Tremont voters to weigh in on LUO standards for campgrounds 

TREMONT — Tremont could have the strictest campground regulations on Mount Desert Island if voters pass changes during a referendum vote on May 9. 

During the town election, residents will vote for town officials by secret ballot and will have the choice to amend the town’s land use ordinance (LUO) aimed at better managing campgrounds. 

Over the last year, with some suggestions from the community, the Planning Board has taken steps to rework standards for campgrounds. In order to have time to do that work, the town approved a six-month moratorium in November that halted all campground development. A request to extend the moratorium was denied by the Select Board just days before its expiration in January. 

The option to amend the LUO that pertains to new campground rules can be found in Article C on the 2022 Town Election Ballot. The LUO changes suggested by town officials include minimum site size, setback requirements and enhanced definitions. 

To avoid 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 town officials thought should be included in the definition of campgrounds. 

The section for voters 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.” 

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. Instead of the prior dimensions, the LUO amendments suggest 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. 

New additions to the LUO article include “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 horizontal distance 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.” 

A provision was also added to the LUO 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. 

“Camping unit” is another term not included in the current LUO’s Article XI definition that was added to the warrant’s LUO changes 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.” 

New 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 an alleged inconvenience of recreational vehicles congesting Tremont’s narrow roads, the amended LUO will not allow them in any more campgrounds going forward. 

Officials also removed currently permitted masonry or metal fire pits on the amended LUO and approved smokeless fire pits. 

To prevent perplexities between a hotel/motel and a campground/recreational lodging facility, the new LUO includes 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.” 

New amendments also include annual inspections by the code enforcement officer, quiet hours and a 24-hour, on-site manager. 

Found in Article D is an amendment that coincides with the LUO changes, which provides an option to enact a change to the town’s Site Plan Review Ordinance that requires one parking space for each camping unit and one parking space for every two employees. 

In local elections, residents will find incumbent Jamie Thurlow and newcomer Jayne Ashworth on the ballot for an open three-year seat on the Select Board. 

Jessica Bass is the sole candidate for a three-year term on the Tremont School Committee, while no papers for a three-year term on the Mount Desert Island High School Board of Trustees were taken out or returned. 

The last question (Article E) concerns the sale of malt liquor and wine at licensed establishments. 

In 1974, some towns such as Tremont voted not to allow the sale of malt liquor and wine to be consumed off premises on Sundays. Sometime between then and now, the state started issuing licenses allowing sales on Sundays in approximately 270 towns that had previously voted no. To correct this, the state is requiring each of those towns to ask the question again by referendum vote before July. 

The town election will take place on Monday, May 9, in the Harvey Kelley Meeting Room at the town office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with town meeting being held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10. 


Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

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

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