Roxanne Quimby development stirs controversy

6:42 PM, Nov 8, 2010   |    comments
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WILLIMANTIC, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Noted conservationist Roxanne Quimby stunned neighbors in this small Piscataquis County town when it became known that she was planning a 15-lot subdivision around Greenwood Pond.  Her neighbors say she had led them to believe that she would put her land in a conservation easement.

The camp owners actually sought Quimby out when they first learned that a paper company would sell the land.  They were delighted when she announced that she would purchase the 142 acres.  They wanted to protect the land from development permanently.

"We are hoping to initiate a cooperative conservation effort for the area surrounding Big Greenwood Pond," wrote Quimby's agent in 2004.  "We invite you to participate in order to protect the area and ensure that it remains unspoiled. We are interested in learning about any steps you may have already taken to prevent any future development. If you haven't done so, we would like you to consider donating an easement on your camp to a land trust in exchange for Roxanne doing the same for her property. "

One neighbor, Joe Walters told NEWS CENTER that he felt pressured into putting his 200 acres into such an agreement.  He said that he intended to do it, but it was expensive and the timing was bad. He said he felt "uncomfortable" with the way the situation was handled.

Now he is among those who are surprised with Quimby's development.

Her land manager Mark Leathers said this move represents a sharpening of Quimby's philosophy about her holdings, which now number more than 100,000 acres.  "There's genuine appreciation on Roxanne's part of the value of a family cabin on a lake in Maine for Maine people."

Among her 100,000 acres were about 20 camps that were on leased land.  Paper companies would lease people a small parcel to build a cabin.  The cabin owners renewed their leases annually knowing they could lose their investment if the land owner decided to end the lease.

Quimby's practice often involved ending the leases and burning the camps to the ground after the owner had a chance to remove as much personal property as possible.  She now plans to offer these people first refusal on lots with low interest loans if people qualify based on an income guideline which is yet to be established.

Leathers believes it's better to cluster these camps in one location rather then spread them around the north woods.

The land is currently being cut.  The subdivsion goes before the Willamantic planning board in December.


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