine Community Development Association
Local Government Center
60 Community Drive
Augusta, ME 04330-9486