GREENVILLE – More than a dozen residents and property owners urged state regulators on Wednesday to once again reject a developer’s plan for a subdivision on the shores of Moosehead Lake.
For the second time in a little more than a year, developer and timberland owner Hank McPherson of Hermon is appealing to the Land Use Regulation Commission to rezone land he owns in the town of Beaver Cove for a residential subdivision.
And for the second time, McPherson’s plan ran into considerable opposition from local residents despite the developer’s attempts to address criticisms of his earlier plan.
“There is a great deal that I am afraid we are going to lose,” said Alfred Stola, whose family owns one of the original Beaver Cove camps. “As soon as that development goes in, the wildlife and everything will change. And there is no need for it.”
McPherson is petitioning LURC to rezone 271 of the more than 1,700 acres of forestland he owns on Burnt Jacket peninsula for a 31-lot subdivision. McPherson’s current proposal contains less than half the number of house lots he sought in a plan that was resoundingly rejected by the commissioners last year.
In addition to reducing by more than half the number of house lots, McPherson moved the development closer to existing houses and commercial operations and made other changes aimed at limiting the subdivision’s impact on wildlife and scenery.
But speakers at Wednesday’s public hearing, held at Greenville High School, expressed concerns about the development’s effects on moose, loons and other wildlife, on recreational access to the lake and forests, and on the peaceful existence that brought many to Beaver Cove.
Opponents also said they feared that the plan is only a stepping stone to a much larger development just outside Beaver Cove. Several speakers said McPherson should outline his long-term plans through a lake concept plan, which is typical for much larger projects such as Plum Creek Timber Co.’s plans for nearly 1,000 house lots and two resorts in the Moosehead region.
“I’m not opposed to development, I’m just very concerned that this is just a first stage to full development of the Burnt Jacket peninsula,” said Linda Klein, a Beaver Cove property owner.
McPherson makes no secret of the fact that he would like to one day build more houses – perhaps as many as 150 – on Burnt Jacket peninsula, which is located on Moosehead Lake’s eastern shore between Greenville and Lily Bay State Park.
But speaking after the hearing, McPherson said that if LURC approves his current plan, he will sit down with local property owners to work out a development plan that would gain community support. He is also confident that most residents would be pleased with the subdivision he is proposing.
“I think it’s pretty evident that everybody knows what I’d like to do, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get it,” McPherson said with a laugh.
That openness won McPherson points with at least one speaker Wednesday night. Jack Bair, a Beaver Cove selectman, credited the developer for holding numerous meetings with local property owners.
While the town’s official position is neutral, Bair said he wanted the commissioners to understand that not everyone in town opposes the Burnt Jacket development. And from his personal point of view, Bair said he was uncomfortable with people who own property in Beaver Cove trying to turn others away now.
“Everybody talks about all of the grandeur they have … it’s peaceful, quiet and so on and so on. And yet they want to lock what they have up for themselves,” said Bair, the only speaker to indicate at least some level of support for McPherson’s plan.
That statement generated a response from Greenville resident Christina Pirtham Liros, who said she wants to ensure that other people who don’t own lakeside houses, like herself, can still enjoy Moosehead.
“I don’t want to lock it up. I want to keep it open to everybody who wants to come here,” Liros said. “The people who want to lock it up are the people who want to develop it.”
LURC will continue hearing testimony from officially recognized intervening parties today at Greenville High School beginning at 8:30 a.m. The meeting is open to the public.