For months now it has become clear that Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) is heading toward an approval of Seattle-based Plum Creek’s revised development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region. On Tuesday in Bangor, NRCM had one last opportunity to address LURC in person.
After more than four years battling for changes in Plum Creek’s plan, and winning many improvements, NRCM and our partner, Maine Audubon, held a press conference in Bangor and presented a final statement to LURC. This appears to be the last time that the Commissioners will deliberate on the proposal before casting final votes at a meeting in August or September.
We told the media and LURC that the world has changed dramatically since their last deliberations in September 2008. We explained that the global economic collapse, increased concern about energy costs, and designation of the entire Plum Creek plan area as critical habitat for Canada lynx should all be taken into account. We urged LURC to pause, reconsider, and restructure the plan so that it is smaller and focused near the existing communities of Greenville and Rockwood.
In the current context, we believe that Plum Creek’s plan looks like land speculation that is simply designed to serve the interests of Plum Creek shareholders.
We urged the Commission to not sacrifice the undeveloped shorelines of Moosehead Lake, and remote stretches of Lily Bay peninsula, simply for the benefit of out-of-state real estate speculators like Plum Creek. As we’ve said before, once it’s gone it’s gone forever.
At the end of the day’s deliberations, the Commission, unfortunately, directed its staff to prepare a final decision document for approval of the plan. They will likely make their formal vote to approve this plan at their regular August or September LURC meeting.
In a surprise move by Plum Creek, the company attempted to create a massive loophole for itself that would have resulted in rezoning approvals around Moosehead Lake without having to provide conservation lands. The company’s spokesman tried to get this change in the event that Plum Creek were to initiate termination of their Concept Plan project. Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) rejected this request by Plum Creek.
Here is how we now understand that LURC dealt with Plum Creek’s request: Plum Creek may file a request to LURC to terminate the Concept Plan, but the Plan would not be terminated until LURC and Plum Creek agree. In the meantime, the provisions of the conservation easement will apply for up to five years even though the easement would not officially be in place. This would allow LURC to put in place an alternative rezoning plan for the area.
We will continue to explore all of our options to affect the final outcome. We ill continue working to protect Maine’s North Woods from poorly located development and those who seek to exploit what remains of the largest undeveloped forest east of the Mississippi.
For more information about our work to protect Maine’s North Woods, visit https://www.nrcm.org.