Commission rejects developer’s request to waive public hearing for Moosehead Ski Resort

The Maine Land Use Planning Commission voted unanimously to hold a public hearing for a $113.5 million year-round ski resort project in Piscataquis County during a meeting Wednesday.

The Maine Land Use Planning Commission voted unanimously to hold a public hearing for a $113.5 million year-round ski resort project in Piscataquis County during a meeting Wednesday.

The commissioners did not set a date for the public hearing, although they discussed whether it should take place virtually or in person in Greenville. A commissioner was not present during the vote.

The decision is the latest wrinkle in a process that has taken the developer, Big Lake Development LLC, and partners involved more than three years so far. A public hearing will further delay the decision of the planning commission on the authorization of the first phase of the project by a few months. It will also allow the public to voice their concerns and questions to the developers, which could influence the final look and timeline of the project.

The first phase of the project includes a new chairlift, base ski lodge, 60-room hotel, brasserie and other features. The developer’s application, originally submitted in March 2021, is still being reviewed by planning commission staff, who recommended a public hearing at Wednesday’s meeting.

Two parties, the residents’ group Moosehead Region Futures Committee and Greenville-area resident Karyn Ellwood, filed requests for public hearings in January.

Debra Kaczowski, regional permit and compliance supervisor, said the planning commission worked with proponents and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to answer questions about protecting natural resources, such as potential impacts on waterways and wetlands.

On Wednesday, the Maine Planning Commission voted unanimously to hold a public hearing for a proposed year-round ski resort in Piscataquis County. Clockwise, from top left, Chris King, Secretary of the Moosehead Area Futures Committee; Matt Dieterich, executive vice president of James W. Sewall Co.; William Gilmore, Member of the Planning Commission; and Everett Worcester, chairman of the planning commission.

The planning commission has requested more information about connecting the ski resort to the Moosehead Health District. That includes the ski resort’s projected amount of wastewater, as well as the district’s capacity, what the project might mean for its license and the terms of the agreement between the two parties, Kaczowski said.

“We estimate there has been ample time for a hearing,” said Matt Dieterich, executive vice president of James W. Sewall Co., which is responsible for the clearance. “We were informed early in the process that they did not believe a hearing would be necessary. At this late stage, it will create delays in the project, probably at least two months and more. »

Dieterich, on behalf of those involved in the project, asked the state not to hold a public hearing in a letter Monday.

The purchase and sale agreement with James Confalone of Florida, the current owner of the ski resort, has been extended several times, Dieterich said.

“I don’t know how long we can really do this,” he said. “Getting ownership under control and achieving financial close is key to continuing to move this project forward. It is very possible that this opportunity could evaporate, unfortunately.

The proposed project is the first step in restoring public access to the ski resort, Dieterich said. The sale of the land cannot take place without a permit in place because the value of the property is “very different” with or without a permit, he said. It also affects the developers’ ability to order and install the new ski lift on the high mountain.

Chris King, secretary of the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, spoke on behalf of the group, although several members tuned in to the virtual meeting.

“For the promoter to cite our delay in requesting a hearing seems a bit incongruous to me,” he said. “The promoter has not even obtained the agreement of the health district to accept the effluents from the project yet.”

King said he was told by one of the elected members of the health district’s board of directors that the district “does not intend to build the sewer line from the development to Greenville Junction, which is the nearest existing connection”.

He also raised other issues and concerns that the band had outlined in its public hearing request, including station-related funding and why the phases are not considered a single project.

The ski area has needed attention for many years, said William Gilmore, one of nine members of the planning commission.

“Hopefully somewhere down the road you can put this thing together and make it what it should be and should have been years ago,” he said. “I’m also watching something of this magnitude and I think there should be a public debate about rights and wrongs and how things happen.”

The planning commission held public hearings for much smaller projects and they continued to move forward successfully, such as the Saddleback Mountain ski resort, Gilmore said, adding that public input could improve the process.

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