ANDOVER – This western Maine community near the famed Appalachian Trail may soon find itself playing host to millionaires and large-scale investors as a major subdivision is planned in Gardiner Brook Valley.

MaineVest LLC, a company registered in Goffstown, N.H., has purchased 5,398 acres from International Paper and proposed a subdivision with nine lots ranging from 500 to 855 acres. The land represents a little more than 14 percent of Andover’s 37,549 acres.

The move may signify a new era of development for a state already struggling to grapple with housing booms on the coast. Project engineer Tom DuBois of Main-Land Development in Livermore Falls admitted Monday that this proposal includes larger lots than any he has ever worked on.

“We’re seeing people trying, I think, to broaden market conditions,” he said shortly after a public hearing on the subdivision at the Andover town hall Monday night. Part of the appeal of such large building lots, DuBois added, is they offer people a chance to have “their own little kingdom in Maine.”

The land is in the south western area of the town and bounded by Route 5, Lone, Long, Puzzle and Little Puzzle mountains with Gardner Brook running through the middle of it.

Andover residents, who almost missed an opportunity to comment on the subdivision because of a town ordinance that exempts projects with lots of more than 500 acres from review, are not so sure they like that idea.

“We’re not looking forward to this. It’s scary,” said resident Ron Morin after the Monday hearing. Morin’s property abuts the proposed subdivision, and a road on his land off Route 5 is expected to serve as a right of way to the development.

About 50 of the town’s 950 residents attended the hearing Monday. Some wondered why the project already is being marketed by Northern Acres, with lot prices ranging from $395,000 to nearly $4 million.

Others asked why a Web page of Northern Acres – the address is – suggests the land be used for everything from private estates and residential subdivisions to country clubs or RV parks.

Resident Jackie Gammon said she had moved away from Andover then recently come back. “I don’t want to see Andover end up like Bethel,” she said, “where none of your kids can afford to buy a piece of property unless they leave here.”

Members of the Andover Planning Board and DuBois explained that MaineVest only intends to subdivide the land. Any building projects would be proposed by those purchasing the lots, and would be subject to planning board review. Further subdivisions are possible.

While the proposed nine-lot subdivision at first appeared exempt from oversight because the lots top 500 acres, Vice Chairman Victor Peterson said it requires review under the town’s shoreland zoning regulations. A brook, wetlands and ponds dot the land.

Andover covers

Richard Baker of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday state law requires shoreland zoning review of any subdivision that involves the creation of at least three lots over a five-year period if the land has features such as the brook and wetlands found scattered over the Andover property.

While some residents wondered about access to a snowmobile trail and the possibility of ATV use on the property, such issues remain to be settled. A company representative said a multiuse trail planned for the area will be permitted to pass across an adjacent MaineVest parcel in Newry. The 180-mile Maine Huts and Trails system of the Western Mountains Foundation is actually touted on the Northern Acres Web site as “(a)nother exciting feature of this land.”

Dubois said Monday he expects more subdivisions and developments of this size in western and northern Maine as paper companies sell off large tracts of land.

He cited the Plum Creek development proposed for 48,500 acres in the Moosehead Lake region, where a Seattle-based company intends to build a development including nearly 1,000 homes, two resorts, a marina, a golf course and two RV parks.

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