Owner of outdoor recreation center in Katahdin area finally moves forward with plans to develop 280-acre plot into activity center, hotel, artists’ village and more .
Matthew Polstein, owner of the New England Outdoor Center, originally laid out development plans for Hammond Ridge, a plot of land near Millinocket in the unorganized territory of Penobscot County, in 2007.
Penobscot County Commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve the proposal, which 14 years ago was valued at $ 65 million. Taking inflation into account, that would cost almost $ 85 million today.
The commissioners agreed to send a letter to the Spatial Planning Commission, which approves development in the unorganized territory, saying it fully supports the proposal.
Polstein’s revised plans call for the construction over the next 30 years of a business center with a brewery, event center, hotel, artists’ village, private residences and employee housing.
Work has already started on the activity center, which is slated to open in December, Polstein said on Tuesday. It is designed to be similar to a lodge at ski resorts.
It can be used in the winter by snowmobilers and cross-country skiers who use the trail system that Polstein has built over the years. In the summer it could be used by mountain bikers and hikers using these trail systems.
The event center, which could open as early as next year, could host weddings, family reunions and large gatherings. Polstein said he could start selling residential lots, all with a view of Katahdin and Millinocket Lake, starting next year.
While the proposal was adopted in 2007 and presented by local authorities as a plan that would revive the struggling economy of the Millinocket region, the financial crisis that hit the country over the next five years and the slow recovery of the economy. Maine prevented Polstein from moving forward, he said. Tuesday.
One thing that has changed, he said, is the need for on-site employee housing. In 2007, there was cheap housing available in Millinocket, Polstein said. This is no longer the case as houses that could have been used to house employees have been converted into guesthouses or other short-term rental units.
Polstein told commissioners he hoped development over the years would add to the county’s tax base for unorganized territory over the next three decades.
He said he was working with the town of Millinocket on the cost of emergency services. The road network in the development would be private and the county – which serves as the municipal government for the unorganized territory – would not need to maintain it, Polstein said.