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Regulatory panel unveils proposed vision for development in Moosehead Lake region

Esta Pratt-Kielley
Maine Public

Details are beginning to emerge from a regulatory panel that's crafting a future vision for the Moosehead Lake region.

Maine's Land Use Planning Commission has spent two years collecting feedback from members of the community and now has a draft proposal for the region.

Commission staff have recommended six new development zones for the Moosehead region, encompassing nearly 1,800 acres. These potential new zones would account for 11% of the roughly 17,000 acres initially set for development under the Plum Creek concept plan, which was abandoned two years ago.

"We heard from many, many stakeholders and members, residents, of the region that's important to focus development near the hubs and not some of the areas in between," Stacy Benjamin, the commission's acting chief planner, said Wednesday during a LUPC meeting.

Those hubs, Benjamin said, include Greenville and Rockwood, which can accommodate future growth and where development could help the local economies.

The future of the Moosehead region has been the subject of debate for years, starting back in 2005, when the Plum Creek Timber Company announced plans to build nearly 1,000 new house lots and two new resorts. The plans divided the community and were subject to years of litigation and revision.

Weyerhaueser Company owns the land now and eventually pulled out the development plans, citing the lingering effects of the 2008 recession. When it formally terminated the Moosehead region plan two years ago, that allowed the LUPC to gather more community input and restart its own planning efforts.

The new LUPC proposal balances the potential for economic development with conservation, said Melanie Sturm, forests and wildlife director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

"The viability of towns and of rural areas in the North Woods, which we're trying to protect, matters a great deal," she said. "The type of development just has to be compatible with what the community is going to use, or else it'll be a failed investment."

NRCM supports much of the proposal, though it does have some questions about the proposed development around the Big Moose ski area, which another developer wants to revitalize under separate plans pending before the LUPC.

Commission staff said they'll spend the next few months collecting more research and feedback from the public. They'll develop a final plan to present to commissioners by the end of the summer, with the goal of adopting new development rules by the end of the year.