Citizens petition for campground moratorium

TREMONT— After the Board of Selectmen turned down two requests for a campground moratorium, a group of citizens has been circulating a petition to see if members of the town will vote in favor of enacting one.

So far, the group has collected about 50 signatures more than the amount required

for the petition to undergo review and, ultimately, to be certified by the Board of Selectmen.

What citizens are asking for is adoption of a 2021 Campground Moratorium Ordinance, which would place a six-month moratorium on the acceptance, processing or acting upon any application for a new campground development. This proposed ordinance would temporarily repeal the provisions of the town ordinances allowing a campground use in the Residential-Business Zone, temporarily designate campgrounds as a prohibited use in that zone and allow the town a reasonable time to consider, prepare and adopt amendments to the town’s ordinance that would prevent public harm and the anticipated impact on public facilities.

A request from the group to be on the Board of Selectmen’s agenda for its Monday meeting was sent to the town last week but was not seen by Town Manager Jesse Dunbar until Friday morning – two days too late. A faction of the group attended the board meeting on Monday anyway but did not request to speak to the board. Members of the public were not given the opportunity by the board to speak.

“During a regular meeting, the public does not have the right to be heard,” said Dunbar on Wednesday. “They can ask.”
One member of the group informed the Islander that they intend to turn in the signatures for the petition on Friday, Aug. 6. If so, depending on the amount of time it takes to certify that the signatures all qualify, there would be time for the board to place it on the warrant at the November election. Because the board is not scheduled to meet again until the beginning of September, they or the town manager would need to call a special meeting to put the question on the November ballot. “We would need one to meet that requirement for the November warrant,” said Dunbar.

Either way, the Board of Selectmen is under a deadline to put it before voters.

“Assuming the petitions are certified in a timely manner, once they are certified, the Board of Selectman has a choice,” said Cindy Lawson, a neighbor of the proposed 154-site Acadia Wilderness Lodge campground, which may be reduced to a 55-site glampground. “They may either choose to put the moratorium on the November ballot to be voted on by secret ballot or they may choose to hold a special meeting within 60 days of the petition being certified, which would be an open meeting. Since the town is already holding an election in November, it seems this would be the most logical and fiscally responsible choice.”

Lawson points out the moratorium is not about being against small businesses in the town; it has more to do with smart growth.

“I grew up in a small town,” she said in a conversation with the Islander following the board meeting. “I know what it’s like when towns get too big, too fast.”
“What we’re hoping for is for the town to put some rules together,” said Ed Davis, another member of the group that is circulating the petition. “So they don’t put something in our backyard that we don’t want.”

Currently under review by the town’s Planning Board is a site plan review application for a proposed 154-site campground off Tremont Road, one of the largest proposed campgrounds on Mount Desert Island. At the end of April, the application made it to the public hearing portion of the review. After four hours of comments, the board agreed to continue the public hearing portion at a later meeting.

The second part of the public hearing has been postponed several times for representatives of the project to meet with neighbors, who have largely been vocal against it, to try and find compromises. At the most recent neighborhood meeting, the project representatives offered to reduce the size of the original proposal by about a third and eliminate RV lots altogether. It is still not clear if they will need to submit a new application for the project. If a moratorium were enacted, that project would be put on hold.

“We would never have said a peep if this had been an affordable housing project,” said Burt Adelman, who is also a member of the citizen’s petition group.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

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

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