Campground application to get second review

TREMONT — Members of the Planning Board are doing their best to allow due process to dictate if a proposed campground gets “trapped” by a moratorium vote. 

A continued public hearing on Tuesday night for a 154-site campground application that was deemed complete in April turned into an informational meeting in response to recent and significant changes to the application.  

“This cannot be a continuation of a hearing on a plan that is a new plan and hasn’t even been reviewed,” said Amy Tchao, an attorney representing a group called Concerned Tremont Residents, largely abutters of the property, during the meeting. “This is something that is not fully formed or fully cooked. It’s going to need to undergo a completeness review.” 

After a presentation by the planner for the campground project and an hour-plus of discussion, members of the Planning Board asked that all changes to the project be submitted by Sept. 14. The board also scheduled a special meeting on Sept. 21 to review them to determine if a new application is necessary.  

“There are several shades of the word ‘new,’” said Andrew Hamilton, an attorney representing the owners of Acadia Wilderness Lodge, in response to Tchao. “There is no way we can say some parts of this aren’t new.” 

Hamilton and other representatives of the proposed campground asked for a continuation of the public hearing that took place in April in order to conduct neighborhood meetings meant to get feedback from concerned citizens. Two more continuations of the public hearing were granted so a second neighborhood meeting could take place at which the project had been reduced to a third of the original proposal and all RV sites were removed. 

“This is how planning works,” said Cynthia Orcutt, the planner for the project. “In this case, we have had really good planning… 154 campsites just didn’t fit into the quiet side of MDI… We are now a third the size and the impact will be a third.” 

Orcutt outlined how the plan has changed from 154 sites that included 72 for RVs, 42 for camping tents and 40 cabins to 55 glamping sites with some glamping tents and others luxury yurts. 

“There are no kitchens in these units whatsoever,” said Orcutt. “There will be an ability to cook on the smokeless grills.”  

In the updated plan, the buildings have been compacted to one portion of the property, leaving about 20 acres of open space. 

“For the next three to five years, that will be retained as open space,” said Orcutt. “We would like to reserve the right to develop it as residential property… All of the facilities that were shown on the original plan are on this plan. The one facility we have added is employee housing.” 

A farmhouse on the property will be made into a three-meal cafe and the central hub for the establishment, she added. There has been a shift in focus to wellness more than fitness with an outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna, as well as a fitness center and spa. A playground and dog park are also part of the plan for what is being called a glamping resort.  

“The current moratorium captures this project if it is adopted,” said Hamilton during the meeting.  

In a presentation from Tchao, she explained how the current project was phase two of a three-phase plan. Phase one was an 11-site campground, also under the name Acadia Wilderness Lodge, that was approved by the Planning Board in May 2019, according to Tchao. She highlighted a connector road between that project and the current one before the Planning Board.  

“We can really look at this as a commercial development,” added Tchao. 

Planning Board member Brett Witham said she brought up several points that the board should consider but that he felt asking AWL representatives for a new application would discourage compromise in the future. 

“You want to present a process that allows people to pivot,” he said. “We have an applicant before us where people raised concerns and they change it… This is the process you want to [encourage]. If we determine this is a new application, then we will [discourage] that behavior.” 

Geoffrey Young, a member of the Planning Board, said without being able to see the updated plans, it was too difficult to tell what the next steps were. 

“We need stuff to look at so we can determine if we need a new application,” he said.  

Chairman Mark Good agreed that more information was needed. With a bit more discussion, Planning Board member Lawson Wulsin made a motion to have the applicant submit all new material by Sept. 14 that would be reviewed at a special meeting on Sept. 21, with a public hearing taking place on Sept. 28.  

“I tend to think it’s not a new application,” said Good. “The completeness review will determine that. This is a major change in this project, in my mind.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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