April 07, 2020

Millinocket council OKs resort project

MILLINOCKET – Businessman and Town Councilor Matthew Polstein’s high-end resort proposed for 1,450 acres of Township 1, Range 8 will cost about $65 million and create at least 100 full-time jobs, he said Thursday.

Polstein dropped tantalizing hints about the scope and potential impact of the project during a Town Council meeting in which councilors voted 5-0 to endorse the concept. Polstein abstained and Councilor Jimmy Busque was absent.

Polstein plans to present detailed plans to the state Land Use Regulation Commission for a zoning variance review in two weeks. He estimated that, if approved, the project would take as long as 10 years to finish and would transform the Katahdin region’s economy.

“The opportunity that will be created by all the people coming and going [from this project] in the Katahdin region … is the most exciting point,” Polstein said Thursday. “Those spinoff benefits have the opportunity to be immense.”

He said he expected traffic on Lake Road, or Millinocket Road, to reach levels it hasn’t seen since the late 1980s, when the town’s population was 8,000, 3,000 more than today, and that the project overall would infuse the area with visitors who would stimulate tourism, manufacturing, construction and other industries.

Thursday’s meeting was not the first at which Polstein has promised enormous economic benefits via the Hammond Ridge development.

He has been developing the resort plan since at least Aug. 30, 2004, when he announced that he and Katahdin Timberlands LLC signed a deal granting him the option to purchase 1,450 acres of former Great Northern Paper land along Millinocket Lake.

Nor was it the first time he increased the project’s estimated price tag, but it was the first time he mentioned the number of jobs it would create, calling that estimate “very conservative.”

The Hammond Ridge plan calls for a hotel, restaurant, conference and wedding facility, adventure lodge, agriculture center and 77 houses, compounds, subdivisions or cabins on land between Baxter State Park and Millinocket.

Polstein has said the upscale ecotourism resort could accommodate as many as 400 guests drawn to the scenic beauty of nearby Mount Katahdin and the activities the resort might offer.

That includes cross-country skiing, mountain biking, trail hiking, skeet or trap shooting, snowmobiling and bird-watching.

Councilor David Cyr, a political opponent of Polstein’s who once wanted to build a resort on Black Cat Mountain, offered the only objection to the project.

“I prefer to keep Millinocket Lake pristine and undeveloped,” Cyr said, expressing concerns that boat landings and motorboats on the lake would disrupt the lake’s ecology. He questioned whether town services would be fairly compensated for covering the Hammond Ridge project.

The lake’s docks would be seasonal and would largely serve non-motorized craft, Polstein said. He will not build a marina or significant dock space. The project’s need for town services will be discussed in the LURC application, he said.

Council Chairman David Nelson and Councilor Scott Gonya praised Polstein’s concept. Gonya said about 90 percent of the people he has spoken to about the project have favored it.

“Hopefully, Mr. Polstein doesn’t get the runaround that people seem to get on these things,” Gonya said.

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