TREMONT — On April 14, the Tremont Board of Appeals could revoke the Planning Board’s Nov. 1, 2021, approval of Kenya and James Hopkins’ second campground project called Acadia Wilderness Lodge (AWL).
Over the last few months, an administrative appeal was filed by Concerned Tremont Residents (CTR) to reverse the Planning Board’s decision to approve AWL.
A Board of Appeals meeting was held last Thursday where both AWL and CTR attorneys provided evidence to validate their arguments about moving forward with the campground.
The first application, for what is now called Acadia Yurt Village, was approved by the Planning Board in 2019 for an 11-yurt campground on Kelleytown Road. The second application for a larger campground with 55 tent sites and yurts (AWL) was approved by the Planning Board in November. Though the Hopkinses have claimed the campgrounds are two separate entities because of their different names, they will have shared amenities and are under the same ownership and management.
The Hopkinses have been moving forward with both campgrounds and are currently booking campsite reservations for this summer.
During the Board of Appeals meeting, attorney Amy Tchao of Drummond Woodsom, on behalf of CTR, claimed that mistakes she said were made by the Planning Board, fall into two categories.
The first is that the Planning Board failed to make certain findings necessary in the application to determine whether their standards were met when the board approved AWL. The second is that the Planning Board “improperly deferred satisfaction of required standards to a future date through the imposition of approval,” which the CTR believed was inappropriate, and, in some cases, did not delegate their authority to different bodies, such as the code enforcement officer or to the applicant itself.
Tchao said the findings were based on both AWL’s old and new applications, which she says did not fulfill Tremont’s land use ordinance and site plan review standards.
According to Tchao, the Planning Board’s approval of the first application, which she claims has emergency access issues, failed to consider traffic circulation issues, improperly delegated the authority for AWL to manipulate their second application’s boundaries after their approval, failed to find if the second proposal was “light” or “heavy” commercial use and also failed to apply an applicable version of the LUO when considering AWL’s second application.
She further explained that the Hopkinses failed to demonstrate that their second application’s proposal would maintain “safe and healthful” conditions on Route 102 and failed to provide an adequate water system to supply the property.
Despite the CTR’s claims, attorney Andy Hamilton of Eaton Peabody, who is representing the Hopkinses, opposed these claims. Hamilton said that the CTR appeal failed to provide proof that the Planning Board decision was unsupported by competent evidence and was contrary to the specific Tremont ordinance provisions cited in the CTR appeal.
“What I find objectionable is that Drummond Woodsom’s approach with CTR seems [to be] that you have to believe in conspiracy to find that the Planning Board did their job,” Hamilton said.
The Hopkinses, who were also in attendance, then presented a number of slides in opposition to the CTR claims, stating that the Planning Board held seven public meetings reviewing the over 250-page application as well as submissions by town-hired peer reviewers and robust public testimony over a six-month period before ultimately approving the application.
Hamilton also pushed back on the issue of water supply saying that AWL satisfied “the condition for water supply, because the record states that the development is provided with an adequate water supply.”
Board of Appeals members Joanne Harris, Marcia Madeira, Richard Cohen, Melvin Atherton, Michael Hays and David Campbell postponed their decision until the board’s next meeting, which will take place on Thursday, April 14, at 5 p.m. via Zoom.
If the Board of Appeals finds that the Planning Board made an error in approving the application, it will be sent back to the Planning Board for additional review.