TREMONT — Residents will get the chance to decide if there should be a moratorium on campgrounds at the November election.
Select Board members voted unanimously during a special meeting on Monday to let residents decide whether to put a six-month hold on the review of any campground applications. If enacted, the moratorium would affect any applications pending as of Aug. 2 up until the vote.
Members of the Planning Board have gone before the Select Board twice this year asking for a moratorium on campgrounds to give them time to work on amending the town’s land use ordinance (LUO). The Select Board denied the request each time and asked the Planning Board to work on changes to the LUO that could go before voters without putting a hold on any pending developments.
“The Select Board has been very willing to work with the Planning Board to make the changes they felt were necessary,” said Select Board Chairman Jamie Thurlow after recapitulating the board’s actions prior to Monday’s meeting.
“There’s things that need to be fixed,” said Eric Eaton, also a member of the Select Board. “It’s not whether or not we have a moratorium, it’s fixing the issues so we can see our community grow the way we’d like to see it grow.”
Voters approved some minor changes to the town’s LUO regarding campgrounds at the May Town Meeting. They included a 50-foot setback from all abutting property, a requirement for 30-gallon trash receptacles for all camping structures and fire chief approval for constructed fire pits.
A group of residents circulated a petition throughout the summer that asked for citizens to lend their signatures in support of a campground moratorium ordinance that would retroactively affect any applications for proposed campgrounds that are pending as of Aug. 2. The group needed to collect at least 84 signatures, which was 10 percent of the 839 town voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election. When the petition and signatures were turned into the town office, there were 177 signatures, with 168 of those being qualified.
Once the signatures were certified by the town clerk, Town Manager Jesse Dunbar called a special Select Board meeting to have the petition go before the board for certification to meet a deadline to get it on the November ballot, if the board chose to do so.
“The Select Board has to call the meeting within 60 days, but the vote does not have to happen in 60 days,” said Andrew Hamilton, an attorney representing the applicants for Acadia Wilderness Lodge, a proposed 154-site campground that was recently reduced to 55 sites. “We made good faith reductions in the scope and scale of this project and now we have a petition… There are no RV sites left in the proposal.”
Citing the recently reduced number of sites for the proposed campground, Hamilton told the Select Board that the petition, which highlighted a combined total of 170 sites between two proposed campgrounds in town, was misleading. When the petition was circulated, it was after the original application for Acadia Wilderness Lodge had gone before the Planning Board for review and had been deemed complete with the original number of sites. A second proposed campground, located on Harbor Drive under the name Pointy Head Campground, originally went before the Planning Board last year and was denied. This spring, representatives of that project, which is described as a 15-site glampground, again went before the Planning Board but was again denied for lack of completeness.
“It’s time to take a breath. It’s time to reevaluate,” said Cindy Lawson, an abutter to the Acadia Wilderness Lodge project who was instrumental in circulating the petition. “While we’re fixing the ordinance, we shouldn’t be approving anything. Let the Tremont voters have a say.”