Statement by Brownie Carson, NRCM executive director
Good morning. Over the next two days, members of Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission will hold one of their most significant deliberations ever. The outcome of Plum Creek’s rezoning application could determine the fate of a special region of Maine – Moosehead Lake – for generations to come.
Over the past week, NRCM has carefully reviewed and analyzed the 358-page recommendations, and we are deeply troubled by the failure by LURC staff and consultants to recommend elimination of proposed development at Lily Bay.
Many changes have been made in Plum Creek’s Moosehead Lake Development proposal over the past three years, but the one big change that Maine people overwhelmingly are asking for — that the Commission still can and should make – is the protection of Lily Bay peninsula from Plum Creek’s massive development plan.
In page after page of analysis, the staff/consultant memo attempts to explain that construction of a resort and 404 housing units at Lily Bay would be fine, no big deal. Or, in carefully obtuse words: “the proposed development will not unduly compromise the natural, undeveloped and in many instances remote character within which the development would sit.”
Let’s focus on these words “will not unduly compromise” and really think about what we are talking about here. How can construction of a 400 unit development not “unduly compromise” the natural, undeveloped character of the east shore of Moosehead?
Today there does not exist a single resort of the scale that Plum Creek is seeking for Lily Bay anywhere in Maine’s north woods. Creation of a resort with 404 accommodation units will be equivalent to creating an entire new town 12 miles north of Greenville. When you arrive at the blinking yellow light in Greenville, right now you have a choice of heading left on Route 6/15, toward the more developed western side of Moosehead Lake, or right, toward the much less developed eastern side of Moosehead Lake. The proposed resort at Lily Bay would absolutely, permanently, and unduly destroy the character of the eastern side of the lake.
According to the staff/consultant analysis, traffic would increase by more than 2,265 vehicles per day north of Lily Bay State Park. 2,265 additional cars per day directly due to Plum Creek’s development.
There are not many places in Maine like the east side of Moosehead Lake. There are very few places in the entire eastern United States like the eastern side of Moosehead Lake. This level of increased traffic along the eastern shore of Moosehead Lake absolutely will compromise what exists there today, and unduly and unnecessarily so.
What is proposed for Lily Bay is wrong. And Maine people have been telling this to the Commission in historic numbers. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that citizen voices have been heard.
During a month-long public comment period which ended July 11th, LURC received 1,762 written comments opposed to Plum Creek’s proposal. Of these, 1,516 expressed specific opposition to development at Lily Bay. Only 7 people contacted LURC in support of Plum Creek’s plan.
The letters opposing development at Lily Bay were sent by people living in 303 towns across the state, in all 16 Maine counties, and from 27 states.
The seven public comments in support of Plum Creek’s proposal came from only five Maine towns: Augusta, Canaan, Orono, Wilton, and Winterport.
Not a single letter in support of LURC’s proposed amendments to the Plum Creek Plan was sent from a Maine resident living within 60 miles of Greenville. In contrast, comments opposing development at Lily Bay came from individuals living in the following areas near Moosehead Lake: Jackman, Rockwood, Greenville, Greenville Junction, Beaver Cove, Dexter, Garland, Dover-Foxcroft, Sangerville, Sapling Township, Abbott, Tomhegan Township, and Lily Bay Township, among others.
There is no evidence that LURC staff and consultants considered these public comments. Maine people could not be more clear and emphatic in their message to LURC. They are calling on LURC to protect Lily Bay from Plum Creek’s development proposal.
Today, citizens will be reading excerpts from the letters from Maine people who are urging LURC to eliminate Plum Creek’s proposed development at Lily Bay. We have gathered a list of the names and hometowns for all 1,517 of these letter-writers. These letters demonstrate how deeply Maine people feel about this issue.
LURC established a public comment period and announced that the commissioners were interested in hearing from the public. The LURC process provides an opportunity for public comments, and those comments must matter; otherwise the public comment period is a farce.
The Commission still has the vital job of ensuring that the right balance is achieved with this proposal. What has been brought forward by LURC staff and consultants is out of balance. It provides too much development for Plum Creek at the expense of Maine people. In July, we urged the Commission to eliminate development at Lily Bay, and also reduce conservation lands on the western side of the lake by 33, 500 acres. We continue to believe that this rebalancing would yield a better outcome for Maine people, the Moosehead Lake region, and future generations.
There is still time to protect Lily Bay, and to achieve the balance of conservation and development that Maine law and LURC’s comprehensive plan require, and that Maine people, in overwhelming numbers, have requested.
That time is now.