R.I. Town Backs Ban on New Campgrounds
Despite the vigorous objections of a local lawyer, the Westerly, R.I., Town Council on Monday (Jan. 14) unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning regulations that eliminates the possibility of new camps and campgrounds.
The Westerly Sun reported that camps and campgrounds had been permitted by special use permit in the town’s Rural Residential-60 and in its aquifer protection overlay zones. The council’s action comes as the developers of a recreational vehicle facility await word on whether the state Supreme Court will hear their appeal of an adverse zoning ruling.
The Westerly zoning officer labeled the proposed RV resort a mobile home park, which is already prohibited in town, and that decision was upheld by a lower court. Exco LLC, headed by Charlestown developer Larry LeBlanc, had called the seasonal RV facility a campground; it was proposed for a site near McGowan’s Corners in Bradford.
Exco’s lawyer, Vincent Naccarato, said the move to prohibit campgrounds in the RR-60 zone was unfair and knocked the town’s zoning regulations out of balance.
“I think it’s the worst piece of land use legislation I’ve seen in the town of Westerly in 35 years and the reason I say that is because it’s for a special purpose. It’s for the purpose to destroy the application at McGowan’s Corner and it takes into consideration none of the people that own property in the RR-60 zone,” Naccarato said.
Another client, whose family has owned 100 acres in the vicinity of the Potter Hill mill, would also be hurt by the ban on campgrounds, Naccarato said. He called on the council to schedule workshops on the amendment to solicit input from other residents.
Residents on both sides of the campground issue cited parts of the Comprehensive Plan to support their arguments. Naccarato noted that part of the plan acknowledges the significant role that the hospitality and tourism industries play in the local economy.
Joseph McAndrew, Conservation Commission chairman, spoke in favor of the amendment, saying campgrounds contradict the Comprehensive Plan’s advisory to avoid increasing development density.
Naccarato said the average recreational vehicle campground customer is over 50 years old with an income over $70,000 per year. “They are not the degenerates they have been portrayed to be,” he said.
Campbell Field, a former town councilor and a member of the neighborhood association that opposes Exco’s proposal, asked, “Do we really need any more campgrounds in this town and do we want to have to fight this kind of battle again?”
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