A Discussion With Stu Kallgren, of the Maine Leaseholder’s Association
The Maine Leaseholder’s Association was formed in 1990 to address the concerns of leaseholders in the State of Maine, and Stu Kallgren has served as its president since 1996.
AMM: This might be a horrible way to start out an interview, but what do you want to talk about this month?
STU: Well, we killed or bill, LD1646.
AMM: You didn’t want it to pass?
STU: That would have been ideal but, in talking to legislators throughout the state, particularly in the southern part of the state, there are too many who don’t get it yet. Instead, the committee is going to draft a letter to the governor recommending that he set up a commission to study leasing - leasing only, not traditional use or access - just leasing. We’re asking that this commission consist of three members representing leaseholders, three representing landowners, and one member from the governor’s office. We hope to get from that a recommendation from the governor’s office that would protect everyone’s interests, the landowners as well as the leaseholders.
AMM: In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to kill the bill?
STU: Yes, in order to get this commission set up, we had to kill the bill. This is what we’re looking for as a solution at this time. Given that there are those in the legislature who simply don’t understand the issues at this time, this is probably the best way for us to achieve our objectives.
AMM: Okay ...
STU: Camp lots are selling on Little Kennebago Lake for $324,000, and that’s for a non-conforming .98 acre lot.
AMM: Non-conforming, what does that mean?
STU: That means that it doesn’t meet LURC’s standards as a buildable lot.
AMM: I see. So if that camp hadn’t already been built by the leaseholder, no one else would be able to build on that lot today. It’s worth money only because that camp is there?
STU: Exactly, and the leaseholder is stuck. He can’t move the camp, so he has to either come up with $324,000 or let the camp go.
STU: 98% of the camps on leased land are on non-conforming lots. That land wouldn’t be worth anything if the camps weren’t there. Yet the leaseholder who built the camp, and has been paying the taxes on it, is being charged such an exorbitant price because the camp is there. It’s no different than extortion. It’s also important to understand that these landowners aren’t paper companies anymore. Some of them may still make paper, but that’s no longer where their interests are here in the state of Maine. Our wood is going to Canada, where it is processed, and value is added to it, then it’s being shippped back here at high cost.
AMM: In the past, when so many of our towns and population were dependent upon the forest products industry for work, it made sense that our laws were written to favor these industries. Since this is no longer the case, do you think that changes need to be made?
STU: We are seeing an abuse of tree growth. The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and some of these other organizations, they own land here in Maine, and they all have it in tree growth. That’s not what tree growth was intended for.
AMM: Tree growth was supposed to be a way in which we could encourage our largest landowners and employers to maintain large parcels of land for the purpose of harvesting the wood to support the people of Maine. Since that’s not being done anymore, that leaves us with a problem.
STU: It does. We’re granting tax breaks, but we’re not getting an equal return for our investment. Eventually, the landowners who are non-profits are going to make their way to Augusta, claiming non-proft status, and asking that they be absolved of any tax debt whatsoever.
All Maine Matters
Vol. 1, No. 4 April 2006