Northfield’s Planning Board in Massachusetts meetings between July and October 2019 proved to be contentious, with residents raising concerns over the proposed Moody Center campground’s lighting, noise, and traffic.
Despite these objections, the board granted the campground’s special permit, leading to an appeal filed by nearby residents in Franklin County Superior Court.
Judge Michael Callan ultimately dismissed the case in May 2021, allowing the proposed campground on Pierson Road to move forward.
While the project’s permit is now approved, the installation of a septic system will limit occupancy to 78 overnight guests.
Engineers Jon and Bill Sieruta presented septic system designs to the Board of Health in March, accommodating two people per unit for each of the 39 buildings, which include 12 cabins and 27 “large furnished tents.” Additionally, the conference center can host 56 people.
Board of Health member Ruth Potee stated that the Planning Board did not note the number of occupants during deliberations in 2019.
However, Board of Health Chair David Balk noted that the septic system handles a limited amount of sewage, which restricts occupancy based on the septic design.
The 76-acre campground along Pierson Road is planned for seasonal use, and the septic tanks are designed for year-round use to comply with state building codes.
As a result, the Board of Health has not defined the seasonal period, as the current septic plans can withstand winter conditions.
Should the campground owners wish to expand occupancy, they will have to review the septic design with the Board of Health and gain approval from the building inspector.
Other provisions to the septic permit include written approval for water access from the Grandin Water District, a contract with a septic company for maintenance and emergency services, and a determination of applicability for stormwater runoff from the Conservation Commission.
Board of Health member Kathy Bridges noted that putting these provisions in writing for everyone to see helps avoid issues during inspections.
Water access is critical in septic planning, and the Board of Health found no specifics of water plans in past documents or Planning Board meeting minutes.
Board of Health member Alison Wahlstrom pointed out that if the campground is full and everyone flushes the toilet simultaneously, it would increase water usage beyond what the septic system is designed to handle.
During a March 29 meeting, the Conservation Commission requested that The Moody Center file a request for determination of applicability or a notice of intent to review stormwater contamination from the parking lot and any wetland concerns.
However, the emailed plans for the campground sent by Clockwork Architecture’s principal architect, Christian Arnold, were insufficient for the determination of applicability.
Once the appropriate paperwork is submitted, the Commission will decide if the campground requires any wetland or stormwater management and what these requirements will be.
The Moody Center President James Spencer and Christian Arnold declined to comment when reached by a local report by phone regarding a new timeline for the project and a possible opening date. The campground’s rates are expected to be approximately $125 a night.
The Moody Center’s campground proposal and permit highlight the challenges facing private campground owners and operators in the area.
Local governments must balance the economic benefits of these ventures with the concerns of nearby residents over potential noise, traffic, and environmental impacts.
The Moody Center’s approved permit and septic system design may serve as a blueprint for future private campground projects, providing a roadmap for developers to navigate local regulatory processes and minimize their impact on the surrounding community.