Concerned Tremont (Maine) Residents organized a public forum on Thursday last week to discuss possible changes to a land-use law (LUO) for campgrounds.
According to a report, a moratorium that stopped all campground development, retroactive to August 2, 2021, passed by Tremont voters in November, will expire on January 29. The residents proposed an extension of the campground moratorium, which would give Tremont an additional six months to amend the LUO.
Under state law, in municipal areas where the legislative body is the town meeting, the Select Board may extend the moratorium by six months upon notice and hearing. A public hearing to discuss the possibility of an extension is scheduled for January 20, 5 p.m.
At the public forum, municipal attorney Richard “Dick” Spencer of Portland-based firm Drummond Woodsum asked questions regarding campgrounds in Tremont.
The questions were posed to more than fifty residents in attendance using Zoom’s polling feature, and those in attendance could respond on their electronic devices in real-time. The responses will be used as input to Planning Board and Select Board members to help them determine what actions to take in the near future.
More than half of attendees at the forum said they were permanent residents who had lived within Tremont for over six years, and a majority were taxpayers. A majority of the residents who live in seasonal homes claimed to have lived in Tremont for more than 20 years. The majority of those who participated in the forum were more than 50 years old.
Of the survey respondents, 83% believed the town should have a distinct definition of glampgrounds or recreation lodging more complete than the traditional campground and tent definition.
Nearly the same percentage of respondents believed that the definition of campgrounds must be broadened to include recreational lodging, which would encompass all types of temporary accommodations that don’t have inside cooking facilities.
Tremont residents Sam Hamill said it was equally important to determine the project’s impact.
“In the performance standards, we would write about the impact on traffic, water supply, waste disposal, and community services,” he said.
He agreed that light commercial use in the LUO should also be changed.
“Yes, we are talking about campgrounds now, but what happens when somebody comes in with the idea for a dance hall or some other use that slips in under our definition of light commercial?” he asked.
Tremont’s campground standards in the LUO do not mention light commercials.
Although many participants shared similar thoughts regarding definitions, many participants had different opinions about campground acreage requirements.
There is currently no minimum size of parcel required in the LUO for a campground. Although all forum participants agreed on the need for an amount of acreage required for campgrounds, they differed on the amount of acreage required.
About half believed that there ought to be a minimum size of 20 acres. A quarter of them wanted a minimum size of 10 acres, 18% suggested other options, and 11% wanted to leave the LUO as is.
Charles Yeiser of Tremont suggested that the Planning Board should follow metrics that the residents could agree on to determine the approval or issuance of permits.
The current LUO excludes the land supporting wetland vegetation and land below the normal high water mark when the allowed area per site is calculated. However, it doesn’t exclude steep slopes, vernal pools, stream buffers, easements, or other limitations typically excluded in determining the suitable land for development.
Most forum participants felt that any unsuitable areas on the parcel should not be counted in the density requirements for various reasons.
To have a campground and a glampground in Tremont, the regulations stipulate that each campsite must have a minimum of 5,000 square feet, which equates roughly to an area of 70-by-70 feet or 100-by-50 feet. An acre of land is 43,560 square feet. Under the current LUO definition, one acre could support eight sites.
Tremont’s LUO also requires a 40,000-square foot area for a residential unit. In the case of a multi-family residence, LUO needs 40,000 square feet for the initial unit and 20,000 square feet for each subsequent unit. The forum participants felt that the appropriate campsite should be expanded to 15,000, 30,000, or even 40,000 square feet.
The current LUO does not require a maximum number of units per campground. However, it is determined by the density limit of 5,000 square feet per site. Most participants wanted to either limit the number to 10-25 or had another suggestion that would limit the number.
Tremont is working on revising its comprehensive plan with a deadline of at least a year away. One of the tasks would include addressing issues raised by the forum concerning campgrounds.
Seventy-two percent favored banning camping grounds and glampgrounds until the town’s comprehensive plan completed the process. In addition, 24% of the audience wanted the town to establish interim standards applicable to camping areas.
The majority of forum participants supported prolonging the moratorium on camping.
“If we could get enacted an interim ordinance that would last until the comprehensive plan was completed that would defer the development until that time would be good because we are clearly going to need more than another six months to get this ordinance in place,” said Ted Kleinman of Tremont.
The moratorium is only able to be extended once more for 180 days, and the forum suggested that the town could approve an interim set of guidelines within the LUO for campgrounds before the Comprehensive Planning Committee finishes the town’s comprehensive plan.
Resident Cynthia Lawson said the current LUO standards aren’t enough to protect residents of the town from future development.
“I think there’s a lot of people that are fearful of what we are advocating for is no business at all in Tremont. That is not true. Tremont needs businesses that bring something to the community,” she said.
“Now there is a unique opportunity to find what kind and how much development is desired for the future as there currently are no clear standards for campgrounds,” Lawson ended.