July 17, 2008

Opponents ‘Beg’ LURC to Save Lily Bay Plum Creek Sees ‘a Lot of Support’ for Plan

By NICK SAMBIDES JR.; OF THE NEWS STAFF

Two environmentalist organizations opposed to the Plum Creek development plan claim the Land Use Regulation Commission has received 1,517 comments, out of 1,762, opposing the plan's proposed development at Lily Bay.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine and Maine Audubon found in these comments deep reservations about, if not outright opposition to, the company's development plan for the Moosehead Lake region.

"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."

"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 in a statement released Wednesday. "People living in more than 60 percent of Maine towns - from Kittery to Fort Kent, and all points in between - have made their views known to LURC. Now the question is whether the commission will listen."

Plum Creek spokesman Luke Muzzy said the company's plan has plenty of proponents and that development of the bay is essential to that plan.

"Our supporters came out in droves during the [LURC] winter sessions where our plan was discussed," Muzzy said Wednesday. "Locally, we have a lot of support for the plan. I see people daily in the stores and I know how badly people want the economic development that this plan represents in this area."

LURC Executive Director Catherine Carroll could not be reached for comment Wednesday to verify the two organizations' review of responses or to gauge the weight those responses would carry with the commission.

Commissions such as LURC typically weigh public opinion of a proposal among many factors. In late May, the commission and staff crafted a list of changes that they said would be necessary for the agency to approve Plum Creek's immensely controversial plan.

To the dismay of Plum Creek's critics, however, LURC did not propose eliminating house lots or reducing the scope of development near Lily Bay. Plum Creek officials indicated they could live with most of the changes.

Seattle-based Plum Creek is seeking LURC authorization to create 975 house lots and two large resorts in the Moosehead region. Roughly 20,000 acres would be rezoned to make way for the development under Plum Creek's proposal.

The company also is expected to permanently protect more than 430,000 acres in the region through a combination of associated land deals if the development plan receives regulatory approval.

Plum Creek's proposal has deeply divided Mainers. Supporters insist the plan will bring much-needed growth and jobs to an area of the state in economic distress. But opponents predict the houses and resorts will harm the region by ruining the rural and scenic qualities that draw tourists.

The environmentalist groups say that the latest round of 1,762 public comments drew only six favorable responses. Included among the negatives the groups released:

. "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," wrote LeRoy and Joanna Ellis of Greenville.

. "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," said Laurence Lougee of Rockwood

LURC will consider all of the comments received during the past month before deciding whether to amend the plan further. A final vote on the rezoning application could come in late summer or early fall.

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BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Cathy Johnson (from left), Natural Resources Council of Maine senior staff attorney and North Woods project director, shows a map of Plum Creek's proposed Lily Bay development last month to Beaver Cove residents Jim Glavine and his wife, Sheila Kelley. The couple were among others voicing concerns about the Plum Creek development proposal during a media conference at the Bangor Public Library.

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