J.D. Irving

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

With little discussion and no debate, the Land Use Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Canada-based J.D. Irving's plan to rezone 51,000 acres in northern Aroostook County for commercial and residential development as well as conservation.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

Maine's largest landowner, Canada-based JD Irving, is hoping to get the green light this week to rezone 51,000 acres around four scenic Aroostook County lakes for residential and commercial development.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is once again asking Maine lawmakers to consider new rules to address mining regulations in the state.

The Legislature has twice rejected similar proposals since 2011, and both times the debate over them has been contentious.

In a memo explaining the proposed rules, the state says existing rules on the books are inconsistent with state statute. In addition, the DEP says it has addressed environmental, technical and legal concerns expressed in previous proceedings by lawmakers and other stakeholders.

Canada-based J.D. Irving has submitted a concept plan to state regulators with ideas about how the company wants to use 51,000 acres of forest land and lakes it owns in northern Aroostook County.

Anthony Hourihan, Irving's director of land development, says the goal of the plan is to look ahead at future development, recreational use and management of a working forest.

Hourihan says the parcel includes four of the lakes in the Fish River Chain that are surrounded by more than 400 lots that have been leased to people who have cottages or homes.