Beginning with Habitat


Land Use Ordinance Tools

1. Introduction | 2. Wildlife Habitat Overlay District | 3. Transfer of Development Rights | 4. Open Space Impact Fees | 5. Conservation Subdivision Ordinance | 6. Land Use Ordinance Performance Standards

Slender blue flagLand Use Ordinance Performance Standards


The State of Maine Subdivision Law contains twenty criteria for approval of a proposed subdivision that must be considered prior to project approval. However, the standards in the statute are left intentionally general and vague. Therefore, one of the main purposes of local, municipal subdivision regulations is to clarify and expand upon the criteria of the statute based on locally identified concerns and priorities. These approval criteria also provide the procedural framework under which a proposed subdivision is reviewed by outlining local performance standards and steps necessary to satisfy locally defined requirements. Towns that do not have their own adopted Subdivision Regulation or Ordinance would only use these twenty criteria as written in the statute in order to base a decision.

BwH in Review Criteria

Review criteria #8. Aesthetic, cultural and natural values, speaks directly to those elements on Beginning with Habitat (BwH) Map 2 High Value Plant and Animal Habitats and is the focus of the attached tools. As discussed throughout the BwH Toolbox, land use decisions made at the local level often present the best opportunity for conserving Maine's rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals and rare and exemplary natural communities. It is critical that your community take the time to review performance standards and adjust them to best capture the specific types of resources identified as priorities in your comprehensive or open space plans. Although wetlands, streams, and shorelines are guaranteed some level of protection under other state (Natural Resources Protection Act, Mandatory Shoreland Zoning) and federal laws (Clean Water Act), features such as rare plants and rare natural communities rarely receive formal protection at the state or federal level. Similarly, scenic areas, historic sites, and water access each typically fall squarely into local jurisdiction if they are to be conserved during the development review process.

The following are examples of how Maine towns have expanded upon the state required review criteria #8. Aesthetic, cultural and natural values and added clear guidance for development project applicants. One of the examples has been taken out of the Maine State Planning Office's Model Subdivision Ordinance as prepared in collaboration with the Southern Maine Regional Planning Office. For additional tips for crafting successful performance standards see the full version at: (

Example Tools

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