Campground moves forward with modified application

TREMONT — After more than three hours of review and discussion, members of the Planning Board decided the updated plan for a 55-site Acadia Wilderness Lodge glampground is a modification of the original application and will proceed to a public hearing. 

Located at 661 Tremont Road, an originally proposed plan for the 42-acre parcel was a 154-site campground that would include 72 RV sites, 42 cabins and 40 tenting sites. After meeting with neighbors over the summer, representatives of the proposed project reduced the number of sites to 55 permanent structures to reduce the traffic impact and transient activity.  

Concentrated to about half of the 42 acres, the updated application includes 18 luxury yurts and 37 glamping tents, a fitness center, playground, farmhouse cafe and store, and an outdoor pool. About 20 acres is being preserved for walking trails with the option of building housing on it after five years.  

“A campground will never expand into that area,” said Cindy Orcutt, the planner for the project. “After five years, the applicant would like to have the option to develop that for residential use because the abutters have requested that.” 

About 25 people attended the Tuesday night meeting, including attorneys representing both the applicant, Perry Lawson LLC, and a group called Concerned Tremont Residents (CTR), which is made up of neighbors from the area where the proposed glampground will go.  

The name Acadia Wilderness Lodge (AWL) is attached to two different Tremont campground projects by James and Kenya Hopkins. One, an 11-site campground on 1 1/2 acres with an entrance on Kelleytown Road, was approved in 2019 and has been under construction through this season. The second, located on 42 acres that abut the first piece of land, was originally proposed as one of the largest campgrounds on Mount Desert Island and the largest on the so-called ‘quietside’ of the island.  

“For the first time, we see the Kelleytown campground is linked to this campground,” said Planning Board Chairman Mark Good at the beginning of the meeting. “Why isn’t this an amendment to a campground? Why is this a new campground?” 

AWL engineer and project representative Greg Johnston explained that connection was not new. 

“It’s written in the prior application and it’s written in the current application,” he said to the board, explaining how eventually the Kelleytown entrance would be used only for emergency vehicle access. “It’s to eliminate traffic from Kelleytown Road.” 

“There’s been no proposal to merge the former campground with this one,” said AWL attorney Andrew Hamilton.  

Good asked attorney Diane O’Connell, who is working with the Planning Board on this application process, whether she thought it was two projects or one.  

“You already had a completeness review,” said O’Connell about the originally proposed 154-site campground. “I don’t think you can go back retroactively.” 

“I think it’s a separate application,” said Planning Board member Brett Witham. “It’s two different pieces of land.” 

In April, the Planning Board deemed the original 154-site AWL application complete, which meant it was pending when voters approved changes to the campground section of the town’s land use ordinance (LUO) in May. Attorney Amy Tsao argued the updated application needed to undergo another completeness review before it could be considered pending and therefore should be subject to the LUO changes.  

“To clarify, you did find the application complete back in March,” said O’Connell to the board. “This is not a new application at this point.” 

Before deciding whether it was a new or modified application, members of the Planning Board reviewed materials submitted by the representatives of AWL to make sure all required material was on hand. After Johnston explained that some buildings on the property would be open to the public, Good questioned whether that meant a change in use. 

“You mention several times this has the same use,” he said, highlighting public use of the farmhouse cafe, fitness center and the playground. “It’s not the same use you originally applied for.” 

Hamilton asked Good to read the town’s LUO under campgrounds where there is no mention of use by the public. 
“It doesn’t change the use classification,” said Hamilton. “I’d go all the way to the mat on that.” 

A motion made by Witham that the updated plan is a modification of the original application passed by a vote of 3-1, with Geoffrey Young opposed. A vote to find the application complete passed unanimously by the four voting members. Newly appointed Planning Board member Beth Gott has recused herself from all proceedings regarding AWL citing conflict of interest due to a letter she had written to the town in favor of the project.  

Members of the Planning Board then unanimously voted in favor of having a peer review done by an engineer focusing on hydrology, stormwater, traffic impact and septic. Even though there is a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 28 regarding the application, members of the Planning Board were not in favor of beginning that process without the peer review being complete.  

“To have a public hearing without all the information doesn’t sit well,” said Good. 

“I truly feel we should have all our data in front of us when we open ourselves up to the public,” said Young. “We do have a lot more buildings than we had going in before.” 

They voted to open the public hearing scheduled on Sept. 28 and adjourn it shortly after to schedule a continuation on Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. via Zoom.  

“We want to be done by Nov. 2,” said Hamilton. “We want a fair review and an efficient review.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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