AG considering charges against Big Squaw owner; state building tower atop mountain

Posted Sept. 10, 2012, at 6:45 p.m.

BIG MOOSE TOWNSHIP, Maine — The Maine attorney general’s office is still considering an enforcement action against the owner of Big Squaw Mountain Resort near Greenville.

Attorney general’s office spokeswoman Brenda Kielty said Monday the investigation into timber harvesting on restricted land near the resort is continuing, but she had no further information.

The Maine Land Use Planning Commission, formerly called the Land Use Regulation Commission, transferred its case against James Confalone, CEO of Mountain Inc., which operates Big Squaw Mountain Resort, to the attorney general’s office last month.

Meanwhile, activity on Big Moose Mountain, on which the resort is located, has picked up in recent weeks, but it has nothing to do with Confalone’s company.

The State of Maine Office of Information Technology has started work on a communications tower and equipment shelter on state-owned property atop the mountain.

Helicopters have been used to bring equipment to the top of the mountain, which is inaccessible to all-terrain vehicles or other vehicles, said Craig Hitchings, radio project office manager.

Hitchings said three separate tower sites are being consolidated into one. The tower that will be constructed will be a state public safety radio tower.

“It’s an important site because it’s in a good location,” said Hitchings. “The primary purpose is to give radio coverage for state public safety. It’s built with adequate capacity so it can be used by the town of Greenville, as well.”

Hitchings said work will continue for another month or so. Concrete for the tower’s base has to have time to cure, and then helicopters will help put the radio tower in place.

Big Squaw owner Confalone is accused of harvesting 155 acres of land on the mountain near the now-unused resort. Confalone 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.

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

“We don’t think there was a violation. It just needs an after-the-fact permit. [LURC has] their point of view and we have ours. We have an attorney who feels different,” Rodney Folsom, a real estate agent in Greenville who is a spokesman for Mountain Inc., said in August.

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, according to LUPC.

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

On Nov. 7, Confalone responded with in a letter but didn’t offer any planning documents or justification that shows compliance with the deed restrictions, LUPC said in a memorandum regarding the incident.

This past April, further investigation uncovered additional harvesting by — or on behalf of — Mountain Inc. without a permit from LUPC and in violation of deed restrictions, according to LUPC. 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.

LUPC entered into settlement negotiations with Folsom, an agent for Mountain Inc., and Silas Ames, a timber harvester and agent who signed the forestry operations notification for OFLC Inc. Those negotiations broke down, which prompted LUPC to transfer the case to the attorney general’s office.

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