AUGUSTA — The state commission that oversees planning, development and permitting on more than 10 million acres in Maine has a new leader.

The administration of Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday that Judy East of Washington County was named as executive director of the Land Use Planning Commission. East worked for 17 years at the Washington County Council of Governments – most recently as its executive director – which assists with planning and resource development Down East.

East is assuming leadership of an agency, often referred to as LUPC, that is responsible for planning, permitting and zoning in the Unorganized Territory and de-organized townships and plantations that comprise roughly half of Maine’s land base. LUPC reviews applications and issues permits for everything from sporting camp renovations in remote areas to large-scale development and rezoning projects in concert with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The commission is housed within the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and is governed by a nine-person board whose members are appointed by the counties and the governor. Formerly known as the Land Use Regulation Commission, LUPC was restructured and its responsibilities changed in 2012 during the LePage administration.

“We are very pleased that the commissioners were equally enthusiastic about our recommendation to appoint Judy to this position, and we are excited to have her joining our talented and dedicated LUPC team and bringing her expertise and proven leadership abilities to the department,” Amanda Beal, commissioner of the agriculture department, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Judy in LUPC’s efforts to preserve the unique character of the land within its jurisdiction, with an eye toward opportunities for economic development that are well-aligned and preserve that character.”

In addition to more routine permitting decisions, LUPC is involved in the regulatory review of Central Maine Power’s contentious New England Clean Energy Connect proposal for a high-voltage transmission line through western Maine. The commission also recently adopted controversial new rules that substantially changed how and where new development can occur in the Unorganized Territory. And the commission is about to consider a proposal from the timberland company Weyerhaeuser to essentially nullify the massive development plan obtained by its predecessor, Plum Creek Timber Company, for the Moosehead Lake region.

The LUPC executive director position has been vacant for less than two months since Acting Director Samantha Horn left for a job at The Nature Conservancy in Maine. Horn had filled the position temporarily following the departure of Nicholas Livesay, who had served as executive director since the Legislature reconfigured the Land Use Planning Commission in 2012.

“I am very much looking forward to working with and for the state of Maine and those who live and work in the unique and extraordinary place encompassed by the LUPC,” East said in a statement.

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