Housing Conservation -- An Editorial
MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, Maine A plan to preserve wildlife habitat while providing affordable housing on Mount Desert Island exemplifies what should be the future of land conservation and development in Maine. Just as there cannot be unlimited development, there cannot be broad mandates against future development.
Development will continue on Mount Desert Island, just as it will elsewhere along the coast and near accessible inland water bodies, such as Moosehead Lake. A project involving Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Mount Desert Island Housing Authority provides a good way to accommodate more houses while also preserving land for both humans and animals.
When Fred Pooler decided to move from Bar Harbor to Colorado, he suggested that the local housing authority buy his property. Mr. Pooler, who ran the Route 66 restaurant in Bar Harbor, was well aware that the island's soaring property values made it difficult for workers to find places to live. The Mount Desert Island Housing Authority didn't have the $2.5 million asking price for the 176-acres of land and big yellow house on Route 3. Maine Coast Heritage Trust was also interested in the land, but didn't have the money either. With developers submitting bids, the two organizations teamed up and Mr. Pooler accepted their $2 million bid.
Under the two groups' plans, there will be no development on 101 acres around Northeast Creek, the last pristine estuary on the island, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The estuary provides habitat for wildlife that is being squeezed out of other areas by building projects nearby. The conserved land is open to hikers and may eventually be turned over to Acadia National Park because it is within the boundaries set for the park by Congress in 1986.
The remaining 75 acres, which consists for forested hills far from the creek, will be used to build up to 30 houses, which will be designed to be energy and water efficient and will be built using recycled materials when possible.
To keep the homes affordable, buyers will own only the structure -- not the land underneath -- for 30 years. Buyers can sell the homes, but only for the same percentage of market value at which they bought the house. For example, if someone bought one of the homes for 80 percent of its market value, they could only sell the house for 80 percent of its increased value.
Enough local residents have already expressed interest to fill many of the houses once they are built.
For this project to happen, conservationists had to be realistic. "Would we like to see the whole thing conserved? Of course we would, but we've got people who work here and live here and need to find a home," said David MacDonald, director of land protection for the trust.
This model shows that providing habitat for humans and wildlife in the same area is possible. To see more of the Bangor Daily News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bangordailynews.com.
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News