Statement at March 18, 2008, press conference
Good morning. We are here today to talk about the serious, continuing problems with Plum Creek’s proposal for a massive development in the Moosehead Lake Region – the largest development in Maine history.
In late January, under this very roof, Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission completed four weeks of technical proceedings on Plum Creek’s proposal for more than 2,300 “accommodation units,” including two resorts, and other development around Moosehead Lake. LURC Commissioners and staff spent 18 full days, more than 140 hours, right here reviewing every significant component of the Plum Creek plan.
In late January, LURC also completed four day-long public hearings – a process that involved hundreds of Maine people who came from all parts of the state, and beyond, to share their concerns, hopes, and fears about the future of the Moosehead Lake region.
Thousands of people submitted public comments to the Commission before the public record closed last Friday, and there has been an extraordinary outpouring of opinion pieces and letters-to-the-editor raising concerns about the Plum Creek plan in papers across the state.
By any measure, this has been a monumental hearing process – marked by the most extensive expression of public interest that LURC has seen on any development proposal in more than 20 years.
These hearings have produced a long list of concerns that Maine people have with the Plum Creek plan. More than 50 very specific, recurring problems have been raised. These include:
- Inappropriate locations of proposed development, which would cause unacceptable harm to wildlife, environmental quality, and scenic character.
- Excessive amounts of development, which would overwhelm the environment, local communities, and the very qualities that make Moosehead Lake unique.
- Exclusive benefits for Plum Creek after the company’s lawyers rewrote LURC’s rules in a way that serves the interests of this developer.
The issues and problems on these charts came up over and over again throughout the hearings. But you would never know it by reading Plum Creek’s most recent filing in the hearing record.
In the wake of the hearings, LURC asked Plum Creek and all intervenors, to identify “deficiencies” in the company’s Moosehead development proposal and to suggest “how these deficiencies are resolvable.”
This is Plum Creek’s post-hearing brief – 156 pages. It argues that every single element of their plan is perfect. Plum Creek says that nothing needs to be changed: not a single house lot, not a single acre of proposed rezoning, not a single provision of the easements.
Frankly, we are stunned that Plum Creek has failed to acknowledge any of these problems in their post-hearing comments. The conclusions in this document could have been written five months ago – before the hearings began. It’s as if Plum Creek has concluded that the opinions of the people of Maine don’t matter. Plum Creek has ignored Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission, and everyone – expert witnesses and citizens alike – who have identified specific problems and suggested changes to help achieve a plan that would meet LURC standards, protect the character of the Moosehead Lake region, and strike a better balance between a reinvigorated economy for citizens of the region and protection of the environment.
The hearing record demonstrates that Plum Creek’s plan includes proposed development in locations that are inappropriate – such as the North Shore of Long Pond and at Lily Bay.
The hearing record demonstrates that Plum Creek’s plan has too much overall development, and will cause unacceptable harm to the wildlife, scenic beauty and remote recreational opportunities of this region.
The hearing record demonstrates that Plum Creek has rewritten LURC’s zoning standards to exclusively benefit this Seattle-based corporation.
Plum Creek claims to be a company that listens to Maine people, but this post-hearing brief shows no evidence that they have listened at all. They did not hear anything.
The public comment period closed last Friday, and the results clearly show us what Maine people think about Plum Creek’s proposal.
We have made copies of every letter that was submitted to LURC since Plum Creek formally announced the current version of its development last April. The sentiments in these letters are overpowering. More than 2,000 people wrote separate, individual, and different letters to LURC expressing concerns with, or outright opposition to, Plum Creek’s massive development, while fewer than 100 letters were submitted in support.
By more than a 20 to 1 margin, people wrote about what troubles them about the Plum Creek plan. These comments are as thoughtful, detailed, and articulate as any that I have ever seen in the public record on any issue. But, again, it’s as if these people were talking to a brick wall; Plum Creek has refused to acknowledge a single flaw in its massive proposal.
We are left to conclude that this out-of-state company is out of step and out of touch with Maine people. LURC specifically requested that Plum Creek and other parties to the technical proceeding identify areas of the plan deserving change, based on the hearings, and to provide specific suggested changes in the briefs that were filed on March 7th. Plum Creek identified no need for changes.
But Plum Creek has one last chance. On Friday of this week, March 21st, Plum Creek will submit its reply brief. This will be Plum Creek’s final opportunity to publicly acknowledge the dozens and dozens of problems in its plan. Problems that have been eloquently described in these thousands of letters and thousands of pages of testimony from both the public hearings and the technical hearings.
If Plum Creek fails to acknowledge and deal with these problems, then LURC will have no alternative other than to deny the company’s proposal. Thousands of Maine citizens have spoken in defense of the beauty, natural character, forests, lakes, wildlife, and recreational opportunities of the Moosehead Lake region. We hope and trust that LURC will take to heart what the people of Maine have said.