Visit Maine and you're sure to hear the popular phrase "Can't get there from here," in a distinctive local accent.
Suburban and rural development, however, brings new roadways and makes it easier for folks to get just about anywhere in the state.
Maine is not alone. Many historically rural states are joining their heavily populated counterparts in confronting the challenges of sprawl.
"Many people in the country don't think of Maine as a state concerned with sprawl, but it is," Maine Gov. Angus King Jr. said. "Our population isn't growing that much, but it's spreading out. We want to maintain our quality of life."
Sprawl was the centerpiece of Sunday's discussions at the National Governors' Association meeting. Controlling growth and reinvigorating cities are the long-term goals, the governors said.
Once thought of as a problem confined to states with big cities, such as California and those along the East Coast, sprawl is now a nationwide problem, the governors said.
"The challenges are quite different in the West than they are in the East," Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer said.
Western states contain 75 percent of all federal land. The federal government owns half of the land in Wyoming, population 480,000.
In addition, zoning laws in the West are far less restrictive, so it's open season on developable land, Geringer said.
Like other mountain states, Wyoming is also home to ranches whose owners live there part-time and don't like locals using their property to hunt or fish.
"It increases the pressure on public lands," Geringer said. "That private property interest is very strong in people."
Most governors agreed there are no easy solutions.
"There's not a silver bullet in urban sprawl," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said.
Signs of trouble around the nation include:
- Commuting time grew by 36 percent and interstate highway use increased 124 percent from 1983 to 1995, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.
- Rural land equal in size to New Hampshire and Maine was converted to suburban development between 1972 and 1997, the governors' association said.
- Sprawl in California imperils 188 of the 286 animal species listed as threatened or endangered.
- City residents often subsidize their suburban counterparts. In Tallahassee, Fla., connecting inner-city homes to sewer lines costs $4,500 per home. It costs $11,500 per home at the suburban, northern edge of the city. But all households are charged an average of $6,000 for sewer connections, according to Florida State University researchers.
Maryland's "Smart Growth" program was highlighted at Sunday's session. The program, started in 1997, offers tax credits to businesses that move to downtowns. There also is "brownfields" pollution-cleanup assistance available to put old factories or vacant properties to good use.
Glendening distributed to governors a Smart Growth "tool kit," contained in a handheld PalmPilot computer. It provides links to local, state and federal resources.
Pennsylvania passed similar cleanup legislation and in recent years added $650 million to the state budget for farm preservation and acid mine drainage.
In many states, local communities compete for business to boost their property tax revenue, which can lead to unsightly developments.
Ridge said he doesn't want to tell local governments what to do, but he can use incentives. "We have a little bit of leverage with some new investors," he said. "We want to support communities that grow smart."
Ultimately, Maine's Gov. King said, it comes down to planning and personal responsibility.
"Government is part of the problem," he said of 1950s zoning that fostered sprawl. "We believe people would prefer an environmentally sensitive alternative if it was put before them."
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