Campground Expansion Dispute Drags On

November 2, 2012 by · Comments Off on 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.

Owner’s Perspective

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?”

Board Response

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.



Maryland Campground Zoning Matter Drags On

February 8, 2012 by · Comments Off on Maryland Campground Zoning Matter Drags On 

Aerial view of the St. Mary's Yachting Center in Drayden, Md.. Zoning technicality embroils tourism establishment. Photo courtesy of The Bay Net.

A proposal to correct a “mapping mistake” for St. Mary’s Yachting Center in Drayden, Md., and an adjoining campground continues to wend its way through the bureaucratic process.

The St. Mary’s County Commissioners on Tuesday (Feb. 7) held a public hearing on the proposal and no one testified. The commissioners will hold the public record open for 10 days and then will vote on it and send their recommendation to the State Critical Areas Commission, which has the final say, The Bay Net, Lexington Park, reported.

The marina, which was formerly known as Dennis Point Marina, is in what is known as a Limited Development Area (LDA) under critical area zoning but the adjacent campground is in a Resource Conservation Area (RCA), which does not allow campgrounds, makes the campground a non-conforming use, and doesn’t allow expansion.

The St. Mary’s County Commissioners last September corrected a similar mapping error for Buzz’s Marina in Ridge. The commissioners in August voted to approve changes in zoning regulations for campgrounds at marinas. Under the regulation changes, up to 15 campsites will be allowed as an accessory use in the Commercial Marine (CM) zoning district. And, up to 20 campsites will be allowed in the Rural Preservation District (RPD). Any campgrounds larger would require conditional use approval from the St. Mary’s County Hoard of Appeals.

The issue became controversial in late 2010 when the appeals board ruled that camping wasn’t allowed at Buzz’s Marina. Camping continued there and a Land Use and Growth Management (LUGM) inspector descended on the campground in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, 2011, waking two sleeping campers. Several commissioners were critical of the action. Waterfront campgrounds were touted as an important tourism amenity.

At the commissioners’ public hearing, LUGM Environmental Planner Sue Veith said the original mapping error could have been made because the campground at the then Dennis Point Marina was in a wooded area and could not been seen from the aerial maps used for the mapping.

Veith told the planning commission at an earlier public hearing that the issue for St. Mary’s Yachting Center came up because the property is for sale and the prospective buyers were concerned about what they could do with the property.

One Objector at Plan Meeting

At the planning commission public hearing, neighbor Paul Matteau was the only person to testify. He said of the current operator, “The place hasn’t been managed well.” He complained about noise and trash from the current operator and was concerned about how a new operator would run it. “I want to know what the next step is,” he said.

Planning Commission Vice President Shelby Guazzo asked that whatever changes are made there come before the commission. Staff assured her that would be the case. Those concerns were relayed to the county commissioners at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Commissioner Lawrence Jarboe (R: 3rd) said he hoped a method would be developed to correct all other similar situations at one time. LUGM Director Phillip Shire said he wasn’t sure how many other situations there were, since the two marina/campgrounds already addressed were the largest. Jarboe assured Shire there were others. County Administrator John Savich said staff would work on developing a plan for the other marina/campgrounds.

Camping at Maryland Marina Unresolved

August 25, 2011 by · Comments Off on Camping at Maryland Marina Unresolved 

Sunrise over the dock at Buzz's Marina in Ridge, Md.

The county commissioners in Maryland’s St. Mary’s County have approved changes in zoning regulations for campgrounds at marinas.

Under the regulation changes unanimously approved Tuesday (Aug. 23), up to 15 campsites will be allowed as an accessory use in the Commercial Marine (CM) zoning district. And, up to 20 campsites will be allowed in the Rural Preservation District (RPD). Any campgrounds larger would require conditional use approval from the St. Mary’s County Board of Appeals, The Bay Net reported.

The issue became controversial late last year when the appeals board ruled that camping wasn’t allowed at Buzz’s Marina in Ridge. Camping continued there and an inspector from the Department of Land Use and Growth Management descended on the campground in the early morning hours of Feb. 27, waking two sleeping campers. Several commissioners were critical of the action. Waterfront campgrounds were touted as an important tourism amenity.

A suit against the county was put on hold to get the issue resolved.

The planning commission held a public hearing on the idea of making campgrounds permitted uses instead of conditional uses. That recommendation was forwarded to the commissioners who also held a public hearing. But during the process neighbors, represented by attorney Jacquelyn Meiser, argued that campgrounds are noisy and can impact a neighborhood. They insisted that the conditional use process provides an opportunity to log in their concerns.

The decision reached Tuesday was a compromise between the opposite sides of the issue. It removed the appeals board, and a costly process from smaller campgrounds, but gives extra controls over larger ones. The accessory use process allows the Office of Land Use and Growth Management to impose side yard and other restrictions. “I think we have struck a very good balance,” said Commissioner Cynthia Jones.

But Buzz’s Marina’s individual situation still has not been totally resolved. In addition to the zoning ordinance problem, the maps designating the Critical Areas boundaries were issued many years ago in error and the marina property was left out. There was no opposition to correcting that error; the commissioners left the record open for 10 days before making a decision.

Hoosier Campground Gets Needed Zoning Nod

June 9, 2011 by · Comments Off on Hoosier Campground Gets Needed Zoning Nod 

The Porter County (Ind.) Board of Commissioners gave preliminary approval Tuesday (June 7) for the rezoning of the Sandcreek Campground in Jackson Township so a new office building can be erected, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.

The 35-acre site could continue operating under its current rural residential zoning, but cannot carry out the improvement project unless the zoning is updated to parks and recreation, attorney William Ferngren said.

The plans call for the construction of a new 720-square-foot office building to serve the site at 350 E. County Road 1050 North, he said.

One nearby property owner voiced concern the rezoning will allow the site to become a motorhome park. He also asked if the toilet chemicals used by the recreational vehicles will be sent into the park’s septic system and asked for a buffer zone between the park and nearby homes.

Ferngren said the sewage at the site is in compliance with the law and there is a six-month maximum stay at the site. As far as the buffer goes, he said the campground has been operating at the site since 1935 and thus was there before the homes were built.

The rezoning, which was forwarded with a 7-2 favorable recommendation from the Porter County Plan Commission, will be taken up June 21 for final approval by the commissioners.

Campground Owner Loses Zoning Battle

December 23, 2010 by · Comments Off on Campground Owner Loses Zoning Battle 

Entrance to Cove Ridge Marina, Butler, Tenn.

The Carter County Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals upheld Planning Director Chris Schuettler’s decision to force CRM Holdings, owner of an RV campground at Cove Ridge Marina in Butler, Tenn., to conform to setbacks, the Elizabethton Star reported.

The decision hinged on a deck located on one of the campsites within the campground on the Cove Ridge Marina property. The zoning regulations require a  7 1/2-foot setback between an “accessory structure” and the property line, and a 12-foot setback between a structure and the property line.

Charles and Pat Middleton, who own a tract of unoccupied property adjacent to the campground, claim that the deck is within the setback distance of their property.

The board first heard from attorney Michael McKinney, representing CRM, who pleaded the firm’s case, basing the appeal on a letter received from Schuettler demanding conformance to the setbacks outlined in the county’s zoning ordinance.

McKinney said the whole issue rests on whether a non-covered, non-attached, non-permanently installed deck on concrete blocks can be defined as an accessory structure, and an RV camper can be considered a structure, as defined by the county’s zoning laws. He said the issue should have been already decided in a previous appeal, when it was decided the campground property was “grandfathered,” having satisfied the non-conforming use statute. McKinney said Carter County did not have campground regulations until a couple of months ago. He pointed out that the county attorney and a state expert could not come to a clear decision on the matter.

McKinney said Tennessee state law states that zoning ordinances must be strictly construed in favor of the property owner — in this case, Cove Ridge Marina — and that the ordinance be free of doubt and ambiguities.

“Calling an RV a structure and calling a deck an accessory structure goes far beyond a rational reading of this Carter County zoning ordinance,” said McKinney. “The definition of structure in the ordinance requires that an item have a fixed base or a fixed connection to the ground. Campers and RVs are not structures. They do not have a fixed base and they are not hooked to the ground.”

Brad Johnson, chairman of the appeals board, said most RV campers are pulled in and used for a short period and then pulled out. However, if a vehicle is hooked up for a yearly contract, no longer on wheels but set up on blocks, as some of those at Cove Ridge are, then they should meet the setback requirements of the zoning ordinance. Johnson said a structure is any construction, production or piece of work composed of parts purposely joined together.

Asked when the deck was built, Bill Loran, who also represents CRM, said in the spring of 2010. Loran said CRM submitted a plan for the campground when construction began, and have consulted with the Planning Office continually with no problems. Schuettler made the exception of the one deck in question.

Pat Middleton said that although the campground meets the non-conforming land use ruling, she would like to have a buffer and setback between the campground and her property. She said trees they planted along the line could prove a liability if they should fall on a camper.

Schuettler said the campground fits the non-conforming use ruling, but that setbacks should have been met because the campers and RVs are primary structures and the decks are accessory structures. Therefore, the structures within the setback distances should be moved.

Johnson said the one thing that violates any of the standards is one corner of the deck that falls within the seven-and-a-half-foot setback requirement. Loran said if CRM had been approached with the request to move the deck, they would have complied.

Asked if the deck was a standard design that they intended to use in the construction of others, Loran said “No,” adding that the deck was built by a contractor at the request of the RV owner, and if the owner decides to leave, the deck would be removed as well. He said the deck in question deviated from the plan he agreed to, and was not built in the location or to the specifications agreed to.

Loran said Cove Ridge Marina is a business located within an R-1 residential zone, and asked the board whether that prohibits CRM from being able to expand. He stated that when construction first began on the Cove Ridge property, there were no homes on the adjacent properties, adding that a natural buffer existed and the owners had no ill intent.

Board member Jeff Treadway, who posed several questions to the parties involved, said he was inclined to agree with the Planning Commission’s decision, adding that it is supported by the R-1 zoning ordinance.

Loran reiterated that he disagreed that an RV fits the description of a structure and a deck is an accessory structure. Johnson replied that the items in question are being used in a way that can be construed as permanent structures.

Treadway made a motion to uphold the setbacks established by R-1 zoning, that CRM be required to move the deck back beyond the  7 1/2-foot limit and move or modify two campsites to conform with the 12-foot setbacks, and to comply with the ruling within 90 days. The board, consisting of Treadway, Johnson, L.C. Tester and Curtis Cannon, approved the motion unanimously.

Afterward, Loran stated that he was disappointed with the decision.

“We felt the Carter County Zoning Regulations were very clear in defining what a structure is and is not, and also what an accessory structure is and is not,” he said. “I guess we will look at our options as to whether or not we will appeal this to the next level. We certainly appreciate Mr. Johnson and the commission’s time and deliberation. They talked at length about this. Like I said, we’re disappointed but we’ll just have to see where we go from here.”

The board also elected officers, as follows: Johnson, chairman; Tester, vice chairman; and Diane Cannon, secretary and non-voting member. Cannon also works as an administrative assistant in the Planning Department. Schuettler was authorized to appoint an alternate.

Tourist Area Ponders Campground Growth Issue

September 21, 2010 by · Comments Off on Tourist Area Ponders Campground Growth Issue 

The county planning commission for Blount County, Tenn., located on the western side of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, has put a proposal to allow commercial campgrounds of five acres or more in tourist-oriented areas back on the table. Planning commissioners will discuss it at Thursday’s (Sept. 23) meeting, The Daily Times, Maryville, reported.

The commission last discussed the matter back in July before deciding to defer until after the county general election. It’s been a much discussed topic. The Blount County Commission sent the proposed zoning amendment back to the planning commission for more discussion in May, the second time within a year. County commissioners have expressed preferences such as removing U.S. 321 through Wears Valley from the list, having camping cabins taken out of the regulations, increasing the minimum size to 10 acres and adding requirements to combat light pollution.

Previously, the planning commission recommended allowing commercial campgrounds in specific rural areas deemed significant to tourism.

The proposal had already been revised to prohibit campgrounds in the R-1 zone. The minimum size for a commercial campground would be five acres.

Campground Owner Seeks Dual Occupancy Use

June 23, 2010 by · Comments Off on Campground Owner Seeks Dual Occupancy Use 

After saying they wanted to clean up campgrounds and resorts turned into permanent housing, the Lake County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors addressed an appeal Tuesday (June 22) by U Wanna Camp.

The board agreed to continue the appeal to Aug. 17 to allow the appellant and her attorney to talk with staff and consider a compromise, according to the Lake County Record-Bee, Lakeport, Calif.

Community Development Director Rick Coel offered a compromise to extend a use permit for three years during which the owner, Teresa Thurman, can phase out permanent residents and clean up the facility for better marketing. A number of board members showed interest in the compromise.

“I don’t have a clue what we’re going to do here,” Supervisor Rob Brown said. “I don’t think we can act on it.”

In September, the Community Development Department posted a notice of violation at U Wanna Camp at 2699 Scotts Creek Road in Lakeport. In February, the Planning Commission denied Thurman’s appeal of the notice of violation. A former owner received a use permit in 1975 that did not authorize long-term use of the campground and expired in 1980. The camp has not had a campground use permit since 1980, nor has it had any permit granting long-term occupancy.

County Senior Planner Kevin Ingram said the site was never permitted for long-term occupancy, a permanent residential site would be inconsistent with the general plan, the area isn’t served by public water and sewer and the traffic and fire hazards haven’t been studied

Thurman’s attorney, Steve Brookes, said because the property had never been cited there was nothing to tell her anything was wrong.

“She tried to play by the rules,” Brookes said.

Thurman said she wants to keep the property as an RV park with transient and residential use. With that she’s able to prove a safe, drug-free environment that many veterans and people losing their homes in foreclosure take advantage of.

“I don’t throw money around like it’s nothing,” Thurman said. “I intended to buy it as an RV park.”

She also said it would be difficult for her to fill the spaces with transient occupants and that residents keep the camp going.

Coel said he thinks a permit with a timeline could give the camp an opportunity to garner the interest of people using off-road vehicles and exploring Cow Mountain. Supervisor Denise Rushing said there are a number of parks in the county that are in violation of permits and residential rules and that the county is addressing those too.

Chairman Anthony Farrington said the owners had a number of opportunities to renew the permit. “The burden shouldn’t be on the government,” Farrington said. “It should be on the use permit holder to be in compliance.”

Board Rejects Plan for Clothing Optional Campground

May 25, 2010 by · Comments Off on Board Rejects Plan for Clothing Optional Campground 

A controversial campground planned for Morgan County in central Indiana will not open after all. The property owners wanted to have a clothing optional location with dozens of campsites in a wooded area off State Road 44 near Martinsville, according to the Associated Press.

The Morgan County Board of Zoning Appeals denied the campground claim for two reasons. One, they said there’s nothing like it in Morgan County and also, they said it would lower property taxes.

“Doesn’t matter where it’s at. It’s in this county and we don’t want it,” said one resident in opposition to the campground.

Church vans rolled out the opposition, loaded with signs and opinions. A line of more than 100 people ready to speak out formed out the door of the meeting hall. It was an uphill battle for the land owners before the meeting even started.

“We don’t think, probably, this is the right thing to be in the community. Of course, I realize this is a so-called free country, but I don’t think we’re ready for this,” said one resident.

The proposed clothing optional campground in the eastern part of Morgan County is off the beaten path. Nestled inside 20 acres among the woods, it is out of sight, behind the owner’s house, but marked well enough for the curious to stay out.

The owner had proposed to offer private memberships to adults only and limit the number of campsites to 40. Basically just keep to themselves, all behind an enclosed fence.

“We have it set up to control what we can control, once we get off Peavine Road. This is not going to be a public campground, it is going to be private,” said Dale Coffey, attorney for the property owner.

Regardless of the details and arguments for the camp, a packed house of unrest had other thoughts.

“I can’t believe the large number that are here believe this is the highest or best use of the land,” said a resident.

“I don’t want to be able to smell my neighbor, I don’t want to hear him for a long period of time and I certainly don’t want to see him, unless he’s dressed for public,” said another man to cheers.

The owner and lawyer were not available for comment, but do have one more avenue to pursue if they want the camp to open – they can take it up in the courts.

Clothing-Optional Campground Plan Gets Hearing

May 24, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

The Morgan County Board of Zoning Appeals in central Indiana will have a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. today (May 24) to rule on a special exception request for the campground that Sandy Partlow says will be a private, adult only, clothing-optional campground, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times.

Partlow wants to open the camp on Peavine Road called Oasis of Chetwynd, which will have approximately 40 camping sites, she said.

Partlow said two members of the zoning board already have visited her property and both were looking at the legality of the campsite.

Kim Maynard, Partlow’s boyfriend, will help manage and operate the campgrounds on Peavine Road.

“We will allow public shows of affection, and that’s all right, as long as it isn’t breaking any laws,” Maynard said.

The couple have said they would be willing to allow local Boy Scout troops to use the campgrounds during the winter months, when the regular members are not in attendance, to enable the Scouts to earn special winter badges for camping.

The couple said their first obstacle is obtaining the proper permits to open the campground.

Kenny Hale, Morgan County plan director, said recent inspections of the property have revealed violations of Soil and Water and Indiana Department of Environmental Management regulations. Those violations will be sited in his technical report to the zoning board.

As for today’s meeting, Hale said several people have already called inquiring how to voice their opinion at the public hearing, and he is expecting a large turnout.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if you have 100 people who want to address the board on this issue,” Hale said. “But you can be sure that we will be ready for action one way or another.”

Tennessee Planners Work Out Campground Regs

December 17, 2009 by · Comments Off on Tennessee Planners Work Out Campground Regs 

Following a Tuesday workshop during which several sticky issues were worked out, the Carter County (Tenn.) Planning Board approved a set of campground regulations and also approved a motion to send the regulations along with stormwater and building codes to the county commission.

The regulations stipulated that a campground will consist of one acre occupied by two campers or more, with at least 30 feet between structures, according to the Elizabethton Star. Each individual campsite will consist of 800 square feet and meet the provisions of the district where it is located. The regulations state that a campground shall be set back 40 feet from any adjoining property line as well, and a loop or other private internal access road shall be built to all sites, providing safe entrance from a public road and exit from the campground.

The planning commission will also be in charge of approving various standards regarding landscaping, privacy fences and other issues relating to campgrounds.

The campground regulations included a ruling that:

  • Recreational vehicles and travel trailers are not to be used as a permanent residence anywhere in the county.
  • All campers are required to follow county trash regulations.
  • Bonfires (larger than an ordinary campfire or grill) are prohibited.
  • Parking spaces shall be 10 feet by 20 feet with at least 4 inches of compacted gravel.
  • Reasonably adequate lighting to provide for safe camping shall be provided as well as buffers to guard against noise pollution.
  • A one-lane road through each campground shall be 11 feet wide with no on-street parking
  • A two-way street shall be a minimum of 18 feet wide with no on-street parking.
  • All roads shall have 4 inches of compacted gravel.

Planning Director Chris Schuettler told the board that state building codes have been changed to increase energy efficiency. He added that the county will eventually need to hire a fire marshal and a building inspector to enforce regulations.

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