Second-home development booming

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NEWRY – New home construction continues to explode here in the hot, second-home market centered on Sunday River Ski Resort. Land subdivision proposals kept Newry planners busy last year, with 500 new residential lots considered.

“The town was buzzing with construction activity throughout the normal building season and beyond,” Selectmen’s Chairman Steve Wight said recently.

Newry and Bethel Code Enforcement Officer Richard St. John of Harrison said late Friday afternoon that he expects the boom to continue this year in both towns at a greater pace.

Last year, St. John said, Newry planners approved 240 single-family homes and condominium units. This year, they’re working on a proposed 61-lot housing project, eight lots on Mount Will, and six lots on Bear River.

Waiting in the pipeline are Les Otten’s proposed 70-lot subdivision on 173 acres and Bill Dunton’s proposed 81-lot subdivision on 300 acres. Both are residential housing projects located off Sunday River Road.

St. John said that neither has gone before the Planning Board yet, but public informational meetings will be held this week on both at the Phoenix House Restaurant opposite Sunday River Ski Resort’s South Ridge Base Lodge. Otten’s is at 6 p.m. Monday, and Dunton’s, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Because of their size and locations, both must also be reviewed the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Site Location of Development Law and under the Natural Resources Protection Act. The public meetings are required by DEP.

One subdivision already approved by Newry planners, St. John said, is Sunday River Skiway Corp.’s 36-unit residential condominium development adjacent to the resort’s Tempest Ski Trail. That trail is in the White Cap Base area.

Earlier this month, the resort filed with the DEP a Site Location of Development Act permit, which involves a process that could take six months to a year to complete, St. John said.

The spike in housing and development has boosted Newry’s total taxable value to $313,137,236 at 100 percent valuation. In turn, it produced a tax rate of $8.30 per $1,000 of valuation, the lowest in the region, Wight said.

The growth surge has also led town officials to revise the comprehensive plan, which has been accepted by the State Planning Office.

Initiatives, Wight said, have additionally been started to study neighborhood densities and plans to implement directives in the comprehensive plan.

Others, include road intersections that were studied for redesign to improve traffic flow, and road specifications that were revised at a special town meeting “to deal with the realities of new subdivision layouts,” Wight said.

In 2004, St. John said planners approved 85 single-family homes, 16 in 2003.

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