Some say the proposal will harm Maine's wild wilderness.
The Land Use Planning Commission is considering one of the largest and most significant policy changes in its 40-year history, and the public hearing was held Wednesday in Brewer.
"The proposal they are considering would open up to two million acres of the north woods to development," said Cathy Johnson, Natural Resources Council of Maine forest and wildlife director. "We're very concerned about that because it will cause sprawl across the north woods allowing development in places where it currently would not be allowed."
The policy change for northern Maine would increase the one-mile 'adjacency principal,' which currently limits developments to within a mile of other similar uses, to ten miles.
Under the proposed rule, business developments and subdivisions could be built within 10 miles from 'rural hubs' the commission has identified, and within two miles from all public roads.
"We've seen that time and time again, the adjacency principal is sort of standing in the way of guiding development from where people think it ought to go," said Nick Livesay, the commission's executive director. "So this is an effort to try to figure out how to improve that principal. Not abandon it but improve it."
Livesay added that he expects the draft rule language to change before it comes before the board for a final vote.
One resident said he was going to ask why the commission was rushing through the process, and if they had a hidden motivation.
"Frankly, some of the areas they've marked for development make absolutely no sense," said Mike Maynard, a resident from Perham.
The commission is accepting written comments throughout the fall. Livesay said the current schedule has the board voting on the proposed change in December.