May 27, 2018
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LURC may refer violation against Big Squaw Mountain owner to attorney general’s office

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

GREENVILLE, Maine — The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission will decide Friday whether to refer an enforcement action against the owner of Big Squaw Mountain Ski Resort to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

LURC will hold its monthly meeting at 9:30 a.m. in Greenville, where it will vote on the matter.

Mountain Inc., which operates Big Squaw Mountain Ski Resort in Big Moose Township, is accused of harvesting 155 acres of land near the now-unused resort.

James Confalone, CEO of Mountain Inc., bought about 7,000 acres in 1994 from the Bureau of Parks and Lands. About 1,200 acres have timber harvesting restrictions set by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.

LURC says that the harvest was done without permit approval and that the land has deed restrictions for timber harvesting.

Confalone could not be reached by phone on Thursday.

Rodney Folsom, a real estate agent in Greenville who is a spokesman for Mountain Inc., said he plans to attend Friday’s meeting.

“We don’t think there was a violation. It just needs an after-the-fact permit,” said Folsom on Thursday. “[LURC has] their point of view and we have ours. We have an attorney who feels different.”

Confalone’s wife, Karen, is the director and president of OFLC Inc., which owns land abutting the harvested lot. In January 2010, Miami-based OFLC filed a forestry operations notification for timber harvesting and land management road construction on its property. The harvesting was to occur only in Lot 2.1. However, 54.9 acres of land was harvested in Lot 2.2 on Plan 01, which falls under the deed restrictions on James Confalone’s property.

LURC sent Confalone a notice of violation on Aug. 31, 2011, for harvesting timber on the restricted parcel of land.

Two months later, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands sent a letter to Confalone requesting planning documents describing justification showing compliance with the deed restrictions.

On Nov. 7, Confalone responded to the Bureau of Parks and Lands letter, but didn’t offer any planning documents or justification that shows compliance with the deed restrictions, said LURC in a memorandum regarding the incident.

This April, further investigation uncovered additional harvesting by — or on behalf of — Mountain Inc. without a permit from LURC and in violation of deed restrictions, according to LURC. In all, about 155 acres were harvested. The Maine Forest Service estimated that the stumpage value of the harvested wood is $51,183, with an estimated mill gate value of $136,277.

LURC staff entered into settlement negotiations with Mountain Inc. to resolve the violations associated with the timber harvesting. The discussion included Folsom, an agent for Mountain Inc., and Silas Ames, a timber harvester and agent who signed the forestry operations notification for OFLC.

“We were not able to reach a settlement agreement,” acting LURC Director Samantha Horn Olsen said Thursday.

Folsom stressed that Mountain Inc. disagrees that a violation occurred.

“The deed doesn’t specify where and what you do. The deed is very vague,” he said. “We’re improving the mountain, so there shouldn’t be an issue anyway.”

According to the memorandum from LURC, Mountain Inc. stands accused of construction or operation of a development without a permit issued from LURC; not providing evidence of sufficient right, title or interest for permit approval; and not demonstrating title, right or interest to LURC’s satisfaction.

Rod Falla, LURC’s Greenville region supervisor, said in April that only three exceptions were allowed in the land deed for Confalone to harvest timber in the restricted parcel: Harvesting is allowed for trails, lifts, snowmaking facilities, construction of transient accommodations and vacation homes for lease or sale, and all related improvements, including roadways serving those areas and the ski area resort; for firewood or lumber for the resort and improvements; and for harvesting dead or dying timber and blowdowns.

Folsom told the Bangor Daily News in April that the timber was harvested to extend ski trails.

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