An ambitious ski resort rehabilitation project in the Moosehead Lake area fell through because the developer’s funding collapsed, the property owner said.
The development team working to revitalize a partially disused ski area in Piscataquis County told officials at Eastern Maine Development Corp. on Wednesday that they will halt the $126.3 million project.
The project’s demise dashed plans to rejuvenate the region with hundreds of jobs and a significant economic boost. A confluence of events — including skyrocketing material costs, a changing investment climate, challenges from a community group and delays in public hearings — prompted the resort team to resign, according to regional development officials.
“It’s really unfortunate for Greenville and the Moosehead Lake region that there is now a delay,” said Lee Umphrey, CEO and president of Eastern Maine Development Corp., which invested in the project. “There really could have been a local boost, not just in job creation, but in making it vibrant and a destination while preserving what’s already there.”
The project was a major effort because it had all the components for success and support from local, state and state officials, Umphrey said.
New Hampshire’s James Confalone, who has owned the property since 1995, said Friday he was caught off guard when developer Perry Williams of Big Lake Development LLC told him in late September that he would not complete the sale.
The letter in which the developers announced the update surprised Confalone because it implied he was making claims that kept delaying the project, which he and his attorney said was not true.
A purchase and sale agreement between the two has been renewed 20 times while Williams worked to secure financing, a development permit and other logistics, Confalone said. Extensions varied in length depending on circumstances.
Confalone extended it so many times because he trusted Williams and believed in his vision to redevelop the mountain and strengthen the region, he said.
“A few days before the 60-day period expired [Williams] called me and said he couldn’t close because his lender had let him down,” he said.
Confalone did not propose increasing the price of the property or creating new contract terms, which have remained largely the same since 2019, his Portland attorney Elliott R. Teel said.
Confalone and Teel also criticized the letter for alleging that Confalone was pursuing legal action against the state. The state is suing Confalone, who is appealing the court’s decision, Teel said.
“Needless to say, there was no litigation I had entertained and we were ready to settle it,” Confalone said.
Williams did not request another extension after September 30.
In March, Confalone appealed a Kennebec County Superior Court judge’s decision in favor of the state, ordering him to pay more than $4.5 million in damages. The court has not yet decided on the appeal.
Part of the judgment, issued earlier this year after a damages hearing last December, requires Confalone and his company, Moosehead Mountain Resort Inc., to deposit more than $3.8 million in an escrow account for his failure to to maintain the ski area in Big Moose Township.
In 2004 a ski lift failed, four people were injured. The lift has not been repaired or operated since, and Confalone closed the resort in 2010. The nonprofit group Friends of the Mountain has leased it for $1 a year and has operated the lower portion of the mountain.
The group did a good job for Greenville-area residents and other visitors over the winter, Confalone said, and members had an agreement with Williams to continue to care for the area before construction began.
“It’s a shame that [Williams] went this route because we worked with him,” he said. “It’s a crazy thing and a shame we’re going to be catching the heat.”
Williams said Thursday he had no further comment on the matter.
The year-round ski area would include a detachable chairlift to the top of the mountain, a base cabin that could function as a conference center, a 63-room hotel, a waterfront and restaurant, a zip-line ride and more, Williams said during a public hearing in June in Greenville.
Umphrey said the development team will explore other sources of funding to generate interest in the project.
The approval, granted by the Maine Land Use Planning Commission in September, is valid for two years.