TREMONT—After three and a half hours of comments from neighbors, attorneys and the project engineer regarding a 154-site campground proposed at 661 Tremont Road, members of the Planning Board decided to extend the project’s public hearing until May 25.
More than 100 people attended the public hearing via Zoom, including members of the Planning Board, campground owners Kenya and James Hopkins, attorneys for the owners and for neighbors in opposition, as well as members of the public.
To prepare for the crowd, the board, with help from town officials, established some rules of order prior to the meeting to allow as many people the opportunity to speak about the Acadia Wilderness Lodge campground as possible during the hearing.
“This is definitely the largest project that has ever come before the Planning Board and certainly the most controversial, at least since I’ve been around,” said Planning Board Chairman Mark Good at the start of the meeting. “We’ve received more than 100 letters in opposition and six or seven in support and all of those will be entered into the record.
“Reading through them, I found that some of the writers are unaware as to the Planning Board’s responsibility. We are legally bound to consider an application on its merits under the standards of our ordinances regardless of our own personal opinions on a project. Some of these letters stated concerns that, while possibly valid, we have no control over,” he added, giving an example of the future traffic impact on other towns on Mount Desert Island.
Presentations by the project’s owners, attorney and engineer, with statements from two different attorneys representing residents in opposition to the project, took up the first two and a half hours of the hearing. There was discussion with the Planning Board during this time regarding the definition of dwelling units, completion of the storm water management plan, whether the project’s plans will need to be adjusted to meet state permitting requirements, historic designations in the area and erosion control.
“We think there’s got to be a little bit more opportunity to hear from the neighbors, to hear from the public,” said Attorney Andrew Hamilton, who represents the project owners. “We intend to engage folks, not shut them down… As Kenya said at the outset, we want a project where people will be welcoming, ultimately, towards the guests that will come to this location. Why would we want to have a project where folks would not feel comfortable going to that location?”
According to rules set forth by the Planning Board and town officials previous to the meeting, the first members of the public allowed to speak were abutters of the 42-acre property. One person attending stated there are approximately 36 abutters within 500 feet of the property and another roughly 65 residents within two-tenths of a mile from the site. Next, residents/taxpayers of Tremont were allowed to voice their opinions on the project and, finally, those from other towns could weigh in, although time ran out before many could do so.
Neighbors voiced concerns regarding noise, light and air pollution, water supply, wastewater management, traffic increases in the area – specifically more RVs on Route 102, fire safety, diminution of property values, impact on the ecosystem and the lack of full-time law enforcement presence to respond to the increase in activity.
“This proposal runs contrary to the town goal of maintaining Tremont as a rural community,” said neighbor Elizabeth Salvi. “Our home on Dix Point (Road) would be negatively impacted in a number of ways. Number one there would be increased traffic on a narrow and windy road that has many blind intersections.
“With limited police and first responder presence in West Tremont, I fear for the safety of me, my family and my neighbors when turning out of Dix Point… Should there be an accident between my daughter’s small car and an RV, for instance, she would lose and help would be long to come.”
Gabrielle Graham of Seal Cove noted she was in opposition and agreed with the negative impact many neighbors spoke about.
“I am the only one to have spoken so far who actually owns an RV and has experience with an RV,” she said. “Driving an RV on these little potholed, narrow, non-shouldered roads when you’re an experienced driver, let alone someone who has rented one for a week, it’s very difficult. That’s number one, the roads are inadequate.”
Elly Andrews, a resident of Clark Point Road, also spoke about the dangers of increased traffic.
“We chose to live in this part of the island because of the rural aspect,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve noticed an increase in traffic, particularly in summer. People speed along (Route) 102 and I can’t imagine having to contend with 154 more vehicles at this time of year. It’s dangerous.
“This project is so large in scope at the site visit we were able to only see a third of the project.”
Resident Lori Black kept her comments brief and ended by saying, “I think the whole thing is crazy. That’s not a place for a campground that size.”
All other items on the agenda for the meeting Tuesday night were tabled until the next Planning Board meeting on May 11.