Moosehead Lake ski resort owner appealing order to pay millions in damage
The owner of a ski resort overlooking Moosehead Lake in Piscataquis County has appealed a Kennebec County Superior Court justice’s ruling in favor of the state that ordered him to pay more than $4.5 million in damages.
A developer who has proposed reworking the property owned by James Confalone into a $113.5 million year-round ski resort says the escrow funds do little to propel the project anyway because of skyrocketing material costs and shortages.
Conalone of Florida and lawyer Elliott R. Teel of Portland filed the appeal earlier this month.
Justice William Stokes recently ruled in favor of the state on three counts, following a damages hearing in mid-December 2021. Part of the ruling requires Confalone and his company, Moosehead Mountain Resort Inc., to deposit $3,831,000 into an escrow account because he failed to maintain the ski area in Big Moose Township. The appeal is the latest move in a lawsuit that the state filed against Confalone in 2016.
Confalone has a purchase and sale agreement with Perry Williams of Rangeley-based Big Lake Development LLC, the developer proposing to revamp the ski resort property with a new six-person chairlift, base ski lodge, 60-room hotel and other features. The agreement has been extended 15 times over the last three and a half years, Williams said earlier this week.
Williams and James W. Sewall Co., which is handling permitting for the project, are awaiting a Maine Land Use Planning Commission public hearing before they can finalize the purchase of the land. The hearing has not been scheduled. The planning commission must grant approval on a development permit before they can begin construction.
During the Piscataquis County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, County Manager Michael Williams asked about the impact of the state’s lawsuit on the developer’s plans.
“So far, very little,” Williams said. “I don’t think it has motivated Jim [Confalone]. He doesn’t seem to care about it. At least he says he doesn’t.”
Confalone wants to sell the ski resort property, but it took a long time for him to come around to the idea, he said.
“I don’t think the lawsuit pushed him to that level. I think his age and his health got things to that point where he was finally ready. A lot of people approached him wanting to buy it and he didn’t want to sell it. He just loves his land.”
The nearly $4 million that a justice ordered Confalone to put into an escrow account to restore the property that has fallen into disrepair won’t open the ski resort, Williams said. It can’t open and be accessible to the public until there is infrastructure, a sewer system, bathrooms and other necessities in place, he said.
The ski resort also needs many visitors to keep it open in the long term, he said. The location is too far of a drive for people visiting from the southern part of the state or from farther away, so it needs the other proposed amenities to thrive.
After Stokes’ ruling, Matthew Warner of Preti Flaherty in Portland, one of the lawyers representing intervener Piscataquis County, said Confalone’s chances of success are next to none if he appeals.