The owner of an outdoor recreation center in the Katahdin area is finally moving forward with plans to develop a 280 acre property into an activity center, hotel, artists’ village, and more.
Matthew Polstein, owner of the New England Outdoor Center, first hatched plans in 2007 to develop Hammond Ridge, a property near Millinocket in the disorganized territory of Penobscot County.
On Tuesday, Penobscot County’s commissioners unanimously voted for the proposal, which was valued at $ 65 million 14 years ago. Taking inflation into account, it would cost nearly $ 85 million today.
The commissioners agreed to send a letter to the Land Use Planning Commission, which will sign the development in the disorganized area, saying it wholeheartedly supports the proposal.
Polstein’s revised plans envisage the construction of an activity center with a brewery, event center, hotel, artists’ village, private apartments and staff apartments over the next 30 years.
Work on the activity center, which is expected to open in December, has already started, Polstein said on Tuesday. It is designed to resemble a lodge in ski resorts.
It can be used in winter by snowmobilers and cross-country skiers who use the trail system that Polstein has built over the years. In summer it could be used by mountain bikers and hikers with these path systems.
The event center, which could open as soon as next year, could host weddings, family reunions, and large gatherings. Polstein said he might start selling residential lots as early as next year, all with views of Katahdin and Millinocket Lake.
While the proposal was adopted in 2007 and touted by local officials as a plan that would fuel the ailing economy of the Millinocket region, the financial crisis that gripped the country over the next five years and Maine’s slow recovery from moving Polstein prevented it from moving forward, he said Tuesday.
The need for on-site employee accommodation has changed. In 2007 Millinocket had cheap housing, Polstein said. This is no longer the case as apartments that could have been used to accommodate employees have been converted into bed and breakfast or other short-term rental units.
Polstein told commissioners he hoped developments over the years would increase the county’s tax base for the disorganized area over the next three decades.
He said he was working with the city of Millinocket on emergency services costs. The road system under development would be private, and the county – which serves as the local government for disorganized territory – wouldn’t have to maintain it, Polstein said.