Board of Appeals reverses AWL decision

TREMONT — The Board of Appeals has reversed the Planning Board’s November decision to approve an application for Acadia Wilderness Lodge (AWL). 

After a month of deliberations spanning several meetings, the Board of Appeals on May 5 unanimously found that the Planning Board erred when it failed to take into account Kenya and James Hopkins’ abutting 11-site campground project approved in 2019, when reviewing the application for their second project, the 55-site AWL campground. The appeal of the Planning Board’s decision was filed by a group called Concerned Tremont Residents (CTR). 

The Hopkins’ attorney, Andy Hamilton of Eaton Peabody, said he would appeal the decision to the state court. 

If the court upholds the appeal and a new application is submitted, the recently enacted land use ordinance (LUO) standards for campgrounds should apply. 

The Hopkinses have claimed the campgrounds are two separate entities because of their different names, but they will have shared amenities and are under the same management. 

CTR attorney Amy Tchao of Drummond Woodsum argued that both of the Hopkins’ campground applications, particularly the second, did not fulfill Tremont’s LUO and site plan review standards. She also said that the Hopkinses failed to demonstrate that their second application’s proposal would maintain “safe and healthful” conditions on Route 102 and that they failed to provide an adequate water system to supply the property.  

According to Tchao, the Planning Board’s approval of the first campground application failed to consider traffic circulation issues, improperly delegated the authority for AWL to manipulate its second application’s boundaries, 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 campground application. 

Hamilton opposed these claims throughout the Board of Appeals process and said that CTR’s 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 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 didn’t do their job,” Hamilton said at a meeting on April 7. 

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.” 

Just days before the Board of Appeals’ decision, the Select Board approved a consent agreement with the Hopkinses regarding land use violations for their 11-yurt project on Kelleytown Road. 

Code Enforcement Officer John Larson sent AWL a notice of violation on April 26 regarding its first campground’s failure to comply with the town’s recently implemented LUOs that specified yurt size and number. Hamilton expressed the applicant’s willingness to cooperate with the town and a consent agreement was filed to resolve the violations. 

Under the terms of the consent agreement, AWL is required to pay a fine of $2,000 and legal fees of $2,500 to settle. In addition to fines, the consent agreement requires the Hopkinses to reduce their first campground project from 11 yurts and an office building to eight yurts. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers the town of Bar Harbor. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.

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