Officials Grill Park Owners Over Expansion Plan
Three court-appointed planning officials took comment Wednesday night (Aug. 10) from several residents in a crowd of 35 on the merits of the proposed Coos Canyon Campground expansion project near Byron, Maine.
Roger and Judy Boucher’s campground, which is south of Coos Canyon on Route 17, borders the Swift River and is located across the river from several private landowners, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.
The Bouchers want to add 20 recreational vehicle sites and 11 tent sites on 94 acres of their land on a peninsula-like area of woods on the western side of Route 17. There would be a 100-foot buffer from the sites to the Swift River.
During the nearly two-hour public hearing, code enforcement officers Peter Farnsworth of Stratton and Bill Najpauer of Albion and former Hanover code enforcement officer John Gauthier limited comment to the merits of the project.
Farnsworth, Najpauer and Gauthier are involved in the process rather than Byron’s Planning Board due to a suit the Bouchers filed after townspeople in 2008 enacted an ordinance banning existing commercial campground expansion or future development.
The lawsuit went to mediation, resulting in the neutral panel of planning officials.
The mediation judge ruled that Farnsworth, Najpauer and Gauthier must deliberate the merits of the expansion using Byron’s May 2007 ordinance. It doesn’t matter if that ordinance is defunct.
“This was the ordinance that the lawyers in mediation, and ultimately, the judge signed,” Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said.
Judy Boucher said the judge “threw out the other ordinances because it was proven they were biased.”
Farnsworth began the session by having the Bouchers’ project engineer, William Brogan of Falmouth, provide an overview of the project. This followed an earlier site walk of the proposed expansion.
Per the 2007 ordinance, Brogan said each RV site is 10,000 square- with 12-foot-wide driveways off an 18-foot-wide improved gravel road.
Crowd comments concerned noise issues, future expansion, plans to address nuisance campers, swimmers exiting the river on privately-owned beaches and land, the number of proposed sites, expansion prevention, illegal camping, multiple vehicles on sites and more.
Citing past sentiment against the expansion by a majority, Byron Planning Board Chairman Dave Duguay asked the panel to deny the application.
Tim Gallant worried about illegal camping.
Planning Board member Rosie Susbury asked if the Bouchers are able to amend their application. Farnsworth and Najpauer said they’d have to check with the judge.
Susbury also worried aloud that the Bouchers would allow campers to put more than one RV on each site. Roger Boucher said they wouldn’t, although there is no language in the ordinance regulating sites.
Additionally, Najpauer said there is nothing in the ordinance pertaining to nuisance campers.
Others spoke supporting the Bouchers, their campground and the proposed expansion, saying it will help improve the town’s economy and tax base while providing some jobs to teens.
During deliberations that followed, the panel grilled Brogan on the widths and lengths of some sites, saying the ordinance only allows up to a 40% variance in dimensions.
Gauthier said some sites are larger than allowed, which Brogan acknowledged, then said they meet the ordinance’s criteria for waivers.
The session will continue at 6 p.m. Aug. 18 in the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse.