3rd group appeals Moosehead plans

Posted Oct. 22, 2009, at 9:40 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Natural Resources Council of Maine on Thursday became the third organization to appeal the recent regulatory approval of Plum Creek’s Moosehead Lake development plan.

NRCM filed the appeal with Maine’s Superior Court one day after RESTORE: The North Woods and the Forest Ecology Network filed a joint appeal.

All three organizations were active participants throughout the Land Use Regulation Commission’s more than three-year review of Plum Creek’s controversial application. LURC voted unanimously on Sept. 23 to rezone land around Moosehead for 975 house lots and two large resorts.

Maine Audubon, which had partnered with NRCM during LURC’s review, had announced earlier that it would not appeal but instead would push for policy changes to address its concerns about the Plum Creek review.

In the latest appeal, NRCM alleges that the agency violated its own procedures in early 2008 when the commission did not reject Plum Creek’s plan after determining the proposal did not meet LURC’s regulatory requirements.

“Rather than denying the application at that point in the process, as it was required to do by its own rules, the commission instead initiated an unprecedented, unauthorized, and unlawful procedure in which LURC staff and consultants drafted Plum Creek’s final plan for them,” Brownie Carson, NRCM’s executive director, said in a statement. “This is not allowed under Maine law. It’s as if a jury at a trial decided not to return a verdict, opting instead to rewrite the plaintiff’s claims.”

Carson also accused the commission of violating its own policies and procedures by attempting to use the Plum Creek application as a way to carry out prospective planning for the Moosehead region.

Plum Creek will have 30 years to build the houses and resorts. Each subdivision or resort will require additional LURC permits.

But before any permits are issued, Plum Creek must complete a package of conservation deals that will permanently protect roughly 400,000 acres of forestland in the region. The public will have guaranteed recreational access to that land, most of which will remain a working forest.

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