April 02, 2020

Plum Creek Version 2.0 – the devil is in the details

Plum Creek has now submitted Version 2.0, the revised version of its massive development plan to transform the Moosehead Lake region. As with Version 1.0, their

original plan, it is crucial to read the fine print, rather than rely on Plum Creek’s

ceaseless TV and radio advertising campaign.

Plum Creek claims to have listened to the thousands of Maine people who attended and spoke at hearings, wrote letters and signed petitions expressing opposition to the original plan.

Send Plum Creek some Q-tips. They must have had wax in their ears.

Plum Creek failed to hear Maine people say that their plan had too much development. This new revision still proposes 975 house lots and two resorts, exactly the same as the original plan. Plum Creek didn’t decrease the number of house lots by even one measly lot.

Plum Creek didn’t hear Maine people who said the development was proposed for the wrong places. Ninety percent of the proposed lots are in exactly the same places they were in the original plan.

One of the resorts has been moved closer to Greenville, and that is an improvement. But the revised plan would still scatter 58 subdivisions across one of the most scenic and important landscapes in Maine – with new houses landing deep in Maine’s North Woods, 20 to 35 miles from Greenville.

A close read of Version 2.0 reveals that there is no cap on the amount of development proposed at the 2,600-acre Moose Mountain resort. The plan proposes “sufficient resort accommodations to make the resort economically feasible (currently estimated

to be 500).” Will it be 500, or 1,000, or more?

At the Suncadia resort on 6,300 acres of former Plum Creek land in Roslyn, Wash., 3,785 new housing units are planned (www.suncadia.com).

And these “so-called” accommodation units in Maine? At both the Lily Bay resort (slated for 250 “accommodation units”) and at the Moose Mountain resort, they could be anything from hotels rooms to gated suburban-style neighborhoods to McMansions. So instead of 975 house lots, the region could be facing 2,000 or more new houses, with

their accompanying cars, lawnmowers, boom boxes and boats on Moosehead Lake.

And Plum Creek has proposed no limit of any kind on the amount or type of commercial development at these resorts. Unlimited numbers of retail stores, restaurants, gas stations, beauty parlors and more will be competing with locally owned

businesses in Greenville.

Also, according to the fine print of the application, each of the shorefront lots could have its own “boathouse” hanging out over the water. Currently, boathouses are generally not allowed at all in the unorganized towns administered by the Land Use Regulation Commission.

But wait, there is more. These “boathouses” can have 5,000 square feet of floor space – well over twice the size of most Maine homes.

Plum Creek also wants to freeze forest practices regulations on the 421,000 acres in their plan area for 30 years. So, for instance, if the Land Use Regulation Commission were to discover that timber

harvesting practices were destroying important wildlife habitat, they could update the law that applies to everyone but Plum Creek – a sweetheart deal, if they can get away with it.

And this isn’t the only example of how Plum Creek is trying to rewrite the rules to its own advantage. Nearly 100 pages of the more than 1,000-page application are proposed revisions of existing rules that would only benefit Plum Creek.

Although Plum Creek claims to have gone back to the drawing board, they didn’t return with a plan that is very much different. It still represents the largest development in Maine history, with too much subdivision sprawling out across one of Maine’s most beautiful landscapes. To see a map of Plum Creek’s development proposal, log onto www.maineenvironment.org.

Maine people should continue to reject Plum Creek’s proposal until or unless the company comes forward with a Version 3.0 of its plan. The elements of a successful plan are obvious to anyone who has been really listening to the concerns of Maine people.

New development in the Moosehead Lake region should be concentrated in or near the existing communities of Greenville and Rockwood, and not on the shorelines and ridgelines that literally define the character of the area. And the loopholes that would give Plum Creek broad latitude to expand its impacts on the region must be eliminated –

so that Maine people can fully determine whether Plum Creek’s proposal would destroy a part of the state that so many of us hold dear.

Catherine B. Johnson is North Woods Project director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

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