Statement by NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann
We are pleased and gratified by the Superior Court’s decision today to strike down the Land Use Regulation Commission’s approval of Plum Creek’s massive development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region. The plan calls for 2,000 resort and vacation home units scattered around Moosehead Lake.
In his ruling, Chief Justice Humphrey sided with NRCM in concluding that LURC followed an illegal process leading up to its approval of the Plum Creek Plan on September 23, 2009. Calling the process an “unauthorized, ad hoc procedure,” Judge Humphrey concludes that the public was denied its legal rights to speak out on the final version of Plum Creek’s plan.
We wholeheartedly agree with the Court’s decision to “vacate” LURC’s decision, sending it back to the Commission with direction that they abide by the firmly established rules that protect the opportunity of the public to – as established in Maine law – “present testimony and evidence as to whether the applicant’s proposal meets the statutory criteria for approval.”
We also are pleased with Judge Humphrey’s view that LURC should have held an up-or-down vote on the Plum Creek application after the public hearing process came to a close in February 2008. As stated in the ruling: “LURC’s regulations regarding burden of proof and concept plans strongly suggest that the Commission should have voted up or down on Plum Creek’s petition as it stood at the end of the public hearing.” We are confident that if such a vote had been taken in February 2008, the Plum Creek plan would have been rejected.
This decision is important because people throughout Maine and across the country have strong concerns about the final Plum Creek application, and were deprived an opportunity to voice those concerns directly to the Commission. Without a final public hearing, the public only could submit comments in writing – and they did so in huge numbers. The Commission received 1,762 comments in opposition to Plum Creek’s proposal in the final stages of this proceeding. Of these, more than 1,500 stated specific opposition to development at Lily Bay. These comments were sent by people living in 303 towns across the state, located in all 16 Maine counties, and from 27 states.
We welcome the opportunity that the Court has now provided for the public to share their concerns about the final Plum Creek plan directly with the Commission. In so doing, we hope the Commission reaches a decision that will result in changes to the plan that yield a better balance of interests between development and protection of the Moosehead Lake region.