State and Federal Development Review and Permitting
There are several state and federal requirements that may apply to new or expanded development projects in Brewer. A prospective developer may be required to undergo approval and permit processes as designated by certain state or federal laws. Listed below are summaries of some of the major regulations affecting projects undertaken in the City of Brewer. For more detailed information, please contact the applicable departments directly (or visit http://www.state.me.us). This list is offered only as guidance in planning your project; it is not meant to supplant your own due diligence in determining which specific State or Federal requirements may apply to your own project.
Site Location of Development Law
The Site Location of Development Law was created by the State of Maine to regulate the location of larger developments so that they have minimal adverse impacts on the natural environment within the development sites themselves and their surroundings, as well as to protect the general welfare of the public. Any person intending to construct, operate, sell, or lease a large development that may substantially affect the environment must first obtain an approval permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Unless a development threshold is crossed, a permit does not need to be obtained. Revised development thresholds effective July 1, 1997 apply to:
Residential Subdivisions: The division of a parcel of land into 15 or more residential lots involving more than 100 acres.
Commercial Subdivisions: A commercial subdivision is the division of a parcel of land into five or more commercial or industrial lots offered for sale or lease to the public over a five year period and which combined make up a total land area of more than 20 acres. Refer to Title 38 of the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated, Sections 481-490, or contact DEP.
Structures: A structure refers to buildings, parking lots, roads, paved areas, wharves, or areas to be stripped or graded and not to be revegetated that cause a total project to occupy a ground area in excess of seven acres. Stripped or graded areas that are not revegetated within a calendar year are included in calculating the 7-acre threshold.
Natural Resources Protection Act (NRPA)
The State Natural Resources Protection Act ensures the protection of Maine’s rivers and streams, great ponds, fragile mountain areas, freshwater and coastal wetlands, significant wildlife habitat, and coastal sand dune systems.
A permit is required when an “activity” will be:
- Located in, on or over any protected natural resource, or
- Located adjacent to (A) a coastal wetland, great pond, river, stream or brook or significant wildlife habitat contained within a freshwater wetland, or (B) certain freshwater wetlands.
An “activity” is (A) dredging, bulldozing, removing or displacing soil, sand, vegetation or other materials; (B) draining or otherwise dewatering; (C) filling, including adding sand or other material to a sand dune; or (D) any construction, repair or alteration of any permanent structure.
Certain exemptions apply. A pre-application meeting is required for some projects, and is available upon request for others.
Federal Wetland Alterations Permits
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers share the responsibility of protecting and regulating the nation’s wetlands. These two federal bodies define a wetland as:
“Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas” (40 CFR Part 230.3(t)).
Section 104 of the Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into all waters of the United States, including wetlands. Most types of development or construction in or next to water bodies entail some discharge of material and thus requires a permit. Residential and industrial development such as highways, marinas, dams, buildings and utilities involving wetlands typically fall under the purview of the program. The state and federal governments have adopted a coordinated system of permits for wetland activities. The Maine DEP is responsible for accepting applications and issuing or denying permits.
The State Subdivision Law requires municipalities to review and approve proposed, expanded, or modified subdivisions. Under this regulation, a subdivision refers to a division of a parcel of land into three or more lots within any five-year period that begins on or after September 23, 1971. The term subdivision also includes the division of an existing structure previously used for commercial or industrial purposes into three or more dwelling units.
Entrance and Driveway Permits
A new or proposed development requiring driveway, entrance or approach off a state-maintained road must apply for a permit from the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) in Brewer if it is outside of the Urban Compact. If an existing access road is changed in degree or kind of use, a permit shall also be required. Once an application is made, a full evaluation of the proposed site must be conducted by DOT officials before an approval can be issued. Approval officers evaluate a site based on location, traffic counts, speed limits and other factors associated with protecting the safety of the traveling public.
If the proposed development is within the Urban Compact, the City of Brewer can review and approve the entrance.