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Township Won’t Change Rules to Allow Campground Improvements

March 22, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

A 2007 view of the Sheard's Mill at the entrance to the Tohickon Family Campground in Pennsylvania. The mill dates from 1798. Photo by Jim Miller.

All three East Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors members say they’d like to see improvements made to the Tohickon Family Campground in Eastern Pennsylvania.

All three have said they liked a plan Travel Resorts of America had to buy the property and business on the Tohickon Creek at the East Rockhill/Haycock border and to make improvements along with expanding it, the Montgomery News, Fort Washington, reported.

After hearing concerns from neighbors, however, who feared increased traffic and noise, well water problems and large recreational vehicles damaging Sheard’s Mill covered bridge near the campground entrance, two board members say they aren’t willing to change the township zoning rules to allow the expansion.

“If they can develop according to the ordinance, then I say let them, but don’t make it easy,” Herb Sudfeld, attorney for a neighboring property owner, said at the March 20 East Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors meeting.

“There is no need to go beyond what’s already here,” Sudfeld said, giving the neighbor’s opinion of the plan: “They don’t want to see this.”

Another neighbor said he already has people from the campground coming onto his property.

With the new plan, “I might as well just turn my property into a public park,” the man said.

“We understand the concerns, but we still think it’s a good proposal,” Kellie McGowan, attorney for Travel Resorts, said.

There are now about 165 campsites at the property. Travel Resorts, which managed the campground last year and was planning to buy it, was asking to be allowed to have about 250 campsites and 50 cottages. The company sells memberships that can be used to stay at any of its sites, the closest one of which is in Gettysburg.

“I think it needs to be cleaned up. I think it needs to be better than it is today,” Gary Volovnik, East Rockhill’s board chairman, said of the campgrounds.

Both he and board member Jim Nietupski, however, said they won’t agree to change the zoning rules to allow the Travel Resorts plan.

There’s been a lot of emotional rhetoric against the plan, board member David Nyman said, but needed improvements won’t be made without new financial backing.

“I’m not promoting their proposal. I’m putting facts on the table,” said Nyman, who said he’s been involved in efforts to preserve the campground site and the historic Sheard’s/Clymer Gristmill on the property.

“I’m looking at it not being maintained as well as it has been. I’m looking at the mill deteriorating,” Nyman said. “The sewer plant that’s up there is functional. It meets DEP [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] standards, but it needs work.”

Some type of change will happen to the property, he said.

“We’re either gonna accept an opportunity or we’re gonna roll the dice,” Nyman said. “That’s my assessment.”

Taking into consideration the amount of flood plains, woodland and open space on the site, 13 single-family homes, 16 cluster housing units or 279 campsites could mathematically be allowed, Steve Baluh, township engineer, said.

That’s the maximum number, though, and not based on actual plans, he said.

“We did not figure out if you could physically fit the lots on the property,” Baluh said. “That’s the potential for the property.”

The 279 sites might be enough for Travel Resorts, Robert Bouse, director of resort operations, said, but their calculations showed less sites being allowed. Sudfeld also said his interpretation of township rules would not allow the 279 sites.

Other uses allowed for the property under the zoning rules include for a kennel, school, church, hospital, golf course, municipal buildings and farming, John Rice, township solicitor, said.

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