September 15, 2008
Group Reviewing Feedback on Schoodic Ecoresort Plan
By ERIC RUSSELL; OF THE NEWS STAFF
WINTER HARBOR - It has been three months since representatives of a large-scale development project on more than 3,000 acres of the Schoodic Peninsula brought their ideas to the public.
Yet while the plans seem to be in limbo, the landowners appear to have every intention of moving forward, although they admitted that elements of those plans could be slightly different from the initial proposal.
Cecelia Ward, a spokesperson for a group of landowners known as Winter Harbor Properties Inc., did not offer specifics but said the development is very much alive.
"We are in the process of reviewing the comments we received from the public meetings we held in May and June in relation to the conceptual plan we presented," Ward wrote in an e-mail sent Friday.
Michael Saxl of the Augusta-based consulting firm Maine Street Solutions, which is working on the project as well, echoed Ward's statement.
"We spent some time reviewing materials to better understand the hopes of the community and some of the conservation groups we met with," Saxl said late last week. "As a result, we are working to come up with a more refined plan so that the community can have more details."
Neither Saxl nor Ward offered a timetable.
Plans for the ambitious development began to circulate early this spring and were met with a mix of curiosity and staunch opposition from some residents and land conservation advocates.
The initial proposal was to turn a 3,300-acre parcel adjacent to the Schoodic Point section of Acadia National Park into an ecological resort community. The concept called for preservation of about two-thirds of the rectangular-shaped piece of land as a green corridor. Plans also called for four separate education buildings, each with its own specialty.
The remainder of the development, and the piece the public took most issue with, would include a golf course, hotel and as many as a dozen areas designated for housing.
Many at the public forum in May - the first and only public session to date - were skeptical of the proposal, but some appeared excited about the possibility of economic growth on the Schoodic Peninsula.
Stephanie Clement, conservation director for Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the park, said her only request has been that her group and others have an open line of communication with the developers.
"We have always asked to meet with landowners directly," Clement said recently. "Our fear has always been that these plans could be scrapped for a straight subdivision instead. We certainly don't want that to happen."
Clement and some other local residents have said the anonymity of the international group of landowners has been difficult.
"It's hard to predict exactly what they want and, if they're not here, how can we work with them," she said.
Saxl said he couldn't speak for the landowners but stressed that they "are sincerely interested in proposing something that works well for everyone."
The project would be largely in the town of Winter Harbor, although about 150 acres is in nearby Gouldsboro. No permits have been filed in those communities.
Saxl said that when plans do move forward again, the public would know about it.
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