I’m at the St. Paul Center at the moment listening to the LURC staff brief the seven Commissioners on their recommendations. You can find the LURC staff recommendations and NRCM’s brief summary of them on our website here. As you’ll read, we still have concerns about development on Lily Bay and about the oversize of development for the area.
Today is the second and final day of deliberations. After these sessions Plum Creek will need to decide what changes they are going to make. So far the Commissioners seem to have sent a clear message that all of the staff’s recommended changes are necessary.
The room started off fairly full yesterday morning with lots of folks sporting stickers that said “Too Much Development.” Plum Creek seems to have sent only about four or five of their hoard of lawyers. The Plum Creek private security detail has returned as well. The lawyers are sitting dutifully in the front row along with other assorted Plum Creek employees, and security is floating about at the doors. I can’t help but wonder how much Plum Creek is spending per hour on that row of lawyers and other PC staff in the room.
LURC staff has been walking the Commission through their recommendations almost page by page. Lily Bay was discussed yesterday morning. The staff has recommended scaling back the total number of acres to be zoned for development but has not changed the total number of “units” of development. You can find a map here. Some 404 “units” would be allowed at Lily Bay. LURC staff said that outside of this process it would be likely that they would only allow about 100 “units” in this location. However, since Plum Creek is going through the concept planning process they are allowed to waive some of the Commission’s rule in exchange for conservation.
Several Commissioners talked about their concerns with development at Lily Bay. There seemed to be a unanimous agreement of the Commissioners with the staff recommendation to reduce the size of the development zone on Lily Bay. Several mentioned the potential impact to the federally threatened Canada lynx as a major issue. A few of the Commissioners went on to express concern with the level of development that can still happen there. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a substantive discussion of removing all development from Lily Bay.
We believe that Lily Bay is being looked at as a sacrifice zone in exchange for the easements. Many of the Commissioners have commented that they have concerns with the scale of development in certain places, but that they are willing to look past that because of the easements. As written about by many who wrote letters to the Commissioner about their concern about Plum Creek’s proposal, Lily Bay is treasured by Mainers as an affordable getaway, where they can enjoy quiet recreation, as they have for generations. We hope the Commissioners will review those letters as they consider their decision.
Yesterday ended with the Commission’s discussing the staff’s proposed changes to the easements and today has begun with it. Again the Commissioners seemed to be unanimous that the easements need to be strengthened and that they were necessary for this proposal to move forward. NRCM and Maine Audubon have been very focused on the easements, noting where the problems are and in what ways they should be improved. To this point we’ve considered them weak and full of loopholes. To the LURC staff’s credit, the proposed changes to the easements have gone a long way toward improving them. But we still don’t feel that they offset the massive scale of this proposal and the loss of Lily Bay.
At the moment the Commissioners are debating who should be the holders of the easements. Plum Creek has proposed to have The Nature Conservancy and Forest Society of Maine be the holders. There is some concern among the Commission that instead the holder should be the State of Maine, likely through the Bureau of Parks and Lands. Because the easements are in part required to offset the recreational and scenic impacts of the development, they want to ensure that the public interest is being adequately protected in perpetuity.
NRCM North Woods Policy Advocate and Outreach Coordinator