State’s decision on proposed ski resort could determine future of Moosehead area

GREENVILLE, Maine — Community members and officials hosting a public hearing on Tuesday debated whether a proposed redevelopment of a partially defunct ski area in Piscataquis County is viable enough to bring long-term prosperity term to the region.

The $113.5 million year-round ski resort in Big Moose Township would include a detachable chairlift to the top of the mountain, a base lodge that would function as a conference center, a 63-room hotel rooms, a tap and restaurant, a zipline ride and more, developer Perry Williams said during his presentation.

More than a year after Big Lake Development LLC’s Williams filed its development permit application with the state, the public hearing gave the community a voice in the project. After the written public comment period ends later this month, the Maine Planning Commission will vote on the application, which details the first phase of the redevelopment. The decision of the commissioners could determine, in some respects, the future of the Moosehead Lake area and those who reside there.

Some on Big Moose Township ski resort property, including the old hotel pictured Tuesday, will be demolished if a developer’s redevelopment proposal is approved by the state. Credit: Valérie Royzman / BDN

“Our plan is to bring the mountain back and create a sustainable four-season outdoor resort,” Williams said, noting 1,700 acres of redevelopment. “We plan to change the name once we get local feedback. We haven’t decided on a new name yet.

The proposal asks demolition of the former hotel, lodge and chairlift on the property because they are damaged beyond repair. Williams and its partners will retain the T-bar lodge and triple chairlift, he said. Next, they will build new facilities in the upper part of the village, with an emphasis on outdoor recreation beyond downhill skiing, such as snowmobiling, biking, starry sky viewing and more, according to the presentation.

The state owned the ski area from 1974 to 1976, and when it was sold, a deed restriction was placed on the property requiring the lifts and trails to remain open to the public, Williams said. The mountain opened in December 1963 for skiing, but closed in 2010 after the resort built there fell into disrepair under the ownership of Florida’s James Confalone.

More than a new ski lift is needed for the resort to thrive year-round, Williams said.

Those involved in the redevelopment created an eco-friendly design that meets planning commission standards and other regulations, said Matthew Dieterich, executive vice president of James W. Sewall Co., Civil Engineer of the project. For example, modifications were made after studies of design effects on species such as lynx and spring salamander were carried out, and culverts were extended so as not to impede fish migration and to other wildlife, he said.

On Tuesday, Planning Commissioner Betsy Fitzgerald of Machiasport examines an area damaged by an overflow of water just outside the Big Moose Township ski resort hotel. Credit: Valérie Royzman / BDN

Several commissionerswho traveled from across the state to attend the hearing, wondered how the developer would execute such a project, which calls for the creation of 250 to 300 new jobs, given the shortage of affordable housing in the city. region.

There are plans to build workforce housing in the future, although they weren’t detailed in the permit application, Williams said. Some of them will likely be about an hour’s drive away due to the lack of spaces available in the summer, Dieterich said.

Christopher King, secretary of the residents’ group Moosehead Region Futures Committee, asked if Williams will take responsibility for paying $3.8 million into an escrow account to maintain the ski area if he settles with Confalone on the deal. buying and selling. He was referring to a court ruling in favor of the state, which ordered Confalone to pay $4.5 million in damages. Confalone appealed that decision.

Williams said it was unnecessary because it is an asset sale that does not involve buying the company from Confalone. The developer and its partners plan to work with the attorney general’s office to settle the lawsuit so that liability disappears with the sale, he said.

The Futures Committee, along with Karyn Ellwood, a resident of unorganized Misery Gore Territory, requested the public hearing in January.

King also wondered if the language in a letter on wastewater treatment upgrades from Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital, dated June 6, means Moosehead Health District customers will need to cover $3 million in financing and their rates will increase.

Dieterich said that was not the case because fees generated from new hookups associated with the development, such as the base lodge and hotel, would contribute to that funding through fees over time. The health district shouldn’t have to raise its rates because it will have more customers on its system, he said.

Fourteen community members and one online have signed up to voice their thoughts. The majority supported the redevelopment, although some acknowledged that the developer and proposal are not perfect or that questions posed throughout the hearing need to be answered.

John Hussey, who said he has worked in the ski industry for more than 50 years, said the proposed redevelopment is an improved version of the original. [Big Moose Mountain] 1960s development plan that failed five times.

He didn’t think the developer’s plans were the right way to reopen the mountain. “Unless you have all the assets and completely get rid of Confalone, take it down, no one should touch this project,” he said.

The ski area, in its various forms for several decades, is sentimental for many. Area residents, frequent visitors and former ski area employees shared memories, and some served as examples of why the ski area should reopen. The local economy and population could rebound, they said.

Greenville resident Liz McKeil said she would like to think her children could one day come back to the area and experience her love for the mountains, but right now they have no reason to come back because there is no there’s no year- round jobs for them here.

Margarita Contreni, president of the Moosehead Lake Region Economic Development Corp., and former president Steve Levesque expressed strong support for the project because they said it could boost the economy of a rural area in difficulty.

What we know about the proposed Moosehead Lake ski resort

“It’s hard to attract investors who want to come in and do something with this property,” Levesque said. “These people have invested money, over $2 million to date.”

The economic society is also working with the Northern Forest Center and CA Dean Hospital to create workforce housing, he said.

For some community members, like Ellwood, questions still linger over funding, climbability, disposal of demolition materials and more. She suggested another hearing was needed to explain the finances involved.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see a perfect buyer who has everything lined up with all the credit and financing before they even get started,” said Rodney Folsom, who works with Friends of the Mountain, a nonprofit that operates the mountain in winter. “We have seen this mountain open and close so many times. I think we have to give this guy a chance.

About Francis Harris

Check Also

Robots come to life at the National Restaurant Association Show and beyond |

There was a wide range of next-generation technologies on display at this year’s National Restaurant …