Campground Expansion Dispute Drags On
Barbara Holton, proprietor of the Tispaquin Family Campground near Middleboro, Mass., reappeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals Oct. 25, following up on her request for the town to permit her 111 campsites as opposed to the 57 she is currently approved for, the Middleboro Gazette reported.
The request is the latest move in a decades-long dispute between the campground owner and the town over the number of campsites the Holton property should have. The issue has also been through the courts and before the Board of Selectmen acting as the Board of Health.
A judge has upheld the town's position that the campground's septic system can only handle the 57 sites for which the campground was permitted by the zoning board nearly 30 years ago.
At a previous hearing back in August, the zoning board granted Holton a two-month period to update her septic system in accordance with local and state guidelines and attain appropriate documentation from the Board of Health to confirm her compliance.
Holton began the continued hearing last week with a written review of the events surrounding the dispute from her perspective.
"At the last hearing on August 23rd, I was unaware that I would run into another brick wall as I believe I had proper documentation for this board to approve the allowance of the 111 campsites at Tispaquin Family Camp area," she said. "Then I was told the rules have changed, that I needed to have everything done with letters from the building commissioner and the Board of Health that I am now in compliance and then the board would issue the permit."
Holton, who has been operating her campground without a license from the health board for a number of years because she increased the number of sites without permission, contended that the board's request for the confirmation letters is a "rule for one," referencing a permit issued to the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground in Middleboro which also added campsites without pre-approval from the town.
"KOA uses their septic systems with a Title V approval. They had a failure – they had to replace and repair their system. Without that failure, they'd still be using the same systems they've had forever," she said.
Holton maintains, as she stated in August, that her campground, being in existence for as long as it has, should be grandfathered into approval as she believes the KOA campground would have been had it not been for their failure.
At the August meeting, zoning board members said that when Holton increased the number of campsites, she became subject to current state regulations regarding septic systems.
"Remember there were people here in 1984 that wanted to throw me out of town with your help?" Holton said in reference to her neighbors. "Well, they're not here now because I respected them and now they respect me. They know that I didn't destroy their neighborhood. I said I was going to make a beautiful place and not bother them and that's what I did."
Holton expressed a lack of faith in the board that if she invests in the necessary update to her septic system that they will in fact issue the permit.
"The system will go in, but for me to spend that kind of money and with no assurance that I'm going to have a permit. I still think it's silly. It didn't work for the KOA that way," she said. "They still have part of their plan that has to be completed by February 2013, so why did they get a permit from you?"
Zoning board member Joseph Freitas Jr. responded to Holton's address.
"If you were a new business coming into town and you brought back an ongoing concern and you wanted to do the same thing that you want to do right now from day one, you would go through the same process," he explained. "You would petition the board for 'X' amount of time. The governing boards of the town (would) direct you in what it will take to get you to where you want to be. You would facilitate those requests. They would then sign off on them and then you would satisfy the requests of all the boards."
Freitas went on to tell Holton that once all requests were satisfied, that hypothetically "there would be no reason not to grant the permit."
"There were some conversations at the last meeting in regards to ongoing litigations that we didn't want to engage in or talk about it, and I still don't want to talk about it," Freitas said in reference to the fact that a Superior Court judge has ordered a receiver to take over the campground and reduce the number of sites to 57. "But I would like to request to the chairman of this board that we actually get a letter from our legal counsel that we could, in effect, approve a permit for a number of sites greater than what is being in receivership now."
"I agree," said Zoning Board Chairman Bruce Atwood. "At least we'll know how many (campsites) we can approve."
Holton also expressed her beliefs that Health Officer Jeanne Spalding has thwarted the permitting process for the Tispaquin Family Campground on more than one occasion.
"One of my Title V's has been changed from a pass to a fail. Right now (Spaulding) is saying she did not do it. She said the people that did the Title V, they changed it, but when I talked to the DEP he said that she is the only one who has the authority to change it," Holton said.
"She's also made several calls to my engineer to discourage him in (his) letter that I submitted with my application. She called him and told him that the email was false and that he needed to retract it," she claimed.
"That same engineer wrote the letter to say that the KOA was being compliant and you accepted that because he's an engineer and you believed him but now Jeanne doesn't want you to believe what he wrote about me."
Similar to the outcome of her August hearing, Holton was given a two-month continuance and is to return to the zoning board on Jan. 24, 2013, with a letter from the board of health confirming that a new septic system has been installed on the property in accordance with local and state guidelines.