Exactly why Plum Creek decided to postpone a scheduled May hearing on its rezoning request for an enormous swath of land near Moosehead Lake isn’t really clear.
A company attorney said that after much review and analysis, Plum Creek needed time to consider unspecified amendments to its proposal.
That’s good: The scale of Plum Creek’s development vision is unprecedented in Maine history. The result of the hearings before the Land Use Regulation Commission will have lasting implications for the North Woods.
So it’s vital that the company settle on a thoughtful plan that addresses the economic development potential of the Moosehead area in a way that respects and enhances the matchless landscape and recreational assets that make it a national jewel.
And as the clamor of concern voiced in response to Plum Creek’s latest plan demonstrates, many Mainers felt some more time and forethought could improve the product.
The Seattle-based timber giant attained its formidable stature by managing forests for wood production. But the company transformed itself into a real estate investment trust to better capture value from its some of its holdings by selling them off.
This is the second time Plum Creek has pulled its Moosehead vision back for retooling, and its request comes just over two weeks after LURC set tentative hearing dates. The company withdrew a plan submitted in 2004.
Speculation is that one or more agency officials identified specific flaws that reduced the likelihood of approval, but that’s just a guess.
Plum Creek’s latest proposal did address a call for more permanent protection with an enormous easement to be sold to private conservation groups. However, it was light on the amount of donated conservation that is required under the Lake Concept zoning it sought. Plum Creek planners also held the line on the number of proposed lots, 975, as well as plans for a marina and resort on Lily Bay.
Whether or not 975 is the right number, what troubling is the emphasis on shorefront subdivisions in areas that deserve more protection.
Lakeside homes and expansive lake views would indeed provide the highest real estate values.
But unmitigated development there would degrade the very thing that makes Moosehead Lake so special: its sweeping embrace of dark forest and sparkling water — untrammeled by the hand of man.