May 24, 2018
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Leave control of Unorganized Territory to locals

By Steve Sanders, Special to the BDN

In the Sept. 3-4 Bangor Daily News editorial “LURC in the Balance,” the editors tried to make the claim that “leaving the decisions about development and other activities in the Unorganized Territory only to those who live there is risky.” While this may seem reasonable to many who live in this state, to many people who live in the 10 million acres governed by LURC and the people who live in communities surrounding these areas, anything except local control seems preposterous.

When the Hooter’s restaurant chain proposed opening an establishment in downtown Portland, the Portland Planning Board quickly passed a moratorium on all chain restaurants in its downtown and Old Port areas. This was a slippery maneuver used to prevent a provocative business, which board members deemed inappropriate, from operating without specifically singling out that business.

I don’t recall being asked by the planning board my thoughts on their actions. Many people from the Unorganized Territory visit Portland for its cultural offerings. Many of us rubes would have liked to visit a restaurant whose waitresses offer their company’s namesakes along with a cheeseburger and cold beer, but I don’t recall the Portland Planning Board having a meeting in Millinocket to ask residents what they thought about their shenanigans.

Following the BDN’s logic, the simple folks of Millinocket should have had a say in which cultural offerings the Portland Planning Board can ban.

Surely, I can’t be serious about comparing the intrinsic value of a titillating restaurant to the offerings of the wild lands of our northern half of the state. OK, then let’s compare something more salient — our coastal areas.

In the editorial, two qualities were listed as being “important to people who live far beyond LURC’s jurisdiction.”

The editorial argued that “The region remains a draw because LURC has protected the North Maine Woods from haphazard development that would have diminished the region as a national and international destination for thousands of sportsmen every year.

“At the same time, the region remains home to privately owned timberlands that supply mills in

Maine and beyond.”

The Maine coast brings in many more tourists from around the world than our northern UT. In 2009, Acadia National Park had more than 2.2 million visitors compared to Baxter State Park with around 65,000 visitors. Furthermore, the fishing industry is our second largest natural resource and the economic engine of most coastal communities distributing seafood worldwide.

So why was half a community block in downtown Bar Harbor allowed to be razed to make room for yet another hotel without the input of people from other parts of the state? Surely a potato farmer from The County should have been advised before the Bar Harbor Planning Board was allowed to permit such an egregious development, but I didn’t see any meetings being held in Presque Isle.

Does this sound a little ridiculous? Then why was a LURC public hearing regarding Plum Creek’s proposed development around Moosehead Lake held in Portland not met with the same sense of ridicule?

What is more preposterous than the scenarios that I presented is the fact that the BDN,

which is the predominant news periodical for the majority of the Unorganized Territory, has allowed itself to believe that 40 years of LURC control has been good for the communities of northern Maine, and that just because someone takes a yearly vacation on land that they don’t own, they ought to have a say in the development of that land.

Steve Sanders is the co-founder and co-perator of Great Northern Timber LLC in Millinocket.

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