The Land Use Planning Commission wants to know what people think about the future of the Moosehead Lake region.
Specifically, the state’s planning and zoning authority for the unorganized and de-organized areas of Maine, including townships and plantations, has kicked off the Moosehead Region Planning Project.
LUPC is seeking to determine how best to rezone the approximately 17,000 acres that were slated for development under a controversial concept plan unveiled 15 years ago by Plum Creek Timber Co. That plan was terminated by LUPC this summer at the request of real estate investment company Weyerhaeuser, which had purchased Plum Creek in 2016.
LUPC has introduced a map-based digital public survey on the project website, offering community members, stakeholders and the general public the chance to provide feedback on potential future uses of the land, such as if and where future development or additional protection zones might be appropriate.
Those who participate may comment on specific locations by first pointing them out on a map that’s included within the survey or make more general comments related to the entire region.
“This is not an official public comment period with a start and end date,” said Naomi Kirk-Lawlor, a senior planner with LUPC. “This is just feeling out the pulse of the community. We have been in contact with stakeholders already and we will continue to be in contact.”
One goal of the survey and additional stakeholder input is to develop several “discussion maps,” hypothetical zoning maps that could be used to spur community discussion during public meetings scheduled for next summer. Possible options for the acreage suggested in the survey include commercial, residential and recreational development, protection from development, land management uses such as agriculture or forestry, or other uses.
“We’re really open to freeform comments at this point, and we will take everything into consideration,” Kirk-Lawlor said.
Plum Creek’s plan to develop the area, unveiled in 2005, included two resorts, 1,000 second-home lots and a golf course.
The concept plan gained state approval four years later from LUPC’s predecessor, the Land Use Regulation Commission, and those land-use changes were upheld in the courts in 2011. But no development took place.
In paperwork later filed with the Land Use Planning Commission, Weyerhaeuser said the 2008-09 recession “forever changed the United States development landscape,” making it “no longer practical to implement” its proposed developments.
Weyerhaeuser petitioned to have the Moosehead Lake Concept Plan terminated in 2019, and the LUPC approved the termination of the concept plan on July 15 and rezoned the 17,000 acres of development area to Protection and Management subdistricts.
Another 363,000 acres included in the Moosehead Lake Concept Plan were placed in a conservation easement as part of that proposal. That easement was not affected by the termination and that remains in place today.
The conservation easement permanently restricts development, sets standards for forest management and other uses of the land, and provides for permanent recreational opportunities.
“This project is to try to figure out what the community wants for future land uses on what we call those former development areas, that area that used to be within the plan but is not in the conservation easement,” Kirk-Lawlor said.