HomeTop StoriesAs “glamping” becomes more popular, Sanford may be taking a break at...

As “glamping” becomes more popular, Sanford may be taking a break at new campsites

May 20 – When Michael and Bonnie Patterson imagine the campground they want to build in Sanford, they envision large campsites that offer a view of Sand Pond through the trees, trails through the woods and a “glamping” experience that gives visitors a sneak peek of the Maine wilderness without having to completely rough it.

Their neighbors see the Pattersons’ plan as a major undertaking that would disrupt the quiet neighborhood, invade their privacy and threaten the private pond.

But the debate over the proposed Sand Pond Camping Resort could be put on hold if the city changes campground rules and standards.

The City Council appears on the verge of approving a 180-day retroactive moratorium on new campsites on Tuesday, effectively halting the Pattersons project when it is already halfway ground.

City leaders say hitting the pause button is not intended to prevent new campsites and is not specifically aimed at the Pattersons’ proposal, although theirs is the only one that has dominated recent discussions about camping in the city.

“I really believe that a moratorium is good for the community so that we can achieve better campground development in light of the modernization of camping and what we see happening with camping today,” said Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy after a public hearing this month. The majority of council members have indicated that they also support this.

A NEW KIND OF CAMPING

Glamping – a portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping” – offers amenities and services not normally associated with traditional tent camping. It has grown in popularity across the country in recent years as visitors flock to glamping resorts that offer domes, yurts, luxury RVs and other accommodations that can rent for hundreds of dollars a night.

Proposals for new ‘glampgrounds’ often spark controversy and concerns among residents about safety, noise and traffic. City officials have also had to question whether these resorts should be in the same category as traditional campgrounds. And residents of several other Maine towns have risen up to oppose similar projects.

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Tremont voters passed the strictest camping rules on Mount Desert Island in 2022 after a six-month moratorium gave city officials time to change the land use ordinance to better manage campsites. The Frenchman Bay Conservancy announced in March that it had acquired and permanently protected a parcel of land eyed by out-of-state developers for a large glamping resort near Acadia National Park.

In Kennebec County, the city of Wayne recently passed a moratorium on RV parks and campground developments to give the city time to rewrite its ordinance. And the city of Columbia Falls in Washington County recently proposed a new ordinance to separate standards for campgrounds, campgrounds, glampgrounds and resorts.

The Sand Pond Camping Resort would not be the first glamping resort on Sand Pond. Huttopia, across the pond from the Patterson property, offers a variety of tents, cabins and small houses with electricity, beds, kitchens and bathrooms.

The Pattersons, who have owned a home on Sand Pond for 20 years, said they plan to create a “heavily wooded park” with 39 campsites — 13 of which have permanent RVs for rent, while the remaining sites are open to their own RVs of campers. . The camping pitches would each be 4,000 square meters in size and separated by trees.

“We want it to be more like a state park,” Michael Patterson said.

NEIGHBORHOOD IS AGAINST THE PROPOSAL

The couple said they spent weekend nights sitting outside their home during the summer and listening to the sounds of families at a campground across the pond. They thought running a campground would be a great way to spend their retirement, Michael Patterson said.

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When the Pattersons were approached by a nearby landowner in 2021 about purchasing 250 acres with a 550-foot pond, they went to town to make sure a campground would be allowed in the area. Michael Patterson said they were told it was allowed, so they bought the land and started working on the plans.

Those plans have not been well received by members of the Sand Pond Association, which has 75 members who live within a mile of the pond. Many members have multi-generational ties to the area’s seasonal camps, and all support the moratorium, said board chairman Brian Dumont.

“Glamping is a high-profit, high-impact, high-impact business. It poses a significant risk to the public,” he said. “This is why the moratorium is necessary, so that (the regulation) can be carefully redesigned to meet the current demands of what glamping has become.”

Dumont said he and other neighbors are concerned about the impact of putting a campsite in the middle of an existing rural neighborhood. During the public hearing this month, neighbors told council members they had concerns about privacy and the fact that RVs were parked close to their properties. They also said they are concerned about the ecological impact of more people on Sand Pond.

“It’s very intrusive to the neighborhood,” Dumont said.

Michael Patterson said the state Department of Environmental Protection has indicated it has no concerns about its plans for the property and will likely issue the permits necessary for the project to proceed.

He and his wife say they will work with the city to address concerns about year-round use of the campground and are in favor of limiting how long people can stay there.

The Pattersons say they are also prepared to install fences and shrubs to shield adjacent properties from the campground.

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OUTDATED REGULATION

Michael Traister, an attorney representing the Pattersons, urged the council not to implement the moratorium and to consider the precedent it would set.

Businesses rely on the city’s published rules and regulations and don’t expect them to change midway through the process, he said. The Pattersons’ full application is currently before the site plan review committee.

“You’re pulling the rug out on the Pattersons, and it’s upsetting for them,” Traister said. “A lot of time and money has already been invested.”

But Andy Sparks, the attorney for the Sand Pond Association, urged the council to approve the moratorium to ensure Sanford’s standards take into account the “tremendous changes” camping has undergone.

“Many view a moratorium as a drastic measure. Others view it as a reflection of some form of failure in the planning process,” he said at the public hearing. ‘It’s neither. It is a legal instrument to solve a problem.’

Councilman Pete Tranchemontagne said he supports the moratorium, but not against campsites.

“It’s an old, old ordinance,” he said. “We need some time to bring this up to date so it’s fair for everyone and for future developers.”

Michael Patterson said he and his wife try to be flexible and adjust their plans as necessary, but they are concerned about how a delay will affect the viability of their project. Delaying the planning process by six months also means lost revenue for their resort and lost revenue for local businesses where campers spend money, he said.

“I’ve already spent over $1 million on this project and everything went so well,” he said. “It really came out of left field after they learned about this and approved other campgrounds.”

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