TREMONT — When owners of the proposed 154-site Acadia Wilderness Lodge invited the public to meet to find solutions to some of the opposition, they may have been hoping to change a few minds, but most neighbors continued to say that they didn’t want the campground.
“I’ve spent a lot of my professional life dealing with municipal issues,” said one neighbor, who introduced himself as Richard. “Over the years, meetings of this kind become familiar. A developer who meets opposition seeks the psychological advantage of asking people to come on board to help cure the problems.
“This development scheme is totally out of scale with the community and totally out of scale with the community’s vision of itself and its vision for the future and you can’t nibble around the edges and resolve that. It’s just too much.”
Around 50 people tuned into the Zoom meeting on May 27 at which James and Kenya Hopkins introduced themselves and plans for the 42-acre parcel that will be accessed from Tremont Road. Their attorney Andrew Hamilton, engineer Greg Johnston and landscape architect Cindy Orcutt, who moderated the meeting, also attended.
An application for a 154-site campground, which will include spaces for 72 RVs, as well as 42 cabins and 40 tent sites, is in the public hearing stage of the site plan review by the Planning Board. Members of that board agreed to postpone the second public hearing to accommodate the owners’ meeting with the neighbors.
Recently, the Planning Board granted the Hopkinses a six-month extension on an 11-site campground, also under the name Acadia Wilderness Lodge, that abuts the 42 acres and is accessible from Kelleytown Road. An appeal for that project was voted down by the town’s Board of Appeals in 2019.
Since the proposal was introduced for what could be the largest campground on the so-called “quietside” of Mount Desert Island, and what some Planning Board members say is the largest proposed development in Tremont, town officials have been busy fielding calls and letters from upset neighbors.
“I don’t know why you would want to advance a project like this when your neighbors are really opposed to it,” said Susan Coan, a resident of Clark Point Road, which is a short distance from the proposed campground. When Kenya Hopkins presented possibilities for the future campground, several programs for children were highlighted. “Offering the program(s) at the last minute is really disingenuous and is like a last–minute Christmas ornament you’re trying to put on this,” Coan added.
In response to many concerns, Orcutt asked the neighbors who spoke if there were acceptable levels of RVs, camping activity and traffic to which the plan could be modified. She also pointed out that the 109 letters written to them in opposition were well written, respectful and thoughtful.
“We are trying to make modifications to address the really good things you have brought up,” said Orcutt. “Is there a way to do this development so that it is more appropriate and a better project than has been presented up to date?”
No, was the response from one neighbor, who added, “that may not be the answer you want to hear.”
“Not to build it, yes, that’s the solution,” said neighbor Laura Grier. “Not having 150 campers come down a road that is already overburdened.”
One neighbor pointed out a lack of logic that was presented at the beginning of the meeting by the Hopkins group about how an increase in traffic on Route 102 would lead to it being repaired.
“As the title of your lodge implies – Acadia Wilderness Lodge – it belongs in the wilderness,” said neighbor Robert Chantwell. “I suggest you buy land in western Maine where it is indeed wilderness…We all have property rights. We don’t always have the right to exercise our rights.
“You cannot, given the logic you’ve advanced, address our principle concern, which is the existence of the campground itself.”
Orcutt continued to state the Hopkinses have a right to develop their property as they wish and are looking for ways to compromise with neighbors.
“I understand, ideally, it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “I am trying to pull out of that a way that it can be a better project, not not a project.”
Members of the Planning Board are scheduled to continue the public hearing for this project on June 22.