AUGUSTA, Maine — The public has one more opportunity to weigh in on Plum Creek’s historic development plan for the Moosehead Lake region before state regulators take a final vote on the controversial proposal.
The Land Use Regulation Commission is accepting comments through April 3 on the language of the draft concept plan that will allow Plum Creek to develop nearly 1,000 house lots and two large resorts in the Moosehead region over the next 30 years.
Specifically, the commission is seeking feedback on the details of the roughly 120-page document, plus hundreds of pages of accompanying documents, that lay out the final language of LURC’s agreement with Plum Creek.
The commission endorsed Plum Creek’s rezoning request — the largest in Maine history — in October after a grueling, 10-month public review involving thousands of participants.
The commission made a long list of changes to Plum Creek’s proposal, including shifting some house lots away from Long Pond and requiring that a massive conservation deal be completed before any development work can begin.
But to the great dissatisfaction of the plan’s many critics, the commission did not alter the two most contentious issues, namely the number of house lots and development on Lily Bay.
The draft concept plan, which will be the subject of a final vote this spring or summer, authorizes Plum Creek to create 975 house lots in the Moosehead region. It also allows the company to create resorts at Big Moose Mountain and Lily Bay with an additional 1,050 “development units” ranging from hotel rooms to single-family houses.
As part of the plan, Plum Creek also agreed to permanently protect from development more than 400,000 acres of forestland in the region through easements and land sales to conservation groups.
That conservation component — one of the largest in the nation — was key to winning the commissioners’ support for a plan that would allow an unprecedented amount of development near Maine’s largest lake.
The draft development plan stresses that it authorizes only the creation of zones appropriate for house lots or resorts. Plum Creek still would have to receive a litany of additional approvals from LURC — including subdivision permits and detailed resort plans — before breaking ground on any projects.
“For instance, the commission’s determination that a long-term development plan locates all contemplated subdivisions in a manner that avoids and otherwise minimizes impacts to wildlife in the development area as a whole does not relieve the applicant of the obligation to demonstrate that, for each subdivision proposed, the layout and other aspects of that particular subdivision avoids and otherwise minimizes impacts to wildlife within the area proposed for the particular subdivision,” reads one section of the draft plan.
Luke Muzzy, a key architect of the proposal with Plum Creek, said Saturday the company is reviewing the draft language released on Wednesday. If LURC votes formally to accept the concept plan later this year — and if Plum Creek agrees — the company will have to decide how to proceed with the development, given the economic climate, Muzzy said.
“We’ve always said this is a long-term plan and that it wasn’t all going to happen at once,” Muzzy said.
Plum Creek’s proposal deeply divided Mainers in all corners of the state.
Supporters predict the planned growth, high-end resorts and guaranteed public access to more than 400,000 acres of forestland will help rejuvenate one of the most scenic yet economically distressed areas of Maine.
Plum Creek’s critics, however, predict sprawling subdivisions of expensive vacation homes that will spoil the wilderness character of Maine’s famed North Woods, pollute Moosehead Lake and harm wildlife such as the federally protected Canada lynx.
The proposal remains immensely divisive even among some in Maine’s environmental community.
Earlier this week, several members of the group Maine Earth First! were detained outside of the Brunswick office of The Nature Conservancy after protesting the national organization’s involvement in the conservation component of the plan.
A full copy of the draft concept plan is available online at www.maine.gov/doc/lurc or at LURC’s offices in Augusta.
Written comments should be submitted by 4 p.m. on April 3 to: Land Use Regulation Commission, 22 State House Station, Augusta 04333-0022. Comments also may be e-mailed to LURC@maine.gov.