The Maine Land Use Planning Commission is waiting for information from the developers of a proposed $113.5 million year-round ski resort on Big Moose Mountain in Piscataquis County before it can schedule a public hearing on the project.
Perry Williams of Big Lake Development LLC filed a development permit application in March 2021, which planning commission staff have been reviewing.
Developers need their application approved and to purchase the property from owner James Confalone of Florida before they can begin construction. A purchase and sale agreement has been extended several times.
Here’s what we know about the status of the project.
What does the proposed ski resort redevelopment entail?
The 340-page application details a plan for the first phase of the project. It calls for a new six-person chairlift, zipline, base ski lodge, 60-room hotel, brew house and other features.
“Big Moose Resort is a hidden gem and a quality ski resort that needs new ownership to bring it back to its former glory and make it available once again for the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. The redevelopment of this property will create hundreds of jobs and help the local economy thrive,” the application said.
The second phase would include a 150-200 slip marina and 483 residential units, though the developer has not filed an application with the Department of Environmental Protection for those projects.
What comes next for developers?
Stacie Beyer, acting executive director of the planning commission, couldn’t say whether the public hearing or the purchase of the property has to come first for developers in order to move forward with the project.
“From the LUPC perspective, the next steps are for the applicant to submit the additional information that we have requested and the commission to schedule a public hearing,” she said. “We have sufficient evidence of title, right or interest, a purchase and sale agreement for the property.”
Commissioners voted in February to hold a public hearing, which has not been scheduled. The date depends on the developers submitting the requested information, Beyer said. The earliest the hearing could be scheduled is May, she said.
Planning commission staff had requested more information about the ski resort’s connection to the Moosehead Sanitary District, including the projected amount of wastewater from the resort and the district’s capacity, said Debra Kaczowski, permitting and compliance regional supervisor, at the February meeting.
In the planning commission’s memorandum that recommended a public hearing be held was a note that staff requested additional information in April and June 2021, which was needed before the application could be forwarded to the commission for consideration.
Matthew Dieterich, executive vice president of James W. Sewall Co., which is handling permitting for the project, said in February that obtaining a development permit is necessary before the transaction of the land can happen. The land is worth more if permitting is approved.
Dieterich did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
How important is the public hearing?
The hearing gives the public a chance to get their concerns addressed. Public opinion could influence the final look and timeline of the redevelopment.
The planning commission cannot issue a decision on the development permit until the public hearing takes place.
Holding the public hearing also reassures investors that the project remains on track, said Lee Umphrey, Eastern Maine Development Corp. president and CEO. The nonprofit was the catalyst for the ski resort project, giving developers a $385,000 loan in December 2020.
“The sale isn’t contingent on anything except getting it to happen,” he said.
In February, Dieterich, on behalf of those involved with the project, asked the state not to hold a public hearing, arguing that the criteria for one had not been met. It would further delay the project’s movement and financial closing, he said.
The hearing will also address concerns from the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, a nonprofit residents group that acts as a watchdog to limit harm caused by commercial and industrial development in the Moosehead Lake area.
The group, along with a Greenville area resident, filed two requests for a public hearing in January.
The Moosehead Region Futures Committee has been involved with community planning issues since the start of the Plum Creek project that was proposed in 2005 and failed in 2019. The group was an intervener on those hearings, secretary Chris King said in February. It is also involved with giving input to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources concerning a proposal to build wind turbines on Misery Ridge.
Have there been any recent developments?
A Kennebec County Superior Court justice recently ordered the owner of the ski resort to pay more than $4.5 million in damages to the state.
Matthew Warner and Severin Beliveau of the law firm Preti Flaherty in Portland represented Piscataquis County in the lawsuit, which intervened in 2019. Prior to the justice’s decision, Warner said evidence had shown that the lawsuit was speeding up the process to restore the ski resort because Confalone had rebuffed efforts to sell it for years.
The state first filed a lawsuit in 2016, alleging that Confalone’s failure to invest in and maintain the ski resort had a disastrous effect on Greenville and the surrounding communities’ economy. The state also alleged that Confalone harvested timber on 169 acres between 2010 and 2012.
“We were encouraged by the court’s decision to order the owner to put nearly $4 million into escrow,” Warner said this week. “These funds will go a long way toward restoring and helping it meet its full potential.”
Although Confalone can appeal the court’s decision, Warner said the chances of his success are next to none.
Developers have known about the lawsuit for six years now, and it’s not going to slow or change their plans going forward, EMDC’s Umphrey said.
The ski resort is intended to be the “crown jewel of the Moosehead Lake region,” and should drive economic development, but that can’t happen until it’s fully reopened, Warner said.
When will more information become available?
Developer Williams plans to give an update on the project at the Piscataquis County Commissioners meeting March 8, he said. The meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, at the commissioners’ chambers in the Peaks House, 163 East Main St., Dover-Foxcroft.
When the Land Use Planning Commission schedules a public hearing, it will be posted on its website.