After a four-year legal battle, the owner of the Big Moose Mountain ski resort in Greenville is being ordered to restore the operation once owned by the state. The state is also expected to recoup money for timber harvesting that was done on the property.
When Florida businessman James Confalone acquired the 1,200-acre property, certain deeded restrictions came along with the sale. The State of Maine had operated a ski resort at Big Moose Mountain from 1963 until 1986, selling the property for well under market value with the understanding that investments would be made in the facilities and the property kept open for public use.
The state argued that those requirements still applied when Confalone purchased the property from its then-owner in 1995 for $500,000, also below market value according to the court summary.
In a decision dated Nov. 17, Superior Court Justice William Stokes found that Confalone and his company, Moosehead Mountain Resort Inc., did not comply with the deeded restrictions when he allowed the facility to fall into disrepair and finally close to the public in 2010.
The state is requesting that Confalone pay an undetermined sum of money into an escrow account managed by the state to fund restoration efforts.
Additionally, Stokes agreed that Confalone had illegally harvested timber from the mountain, worth more than $136,000.
The ski area, which has been highlighted as an economic magnet for the Moosehead Lake Region, has been partially open since 2013, after a volunteer group took over maintenance of some of the trails, lodge and the lower lift.
“For decades, Moosehead Mountain Ski Resort was an integral part of the outdoor recreation economy in Greenville and surrounding communities. Unfortunately, its current owner failed to comply with the legal requirement that the resort be open to public use and the resort fell into disrepair,” Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a statement. “The upper mountain has been off limits since 2004, and the lower mountain is skiable only because of the hard work of dedicated volunteers. We are pleased that the court recognized that the current owner has not complied with his obligations, and we are hopeful that the ruling will pave the way for making the resort once again an all-season destination for tourists and Mainers alike.”
A hearing will be set for a future date to determine how much money is to be paid into the escrow account, and what further civil penalties might be assessed for the timber harvesting.
Elliott Teel, attorney for James Confalone and Moosehead Mountain Resort, wrote in an email that he had no comment at this time, and points instead to the arguments made by the defendants earlier this year in opposing the state's motion for summary judgment of the case.
The defendants argued against summary judgment on the grounds that the resort is indeed in better condition than it was when purchased in 1995, and that the deeded restrictions are so ambiguous as to be unenforceable.