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Down East town courted for massive flagpole and park will vote on development moratorium

The Worcesters envision building a six-mile gondola system that would take visitors to hiking trails, immersive history exhibits and retail spaces.
Rendering courtesy of Flagpole of Freedom Park/Black Fly Media
The Worcesters envision building a six-mile gondola system that would take visitors to hiking trails, immersive history exhibits and retail spaces.

A small Down East town that has been eyed as the future site of the world's tallest flagpole will soon vote on a large-scale development moratorium.

Columbia Falls, a town with fewer than 500 people, has spent months hiring new attorneys and planning consultants to help prepare for the possibility of a multibillion-dollar veterans memorial park and flagpole, which the project's founders have said could generate thousands of regional jobs and bring millions of visitors to rural Washington County.

Amanda Methot, an attorney with the Bernstein Shur law firm that's representing Columbia Falls, said a six-month moratorium will give the town time to plan and possibly write new ordinances that could protect the town from the impacts of any large development project.

"The last thing I think any of us would want to see is a multiphase project only getting half built and is just sitting there rotting, and not creating more value, not creating more tax dollars," she said Tuesday night at a meeting that town selectmen hosted to share information about the proposed moratorium.

Columbia Falls selectmen said Tuesday they haven't heard from the flagpole's developers, Wreaths Across America founder Morrill Worcester and his sons, in months.

The developers said last fall that they were reevaluating the business structure for the project, which had been originally pitched as a for-profit venture. They had also asked the town to pause their pursuit of a potential vote authorizing the annexation of more than 10,000 acres of nearby property in unorganized territory to Columbia Falls for the "Flagpole of Freedom" park.

The request to pause the annexation process puzzled town officials and attorneys at the time, because Columbia Falls selectmen have maintained that the town will not hold an annexation vote until they've received enough information about the flagpole project, and details over the last year have been sparse.

The proposed moratorium will be up for a vote at the town's annual meeting on March 21. The town recently surveyed Columbia Falls residents about the moratorium proposal, and 82% said they were in support. A similar proportion of residents from nearby towns that received an online survey said they too were supportive a potential pause in major developments.