NRCM news release
May 10, 2022 (Augusta, ME) – A proposed land use plan for Maine’s Moosehead Lake region would significantly reduce the risk of sprawling development while benefiting the economy and protecting the unique character of the region by concentrating new development closer to existing towns and communities, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
The “Draft Moosehead Region Planning Package” (link to PDF) recommended by staff of the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) will be considered by LUPC Commissioners at their Wednesday May 11th meeting.
NRCM said the proposed rezoning plan responds well to input from local residents and organizations who are concerned that development in the wrong places could drain economic vitality from existing businesses, impose new costs on municipal governments, and damage the largely intact forested habitat that is a defining feature of the Moosehead Lake region.
“These proposed zoning changes for the Moosehead Lake region include many important improvements that will help balance economic opportunities with conservation,” said Melanie Sturm, Forests & Wildlife Director at NRCM. “We are particularly pleased by the recommendation to rezone Lily Bay Township so that it is much less likely to be developed for house lots or a possible resort, which was what Plum Creek wanted to do as part of its massive development scheme.”
The draft rezoning plan would avoid sprawl by creating six new development zones adjacent to existing town centers or commercial areas, including the ski area, and removing many more remote areas from being considered as “primary or secondary” locations for development.
In addition to Lily Bay Township, many of the other areas scaled back from development consideration are near or around smaller lakes. While generally pleased with the overall package of staff recommendations, NRCM said it plans to suggest that some additional areas be removed from development consideration and that some areas be designated as protection zones.
When the Plum Creek Concept Plan was officially terminated in 2020 by Weyerhaeuser, which purchased Plum Creek in 2015, LUPC initiated a new regional planning process for the Moosehead Lake region to determine how to rezone nearly 17,000 acres that were part of the Concept Plan.
LUPC staff proposed the package of zoning changes after more than a year of public input from residents, local businesses, and conservation groups. The overwhelming sentiment from public meetings and comments was a desire to support new economic opportunities for local towns by encouraging development that is located near those towns, while conserving the exceptional character of the region.
In 2009, after years of intense debate and hard-fought advocacy on behalf of NRCM and local residents due to concerns about the size, scope, and location of development, the LUPC approved Plum Creek’s Concept Plan to develop nearly 17,000 acres around Moosehead Lake. It was an improvement over Plum Creek’s original proposal because of the opposition raised by NRCM staff experts and supporters and by the Moosehead community.
If the LUPC Commissioners vote to approve the staff recommendation package at their May 11 meeting, then the LUPC will host another round of public comment before finalizing the zoning and adjacency rule changes by the end of the year.
Learn more about the Moosehead regional planning process.