Campground Owner, Town Still in a Stalemate
Tispaquin Family Campground owner Barbara Holton has filed a request with the Zoning Board of Appeals in Middleboro, Mass., for a special permit that would more than double the number of sites at the campground.
Holton, who is facing legal action for failing to reduce the number of sites as required by a court order, said she filed with the zoning board after the KOA Kampground, also in Middleboro, successfully petitioned for an increase in sites last month, the Middleboro Gazette reported.
"The KOA got a permit, no problem," Holton said. "If it's that easy, why haven't I been steered in that direction?"
Holton said she believes a hearing will be held next month on her request to increase the number of campsites from 57, the number in the special permit the zoning board approved nearly 30 years ago, to 110. The latter represents the number of sites she has been renting for the last 10 years without a license from the town.
Meanwhile, a Superior Court judge has denied Holton's appeal of an order issued in June that required her to cut the number of sites by 10 a week until she reaches the 57 sites for which she is permitted. The decision came after the town requested an injunction based on the fact that Holton and her husband, Ralph, were in violation of their zoning permit.
The selectmen, acting as the Board of Health, have refused to issue an annual camping license for the campground for the past 10 years based on the zoning violation and the fact that the campground's sewage system is not adequate to serve more than the permitted number of units. The Holtons' own engineer acknowledged earlier this year that the septic system is adequate to serve 49 units.
Town Manager Charles Cristello said an attorney representing Holton appeared in court last week, after the town reported Holton's failure to comply with the order issued in June. The attorney said Holton could not comply because all her records were destroyed in a fire that destroyed two campers and a vehicle at the campground in March.
Cristello said the judge observed that another of Holton's attorneys is one of the campers at Tispaquin.
"He made it clear he wasn't interested or of a mind to issue a stay," the town manager said. He said the judge indicated he would be issuing a decision finding the Holtons in contempt of the June order, but nothing had been issued from the court at press time.
Cristello was unimpressed with Holton's decision to ask the zoning board to increase the number of units permitted at the campground. He said the KOA, which Holton noted has had septic system issues, has been working with the town to correct the problems, while the Holtons have not taken any steps to upgrade their system.
"She goes around and around on this, and it's apples and oranges," Cristello said of Holton's assertions that she should be treated as the KOA is treated. "The KOA is under (state Department of Environmental Protection) jurisdiction. They had a system that worked and then failed. Hers has never been in compliance."
Holton said she included in her zoning board filing a plan for a septic system upgrade that she would be willing to make if she is permitted for more units.
"My system has never failed," she said, noting that while her engineer agreed her system is not adequate for the number of units she has, "if you read to the bottom of the letter he says that's by today's standards." She said her system is "grandfathered" because it was installed before current septic system regulations went into effect.