June 06, 2020

Millinocket’s usable-land study unpromising

MILLINOCKET – If you’re looking for a place for a luxury home or an industrial park, Gary and Debbie Jandreau have a nice plot for you.

Located near Jandreau’s Greenhouse near 200 Iron Bridge Road, the 65 acres is fertile, hilly and full of sandpits that have lots of industrial potential. It is divided by Millinocket Stream and has several small roads and trails suitable for ATVs and snowmobiles.

“It’s a nice piece,” Debbie Jandreau, one of the owners of Jandreau’s Greenhouse, said Friday. “You get way up to the top of it and you can see all over the town. It’s got a great view of Mount Katahdin. I wish I could put a house or something up there. It is really nice.”

But the land, Town Councilor David Cyr said, has one big problem – you need to build a bridge to get to most of it.

It can be reached through Stearns High School and the town recreation complex, Jandreau said, but that path is narrow and would be challenging for trucking or other heavy industrial uses that Cyr would love to see come to town.

As a leading member of one of the town’s land use committees, Cyr said he has found a lot of land like Jandreau’s in town – open and available, but not easily developed.

“Lots of people have land just sitting there,” Cyr said Thursday.

One discovery Cyr and the committee have made, Cyr said, is this: Of the roughly 4,000 acres the town annexed in 1988, less than 10 percent is used, and about 30 percent is wetlands.

That’s plenty of room for new businesses, not counting other open or unused areas within town lines, but almost all of the land that is easily developable has been developed already, Cyr said.

Although progress has been spotted with delays and long bouts of inactivity, Cyr and the committee have identified about 25 small parcels, 1.7 to 5.6 acres typically, that might be developable.

“It doesn’t look promising,” Cyr said, “because most every plot has something wrong with it.”

The committee was charged with taking an inventory of open land within town lines, in hopes of creating an industrial park or some other means of bolstering the town economy, or seeing whether annexation of land outside town lines was workable.

Cyr hopes to have a report and list of recommendations for the Town Council in 60 days, at the earliest. He cautioned that his full-time work – he is a cement contractor who is busiest from late spring to fall – and other council responsibilities might make that deadline unattainable. Among the responsibilities is Cyr’s efforts to help create an ATV trail in Millinocket.

Previous committee deadlines of November and last summer have lapsed.

“It’s an 11-person committee,” Cyr said, “but I’m pretty much doing all the work.”

That was former council Chairman Avern Danforth’s impression when he visited a committee meeting in Town Manager Eugene Conlogue’s office several months ago. He said he could see that Cyr and Sue Walsh, a town Assessing Department clerk, had compiled a lot of data regarding town open spaces.

But Danforth was incredulous that the committee hadn’t met, or apparently planned to meet, with representatives from Katahdin Timberlands LLC, the area’s largest landowner.

“They were not going to talk with [Katahdin] at all. David said it was useless. He said he had put in some calls and they hadn’t returned them. Gene didn’t think he would get that far, either,” Danforth said. “You can’t do a comprehensive [land] study without them. It would have been totally incomplete.”

A longtime critic of Katahdin Timberlands, Cyr has blamed the company for failing to sell him land he and his family have leased from them for generations on Cathole Mountain – a major impetus, his critics have said, in his rivalry with Councilor Matthew Polstein, who is developing a $65 million resort on nearby Hammond Ridge.

Upon Cyr’s request, Danforth arranged a committee meeting with Katahdin Timberlands officials, who were very receptive, he said, to helping the town. Town officials plan to get back to Katahdin Timberlands as soon as some other issues are resolved, Conlogue said.



Correction: A story on Page B3 of Monday’s paper misidentified a parcel of land owned by Millinocket Town Councilor David Cyr. The land is called Black Cat Mountain.

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