Citizens speak out, Commission deliberates
Bangor, ME, September 23, 2008 — Maine people may learn this week what will happen with Plum Creek’s development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region.
Today, citizens from across Maine gathered in Bangor to read from more than 1,500 letters sent to Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) this summer, urging the agency to spare Moosehead Lake’s Lily Bay from the extensive residential and commercial development that has been proposed by Seattle-based Plum Creek, a Real Estate Investment Trust.
This week’s LURC deliberations do not allow public comments, so citizens gathered in an adjacent room prior to the meeting to read from heartfelt letters submitted to LURC during the official public comment period for the massive development proposal.
In the public comment period that ended July 11, 1,516 comments opposed development at Lily Bay, compared with 7 comments in support. During an earlier comment period, LURC received more than 2,500 comments opposed to the plan that was on the table at the time, compared with only 100 comments in support. (see comments and Maine towns lists below)
The primary focus of the Commission’s deliberations today and tomorrow will be on a 358-page memorandum prepared by LURC staff and consultants, which provides draft recommendations concerning Plum Creek’s rezoning application.
“The big, glaring failure in the staff and consultant memorandum is that Plum Creek would still be allowed to build a huge housing and commercial development with up to 404 houses sprawling across Lily Bay – a place where Maine people overwhelmingly have said that such development should not occur,” said Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “By leaving Lily Bay development in the Plum Creek plan, the staff appears to be saying that public comments don’t matter. It is now up to the Commission to ensure that the historic level of public sentiment urging protection of Lily Bay is honored in LURC’s final decision,” said Carson.
“Opening the way for Plum Creek to cut, clear, and pave on the remote Lily Bay peninsula would devastate a unique area cherished for its wildlife and affordable recreation,” said Jody Jones, Maine Audubon wildlife ecologist. “Scientific data and biological research show that the development proposed now at Lily Bay would destroy habitat for the last population of Canada lynx in the East. It would potentially degrade Moosehead’s excellent brook trout streams, and draw road traffic that would dramatically increase animal deaths.”
“Just as important, Commissioners need to reject the staff’s recommendation that the public will benefit from approving development at Lily Bay in exchange for purchasing conservation easements elsewhere,” said Jones. “Instead, Commissioners should concentrate development near existing communities and leave the upper east side of the lake alone. This builds on the state’s earlier investments by creating one interconnected network of conservation lands stretching from the shores of Moosehead Lake to the Roach Ponds, Nahmakanta Public Reserve Lands, the Debsconeags, and Baxter State Park.”
Today, LURC Commissioners hear closing arguments from interveners and begin two days of deliberations to decide whether to make any changes to Plum Creek’s proposal in view of both the public’s concerns and comments received from formal interveners. The deliberations are scheduled to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday September 24.
Plum Creek has proposed the largest development ever in Maine, in the heart of Maine’s North Woods surrounding beautiful Moosehead Lake. The proposal includes more than 2,000 housing units, two large resorts, a golf course, marina and additional commercial developments.
The 404 housing units at Lily Bay (same number as before) would permanently destroy the natural character of the east side of Moosehead, diminish the experience of quiet recreation afforded to visitors of Lily Bay State Park, and put the already threatened Canada lynx further at risk.
Proposed development at Lily Bay has emerged as a top concern for people across Maine and across the nation. Plum Creek continues to press for rezoning of 1,800 acres of forestland at Lily Bay where it could build a resort, marina, golf course, stores, seasonal homes, and roads. Yet the public strongly opposes Plum Creek’s plans at Lily Bay.
The 1,516 comments received by LURC that specifically urge protection of Lily Bay were sent by people living in 303 towns across the state, located in all 16 Maine counties, and from 28 states, Canada, and Greece. Eighty percent of all comments were from Maine residents, and 20 percent were from people from outside Maine who value the Moosehead Lake region. (See attached lists.)
The seven public comments in support of Plum Creek’s proposal came from only five Maine towns (one comment did not identify an address): Augusta, Canaan, Wilton, and Winterport. Not a single letter in support of the LURC-generated amendments 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.
Samples of Public Comments include the following:
- “My family takes yearly trips to Lily Bay to get away from the crowded development of Maine’s coastal corridor. My children look forward to the serenity of our state park’s wonderful campground where we can see the stars and hear the loons every night. The massive development proposed by Plum Creek would put an end to our vacations there along with those of many Mainers who can still have a low-cost time with their families enjoying the outdoors in Maine.” Christine Szalay, Damariscotta
- “There is no need nor local desire to have this relatively unscathed section of the Moosehead Lake region developed, especially on the large scale proposed by Plum Creek.” LeRoy & Joanna Ellis, Greenville
- “If you allow this development, you can can never take back the mistakes you will be making. It is forever and another piece of America will be lost forever.” Laurence Lougee, Rockwood
- “One cannot say too often that once the Moosehead peace, quiet, and natural beauty is compromised by development for the few wealthy seasonal beneficiaries, it is compromised forever. It is not worth it.” Dr. William Slavick, Portland
- “Just tell Plum Creek: ‘No thanks, Lily Bay is just fine the way it is….'” Julie Sawtelle, Litchfield
“Plum Creek wants to build the equivalent of a new town on Lily Bay, yet Maine people want Lily Bay protected. We urge the Commission to side with Maine people and take the necessary step of protecting Lily Bay from development,” said Carson.
“The public has used the only tool available to them to express their views, and they have done so in record numbers. Now the fate of Lily Bay is in the Commission’s hands. We urge them to consider and respect the views of the more than 1,500 people who have contacted them to voice support for protection of Lily Bay.”
A Real Estate Investment Trust based in Seattle, Plum Creek is the nation’s largest commercial landowner. Included in the range of development it has proposed for the Moosehead region is a level of construction at Lily Bay that LURC staff acknowledge is comparable to building a new Maine town the size of Troy, Perry, or St. Agatha.