TREMONT — A second request in six months for a moratorium on campgrounds was denied by the Board of Selectmen last week.
Mark Good, chairman of the Planning Board, went before selectmen at their June 7 meeting on behalf of the Planning Board to request a moratorium on campgrounds be put before voters at the next opportunity.
“Contrary to what you might hear tonight or other places, it’s not about any specific application,” Good explained during the request. “It’s really in response to issues that have been raised during public hearings and the board’s review process regarding campgrounds in general. Our town attorney recommended a moratorium during our discussions about amending campground standards in January.”
Most of the members of the Board of Selectmen said they didn’t feel a moratorium was necessary.
“Just to be clear about this, Mark, this wouldn’t affect any applications that are currently in front of the Planning Board, correct?” Selectman Kevin Buck asked Good. “I think it’s a mess and I think probably it would be a good idea to get it sorted out before we get too many more applications.”
Currently, there are two campground applications being reviewed by the Planning Board. One is for a 15-site glampground on Harbor Drive in Bass Harbor and a second is for a 154-site campground on Tremont Road.
“We know certain types of businesses can have a negative effect on property values of surrounding residences,” said Good. “Adopting a moratorium would give us time to fully consider what has become a divisive issue in the town.
“One of the purposes of article two in the Land Use Ordinance is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community. Some of the issues that have been raised during discussions in public hearings is whether our volunteer fire department, lack of full-time police protection, shared ambulance service and things like that are adequate to respond to a large increase in transient populations.”
Voters approved a few minor changes to the campground section of the town’s Land Use Ordinance during the annual Town Meeting at the beginning of May. The changes included a 50-foot setback from all camping activity, adequate screening from all abutting properties and fire pits approved by the town’s fire chief.
“Can’t the Planning Board start working on different ordinance changes that need to be done?” asked Selectman McKenzie Jewett. “What’s the point of having a moratorium right now if it’s not good until Town Meeting…It gives you a year to really sit down and really get it right.”
A moratorium would do the same thing, Good responded.
“The only problem is if another application comes in for another one, it would be round three of the same show,” said Buck.
Four members of the Board of Selectmen were not in favor of putting a campground moratorium before voters.
“So, if I hear you guys, what you’re saying is you prefer to make the decision instead of allowing the voters to make the decision,” said Good. “You’re depriving them of the right of voting on the moratorium,” Good added. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be approved. The voters might feel the same way you do.”
Board of Selectmen Chairman Jamie Thurlow said he didn’t believe that anyone was denying the voters.
“I think sometimes it’s our choice to put it to the voters and sometimes it’s up to the five of us to make the choice,” said Jewett. “And I feel like the clock is ticking right now so maybe the five of us do have to make that choice and not wait until elections.”
After a bit more discussion, selectmen opted to have the Planning Board work on changes to the town’s Land Use Ordinance and bring them to the voters when appropriate. During their meeting the next night, the Planning Board reacted to the Board of Selectmen’s decision.
“There’s two options: We can try to get something done and rush to get something done like we had to do in February and hopefully get it on the warrant,” said Good to his fellow board members. “Or we could wait and go to the May Town Meeting or selectmen may be inclined to hold a special town meeting at some point, but I don’t think so.”
Planning Board member Margery Buck noted that put a lot of stuff on the plate of the board in a short amount of time.
“If you already had a set list of changes that you wanted to consider, it would make it possible, or more possible, to meet these deadlines,” said Code Enforcement Officer Jesse Dunbar. “But whereas you’ve identified that there’s an issue with approving campgrounds, potentially, but you haven’t identified what changes you want to make, I think it would be difficult to meet the deadline for a November vote.”
Good agreed and asked other members of the board to come up with a list of potential changes for the board to discuss at a future meeting.