Northgate Resort Ventures LLC, a significant Hinsdale development company, has claimed that 317 RV sites can be tucked onto a campsite in Massachusetts without causing any damage to the surrounding neighborhood.
However, officials from Hinsdale had some questions this week concerning traffic, water supplies, sewer use, and whether the increase in the number of visitors would cause harm to the nearby Plunkett lake.
The official reviews of Hinsdale development’s plan to remake Camp Emerson were launched during a 90-minute discussion held in the Nessacus Regional Middle School auditorium on Wednesday. Others watched the proceedings via videoconference, as well as dozens of others who were present in the auditorium.
There is much more to come. At the next Planning Board meeting in mid-August, the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinions. After a formal public hearing and taking a recommendation from the planners, the Select Board will decide whether it will grant Northgate a special permit.
According to Brent M. White (principal and civil engineer at White Engineering of Pittsfield), the project will need to be granted the Environmental Protection Agency permit. A go signal from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office may also be required.
It will also need to have a Hinsdale Conservation Commission wetlands review. White was reminded by Richard Scialabba (a high-ranking Hinsdale official) that he might need to request a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Jeffrey Viner, the panel’s chair, informed White and other Northgate representatives that RV parks are not permitted in Camp Emerson’s R5 zoning area at 212 Longview Ave.
Viner held up the Zoning Board of Appeals‘ stance, stating they try not to break their guidelines. “Can we say it’s not detrimental to the neighborhood? … I would need some convincing that you’re not detrimental to the neighborhood,” he said.
White told Scialabba that he doesn’t remember the warning about the ZBA requiring a variance. He also clarified to Viner that Northgate sees the RV park as continuing use of a campground. calling the town’s zoning policy on RV parks “not well-defined.”
Northgate representatives assured that the RV park would not cause congestion or traffic problems, overwhelm the town’s sewer system, or drain water resources. The RV sites would be located at the property’s middle and back of the 155-acres land.
To improve its visibility, the current camp’s entrance from Longview would be widened. It would also be placed closer to the crest of a hill.
Furthermore, Northgate General Attorney Chelsea Bossenbroek said that her family-owned company knows what it does.
“We are very familiar with how to operate a campground,” she said.
She said that the company would keep the patrons engaged on the site without too much coming and going. She also instructed travelers to go to the property at Michaels Road, Route 8.
Bossenbroek was asked if Northgate would reduce the project’s size. She cited the need for the venture to be financially viable. She said that the 317-site proposal “models out really well.”
Bossenbroek stated that although some bunkhouses in the camp will be demolished, it will preserve other elements; the Lein family built the central dining hall that can seat 400 people for over a million dollars. A heated swimming pool will remain.
Robert Michaud, MDM Transportation Consultants, Inc.’s Managing Principal, explained to the audience how his company concluded that the park wouldn’t overwhelm local roads. His firm’s analysis of traffic and vehicle speeds was done in April. However, the numbers were adjusted upward to account for summer travel and a decrease in volume due to the pandemic.
Michaud stated that every Friday night, Longview Avenue and Michaels Road would witness on average an additional RV or car per minute and not “a platoon of vehicles charging to go up there.”
Michaud’s view led James Sullivan, an abutter to the property, to push back.
He inquired about the handling of the extra road traffic. He also said that they are “changing the dynamic of that whole neighborhood with the traffic alone.”
In addition, a small group of Hinsdale residents has shaped a campaign to defeat the application, citing concerns similar to those voiced at Wednesday’s meeting.
Ray Bolduc, a Select Board Member, stated that large vehicles might not be safe at Michaels Road and Route 8. The small lakefront property that Camp Emerson owns would be passed by traffic on Michaels Road. This raised questions about the future use of this site as well.
Bossenbroek admitted that Northgate might encounter operational issues due to the marina’s limited size and parking. According to the June special permit application, the company had not yet decided whether to use it. Bossenbroek also stated that parking is a primary concern and would have to be taken care of and “would be extremely limited.”
What lies ahead
Local officials tried to assure residents that the town would review the proposal seriously. Scialabba, who chairs both the Select and Planning boards, stated that the city was doing all it can to ensure the best possible outcome.
Robert Graves, a town administrator, stated that “we want to be as open and transparent as possible.”
He also said that residents could comment on the project by sending emails to [email protected] The materials received will be aggregated in posts to the Select Board’s page on the town website.
The next Planning Board meeting will be held on Aug. 16. However, the date could change.