September 29, 2008

Plum Creek Offered Workable Deal By LURC

By Anonymous

As the complex and long-lasting controversy over the development of a huge tract of land around Moosehead Lake draws to an end, one thing that was always true is coming sharply into focus: No possible plan could have satisfied all the people with an interest in the area.

Compromising fully on the goals of the Plum Creek Timber Co., the Land Use Regulation Commission, the people of the Greenville area, tourists, economic development advocates, environmental groups, land- preservation associations, the hundreds of people who gave oral testimony and the thousands who wrote letters was clearly impossible.

Thus, it is no surprise that, after three years of testimony, staff reports and commission deliberations involving negotiations and resubmissions by Plum Creek, the plan LURC finally approved in a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum last week still wasn't widely liked.

And it was especially disliked by those who had hoped to greatly lessen or prevent development in the area around scenic Lily Bay, on Moose- head's southeastern tip.

What came out of two days of commission deliberations last week was in essence an endorsement for Plum Creek's final version of its plan, which would put 975 house lots and two resorts on 16,000 acres of land near or bordering Maine's largest lake.

Lily Bay will acquire more than 400 units, including a 250-unit resort.

LURC did get a substantial trade-off from the company. If it accepts the commission's offer, Plum Creek will guarantee public access and commercial forestry on 430,000 acres of land in the region that will not be developed.

As part of that, two private conservation deals the company made with The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Forest Society of Maine will net the firm $35 million.

Still, the plan is not the one this newspaper recommended, hoping along with many others that Lily Bay could have been spared.

It also is important to note again that the reason this project has consumed so much time, attention and expense is that LURC declined to produce its own development regulations for the Moosehead region. Thus it was forced to deal with Plum Creek's plan, which is now the default zoning.

But it is likewise true that there would have been development in the area anyway. This process has included intense public scrutiny and has produced, at the last, what appears to be a workable deal.

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