Tremont LUO changes advance another step   

TREMONT — Proposed changes to the town’s Land Use Ordinance (LUO) aimed at better regulating campgrounds have moved from the Planning Board to the Select Board for consideration.   

At the conclusion of a public hearing on Tuesday, the Planning Board voted to send an amended draft on to the Select Board, which will decide at its March 7 meeting whether to place it on the town meeting ballot in May. If the draft is placed on the ballot, the Select Board will hold a public hearing sometime in April. 

Since a six-month moratorium that halted all campground development was approved by voters in November, the Planning Board has been drafting changes to the LUO. Final draft amendments to the LUO suggested by the Planning Board and include minimum site size, setback requirements and enhanced definitions were made during the board’s Jan. 25 and Feb. 8 meetings.  

For the town to circumvent any potential confusion with land use definitions, an amendment was made to Article V of the LUO, which describes application standards of other land use activities. Currently Article V fails to mention recreational lodging facilities, which members of the Planning Board thought should be included in the definition of campgrounds. 

The drafted article section now reads: “Campgrounds/Recreational Lodging Facilities” and includes campgrounds in the definition of recreational lodging facilities. Recreational Lodging Facility is described “as a commercial facility containing campsites or temporary or permanent structures that are used or rented for sleeping purposes by tourists, transients or other visitors, including, without limitation, tents, recreational vehicles, cottages, cabins, yurts, and other types of shelter. Recreational Lodging Facility does not include Hotel/Motel, Home Occupation Bed and Breakfast, Individual Private Campsites, Recreational Facility, or Residential Dwelling Unit as defined in Article XI, or the rental of a Residential Dwelling Unit or of rooms in a Residential Dwelling Unit.” 

CTR members voiced concern that the size of campgrounds is spiraling out of control. Tremont’s current LUO requires a minimum of a 40,0000-square-foot area for a residential unit. For a multi-family residential unit, the LUO requires a minimum of 40,000 square feet for the first unit and 20,000 square feet for each additional unit. At this time, there is no minimum parcel size or maximum number of units per campground requirement in the LUO, but it is to be determined by the density limit of 5,000 square feet per site.  

To currently have a campground or “glampground” in Tremont, the ordinance states each campsite should contain a minimum of 5,000 square feet, which equates roughly to an area of 70-by-70 feet or 100-by-50 feet. An acre of land is 43,560 square feet. Under the current LUO definition, 1 acre could support up to eight sites.   

Proposed Planning Board changes also include a change to a minimum site size of 10 acres and the maximum density for a recreational lodging facility to be one unit per 10,000 square feet of suitable land area.  

Additionally, the current LUO for campgrounds excludes the land supporting wetland vegetation and land below the normal high-water mark when the area that’s allowed per site is calculated, though it doesn’t exclude steep slopes, vernal pools, stream buffers, easements or other limitations that are typically excluded in determining the suitable land for development.  

Planning Board members added to their draft that “the minimum setback for structures, yurt sites and the like used for recreational lodging facilities shall be 75 feet from the property lines of abutting properties, 100 feet from the normal high water mark of a great pond, 75 feet from the normal high water mark of a river, stream, brook or upland edge of a freshwater wetland, and 50 feet from the edge of the right of way of a road providing access to the site.” 

After Planning Board members Brett Witham and Geoff Young suggested reconsidering a recommendation by the CTR, a provision was added at the meeting that recreational lodging facilities located on abutting properties under the same management and control are treated as one facility for regulatory purposes. In addition, the required setbacks of accessory structures were changed from 50 to 75 feet to make it consistent with a recommendation of setbacks from abutting property lines.  

Resident Sheila Eddison wanted the board to reconsider its working opinion regarding the requirements to build permanent structures. “Buildings like yurts with toilets and showers on campsites need to require that usable land calculation exclude unsuitable land like vernal pools and steep slopes. These areas must be subtracted or excluded from the calculation since this version of camping has a much heavier impact on the land,” she said. 

A camping unit is another term not included in the current LUO’s Article XI definition that was added to the Planning Board’s amended draft to coincide with the new recreational lodging facilities term. The new camping unit term is described as “a campsite, tent, recreational vehicle, cottage, cabin, yurt or other temporary or permanent structure located in a Residential Lodging Facility and used or rented for sleeping purposes.” 

“I just feel like there were some very key areas missing as far as density, maximum occupancy, suitable land area, the consolidated ownership. Those were some big concerns that people had brought up over the last year and we felt that those were important to address. We were really hoping those changes would come from the Planning Board,” said CTR member Cynthia Lawson, who thanked the Planning Board for its work. 

New suggested LUO amendments read “the maximum number of units used as sleeping accommodations in a Recreational Lodging Facility, excluding employee housing for the facility, shall be 45 units. The Planning Board may permit reasonably necessary employee housing as an accessory use to a Recreational Lodging Facility.”  

With campfire smoke being a concern to the town, the Planning Board is asking the Select Board to do away with the currently permitted masonry or metal fire pits and approve smokeless fire pits. 

To address the inconvenience of recreational vehicles congesting Tremont’s narrow roads, which was a concern voiced by CTR, the Planning Board drafted to not allow them in any more campgrounds going forward. 

To avoid an ongoing confusion between a hotel/motel and a campground/recreational lodging facility, the Planning Board proposed a new hotel/motel definition for Article XI of “four or more rooms or areas that are used or rented for sleeping purposes by tourists, transients, or other visitors. Hotel/Motel does not include, Recreational Lodging Facility, Home Occupation Bed and Breakfast, or Individual Private Campsites as defined in Article XI.” 

The Planning Board also drafted changes to the campground LUO that included annual inspections by the code enforcement officer, quiet hours and a 24-hour, on-site manager. 

A change to the town’s site plan review ordinance was also recommended to require one parking space for each camping unit and one parking space for every two employees. 

The CTR has circulated a petition for some alternative standards to bring to voters at May’s town meeting. 

“We just felt that it was important in our advocacy for better standards and a responsibility to represent to the people who voted for the moratorium along with the people who responded to the comprehensive plan survey,” Lawson said. 

Tremont is in the process of updating its comprehensive plan, with a completion date at least a year away. Part of the work would include addressing the forum’s issues about campgrounds.  

Seventy-two percent of the audience wanted to prohibit campgrounds and “glampgrounds” until the town’s comprehensive plan has gone through this process, and 24 percent wanted the town to adopt interim standards that apply to campgrounds.

*Correction: This article initally misidentified a member of the CRT. We apologize for the error. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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