Natural Resources Council of Maine * Maine Audubon
July 16, 2008 — Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission received a huge volume of comments during the past month as citizens responded to what may be one of their last opportunities to affect Plum Creek’s development proposal for the Moosehead Lake region. During a month-long comment period which ended July 11th, LURC received 1,762 comments expressing opposition to Plum Creek’s proposal. Of these, 1,517 stated specific opposition to development at Lily Bay.
Only 6 people contacted LURC during this period to voice support for Plum Creek’s plan as currently envisioned. 85.8% of all comments received by LURC during this comment period oppose Lily Bay development, an additional 13.9% oppose the entire Plum Creek proposal, and only 0.3% support the plan. Overall, 99.6% raised objections.
LURC initiated the comment period on June 5, requesting public reactions to a set of Commission-generated amendments to Plum Creek’s development proposal. These amendments to Plum Creek’s plan were first presented by LURC staff and consultants for review by the Commission during deliberations on May 27 and 28, and were subsequently adopted by LURC on Jun 4th to be posted for public comment.
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 1,517 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 lists below.)
The six public comments in support of Plum Creek’s proposal came from only four 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.
The LURC-generated amendments to Plum Creek’s plan call for a reduction in the number of acres to be developed at Lily Bay, but no reduction of the number of houses there (404) or type of development that would be allowed (e.g., a resort, marina, golf course, stores, single family dwellings, and roads).
“Maine people could not be more clear and emphatic in their message to LURC: do not approve development at Lily Bay,” said NRCM Executive Director Brownie Carson. “People living in more than 60% of Maine towns – from Kittery to Ft. Kent, and all points in-between – have made their views known to LURC. Now the question is whether the Commission will listen.”
During the 26 weekdays of this public comment period, LURC received, on average, 60 letters per day opposed to development at Lily Bay – compared with only two letters during the entire month that explicitly support development at Lily Bay; one of those letters was sent from Tampa, Florida.
“We’ve read these comments and over and over people have passionately expressed lasting, personal connections to Lily Bay,” said Kevin Carley, Maine Audubon executive director. “Just as passionate are their concerns with what Plum Creek plans to do with the area. Many are literally begging LURC to save it from this inappropriate development.”
Samples of Public Comments include the following:
- <li<“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 <li<“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 <li<“If you allow this development, you 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 <li<“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 <li<“Just tell Plum Creek: ‘No thanks, Lily Bay is just fine the way it is….'” Julie Sawtelle, Litchfield
During LURC’s May 28th deliberation session, several Commissioners noted their strong interest in seeing what the comments and reactions would be to the proposed amendments, noting that this was an ongoing process for which public comments would be important.
The Commission is expected to meet in September to receive a report from staff about the comments that have been received during the comment period.
“We know what Plum Creek’s decision-makers in Seattle think: they want to build the equivalent of a new town on Lily Bay. And now we know what Maine people from throughout the state think: they 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.”
“At a time when we are trying to take advantage of Maine’s natural environment for nature-based tourism, it is especially noteworthy that individuals from 28 other states, Canada, and even overseas are urging LURC to protect Lily Bay,” said Carley. “What more evidence could we possibly need to show that this is a special place that should not be the focus of development?”
During a previous 11-month public comment period, which ended March 18, 2008, LURC staff logged approximately 2,500 letters opposed to Plum Creek’s plan and 100 letters in support of the plan – a 25:1 ratio of opposition to support. The current ratio is 293:1.
NRCM and Maine Audubon on July 11th and July 14th made copies of all public comments, and read and analyzed every comment, as the basis of the analysis in this release.
“Lily Bay peninsula is known for Canada lynx sightings, and it has significant bird, wildlife, and brook trout habitat,” Carley added. “Local wildlife is one reason Lily Bay State Park stands as a premier destination for peaceful, affordable recreation by Maine people. Traffic connected to hundreds of housing units on Lily Bay would cause a dramatic increase in the number of animals killed along the entire east side of Moosehead Lake.”
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.
Lily Bay Township
East Blue Hill
North New Portland
Old Orchard Beach
West Boothbay Harbor