The notice was issued to Worcester Holdings in July after an inspection found clear violations in their Flagpole View Cabins. Worcester officials said they are working with the Department of Environmental Protection to “fully resolve the potential issue.”
“During the inspection, employees found 54 cabins, an office building, a take-out restaurant, parking lots, and access roads that were either under construction or completed,” the state’s Department of Environmental Protection said in a July 15 notice. More than three acres had been stripped, graded, and not re-vegetated at the time of inspection.”
The state conducted the inspection earlier in July after receiving a complaint. Aerial imagery found “much of this area has been stripped and graded since at least 2019. There were no erosion and sediment controls in place at the time of the inspection.”
DEP inspectors said they found no evidence of a permit for the Worcester Holdings cabin project in their records. However, the company has applied for a government environmental permit for a similar project at another site. The DEP notice described this permit as pending.
Worcester also received permits from the town of Columbia Falls to build two sets of cabins.
As part of its notice of violation, the state ordered Worcester Holdings to install temporary corrosion controls within 30 days. An order was also issued “to stop all building work unless and until all appropriate permits are obtained from the Department.” The DEP said Worcester can apply for a permit “after the fact” or “submit a restoration plan to remove and fill in all unapproved structures.”
Rob Worcester, co-founder and managing director, said in a prepared statement that the company “reached out immediately” when it learned of the alleged breach.
“Worcester Holdings respects the important oversight role of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and we intend to be in full compliance at all times. We believe that Worcester Holdings has acted in good faith and truth, and has followed all appropriate state and municipal guidelines for the size and scope of this project. We are actively working With the Environmental Protection Department for a complete solution.”
Worcester Holdings declined to answer detailed questions about the cabins.
One of the cabins’ websites says they were “built with the intent of our guests watching the progress of Freedom Park’s futuristic flagpole.” The accompanying takeout restaurant includes a “Give Me Liberty” lunch and dinner menu, and an “Old Glory Breakfast Special,” according to the website.
The “Flagpole of Freedom Park” is a 2,500-acre development with a patriotic theme that the Worcesters want to build in Little Columbia Falls. The family also runs the nonprofit Wreaths Across America.
As envisioned by the Worcesters, the park would have eight miles of loop roads, six miles of gondolas, several villages, campgrounds, a hotel, theatre, restaurants, and shops. The focal point will be a 1,776-foot-tall flagpole, 300 feet taller than the top of the Empire State Building.
Developers hope that the Flagpole of Freedom Park will attract 6 million visitors and employ 5,000 people.
The Maine Monitor reported earlier this year that Worcester Holdings has benefited from a newly passed state law that would steer the project away from a statewide planning review committee and could put that responsibility in the hands of Columbia Falls, which has less stringent planning and approval. to treat.
Before this planning process can begin, Columbia Falls voters will need to approve the annexation of property to build the development. After that, the project will need to be approved by city officials. No date has been set for a vote on annexation, and Worcester officials told the town this month that it did not need to pursue annexation “as quickly as we thought.”
However, Columbia Falls continues to gather information about annexation to help voters decide. “The selectors want assurance that we are going forward to collect all the information required for reporting. There will be no town pause,” said Jeff Green, a Columbia Falls selection member.
Also, state forestry officials said in July that Wooster and another landowner were fined for not obtaining a permit to cross a stream on a road they were building in Jonesboro. They also caused sediment to be discharged into a stream, violating regulations for logging activities in the beach areas.
Worcester has agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty for the violations in Jonesboro, according to a news release from the Maine Forest Service. Paul Gaddis, a licensed forester of East Machias, agreed to pay a $2,500 civil fine for the violations.
The statement said Wooster and Gaddis “take full responsibility” for the violations. “Had Worcester and Gaddis appropriately planned and executed harvesting and stream crossing to comply with regulations, problems could easily have been avoided,” the forestry statement read.