Today, the Plum Creek verdict is one step closer to being in. In a mildly surprising move, LURC staff released a list of recommended changes to Plum Creek’s development proposal on Tuesday night. The 136-page recommendation makes one thing very clear – a lot of changes are necessary.
The LURC staff recommendations also make it clear that we’ve still got work to do. The staff didn’t recommend any changes to the total amount of development. In fact, the total potential build-out appears to have increased because parts of development zones on Brassua Lake and in Rockwood Village would be reopened for additional development after this proposal expires in 30 years.
The recommendation also still allows the same amount of development on Lily Bay Peninsula. Under the recommendations, the size of the development zone on Lily Bay would be reduced, but the total amount of development allowed there would remain the same; 404 residential “units”, a golf course, and associated commercial development. Units can be anything from a room at a resort to a mega-house on the shore.
There is also good news buried in the details of the staff recommendation. Many of the loopholes in the working forest easements that we’ve been focused on would be closed. The critical habitat along the remote North Shore of Long Pond, an area we and Maine Audubon have focused on throughout this process, would be spared the house lots Plum Creek proposed.
We’ve put together a quick summary of the LURC staff recommendations. You can find the entire recommendation here (it’s a large document so it may take some time to download). Here’s a smaller text only version.
This LURC staff recommendation is only a step towards a final decision. For one, it’s not clear if Plum Creek will be willing to accept any of the proposed changes. Ultimately it would be up to them to submit amendments to there proposal. Secondly, the Commissioners are independent and are likely to have a lot to say about how things move forward.
A more complete picture will come out of the two Commission deliberative sessions that will happen next week on May 27th and 28th. These sessions will be the first time that the seven Commissioners actually begin talking publicly about their positions. During the weeks of intervener sessions and public hearings the Commissioners mostly listened and asked clarifying questions.
If things move forward as we expect, the Commissioners will be using the staff recommendation as the guide for the deliberative sessions. It is quite likely that we’ll know exactly where the Commission is heading by the end of the month.
With all of this new information the sessions on the 27th and 28th should be quite interesting. We’re encouraging anyone who is interested to come to Augusta and watch the drama unfold in person. The sessions are being held at the St. Paul Center here in Augusta. We’ll be meeting there at 9am and will be available to answer your questions. The St. Paul Center is only about three blocks from the state capital just off the main rotary.
The sessions won’t offer the opportunity for folks to speak (this will be a discussion amongst LURC staff and Commissioners), but it is going to be important to have people there who support protecting Lily Bay and reducing the total amount of development. We want the Commission to know that people are still watching and concerned.
We’re getting close to the end of this process, but there is still much to do.
Let me know if you have any questions.
NRCM North Woods Policy Advocate and Outreach Coordinator