Towns Wary of Campground Expansion

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May 6, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Amsbury, Mass., officials remain wary of the potential impacts a proposed campground expansion in neighboring South Hampton, N.H., might have on the town and its main water source, according to The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass). 

The South Hampton Planning Board voted Monday night (May 4) to accept and review the builder's application to expand the 70-acre Tuxbury Pond campground by 211 campsites. 

That vote had been delayed because the initial application was incomplete, missing sewer plans for the proposed expansion that were submitted to the state for review. That information has since been provided, but Amesbury officials say they have not seen them.

For South Hampton and surrounding towns, there is much to consider during the upcoming 65-day review period, according to South Hampton Selectman Ron Preston, who also sits on the planning board. Preston said issues like noise, trash pollution and other impacts will continue to be debated for several more meetings to come. 

"It looks like this is the first of what's going to be a number of these meetings," said Preston. "There's a lot of ground to cover." 

Amesbury officials attending Monday's meeting included Town Engineer Peter Manor, Municipal Councilor and campground abutter Bob LaVoie and Greg Roy from the Lakes and Waterways Committee. 

According to Manor, the majority of concerns raised by residents and abutters in the surrounding area, which includes Amesbury and Newton, N.H., included storm-water management controls, septic system designs for the new units, implications of traffic increases and concerns over basic public safety measures, such as fire and police presence. 

Amesbury officials raised the specter of runoff from leach fields that could compromise Amesbury's water supply, and others feared below-the-surface rock formations could cause leaching directly into the Tuxbury Pond and the Powow River, which winds past the town's water treatment plant, through downtown and into the Merrimack River. 

"Most of the discussion that occurred was on very basic elements of septic design and water safety for the town of Amesbury," said Preston, who feels the issue of expansion is as much a concern for Amesbury as it is for South Hampton. 

"This is the source of the town water – Tuxbury Pond," Preston said. 

Amesbury's Department of Public Works Director Rob Desmarais agrees with that assessment, and he's concerned the town has yet to receive plans for the expansion promised to them at the last meeting by campground developers. 

Desmarais said he was told the plans would be forwarded as soon as they were ready, but they were presented to the Rockingham County Planning Commission at its most recent meeting, and Amesbury still hadn't received them as of Monday. Desmarais also notes that the Rockingham County Planning Commission was obligated to notify Amesbury of their meeting with campground representatives, but the meeting came and went without their knowledge. 

"As an abutter, we're supposed to be notified (of meetings), but we can't find a record of notification," Desmarais said. "They told us the plans would be sent to us when they had them complete, but we haven't received them." 

Desmarais has noted in the past that the Tuxbury campground's aging septic system contributes to the largest pollution source in the river, and he said the expansion would worsen that condition if the new septic system didn't adequately safeguard the water supply. 

"This is a very significant expansion – it's 80% to 90% more units," Desmarais said. "Basically, we're adding a really large subdivision right off Tuxbury Pond, which is the main source of our drinking water. We're concerned." 

Regarding whether the campground is the largest contributor of contaminants on the lake, Desmarais said, "It certainly has the potential to be. 

"If you double the size of it and don't do a proper job of it, it certainly will be." 

A site walk is further planned for May 11 at the entrance to the campground, and the public is invited to attend. The continuation of the public meeting will be held May 18 at Town Hall to accommodate the many interested citizens who came out to attend the meeting.

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