SOUTH PORTLAND – In 2004, when John Painter of Cumberland bought a run-down farmhouse on 30 acres next to a manmade pond, he thought the investment was worth taking out a loan and dipping into his life savings.

“There was buildable land along the shore of the pond — possibly three lots … with water views, giving the land some future value,” he told a legislative panel Wednesday at Southern Maine Community College.

The pond and surrounding wetland was zoned by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection as “shoreland limited residential,” so he could not build within 75 feet of the water’s edge and construction within 250 feet would be regulated.

“The rule sounded reasonable to me and I thought it was a good law for waterfront and habitat conservation,” Painter said.

But in 2009, he got a notice from the DEP, saying his waterfront land had been rezoned, based on aerial photography, to “resource protection and moderate- or high-value water fowl and wading bird habitat.”

“The new setback for construction of any kind would be 250 feet, rather than the old 75 feet,” he said. “Because of the narrow shape of the parcel that I own, any possibility of building near the pond was wiped out by this new setback. The three future lots were gone and a large portion of my investment and life savings was wiped out.”

The Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform is seeking such stories as it reviews state regulations and holds public hearings statewide — stories of how burdensome regulations hindered job creation or investment.

To the dismay of the committee’s Republican co-chairs, Sen. Jon Courtney of Sanford and Rep. Jon McKane of Newcastle, they have mostly heard complaints about the first set of regulatory reforms proposed by Gov. Paul LePage.

“We’re here to listen to specific suggestions about how we can improve Maine’s regulatory environment,” said McKane. “We’re also not here to talk about the governor’s first set of proposals.”

Interest in the meetings has been high — about 200 people packed into a classroom at SMCC. And, as at previous hearings, many of the approximately 40 people who testified mentioned their opposition to LePage’s proposal to repeal a recently passed child product safety law or his perceived intention to roll back environmental standards.

Others gave examples of how over-regulation or delays by state agencies had hindered economic development.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]