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Council Likely to Put Temporary Halt to Campground Development

Sand Pond resident David Dubois

Sand Pond resident David Dubois uses a prop on the floor to dramatize a 15-foot side-lot setback allowed under current ordinances. “That scares me a lot,” he said.

By Lee Burnett, Submissions Editor

The Sanford City Council appears poised to delay campground development in Sanford while ordinances are reviewed.

At a meeting on Tuesday, May 7, five councilors spoke in favor of a 180-day moratorium. That included Maura Herlihy, Bob Stackpole, Nathan Hitchcock, Jonathan Martel, and Pete Tranchemontagne. Councilor Ayn Hanselmann and Mayor Becky Brink did not express an opinion.

Tuesday’s meeting was a first reading of the moratorium. A second reading and possible enactment vote were scheduled for May 21.

Consideration of a moratorium is prompted by a plan to develop a 39-site campground at Sand Pond, which is already home to Huttopia of Southern Maine, a “glamping” campground.

Several Sand Pond residents spoke in favor of the moratorium, including Brian Dumont, who said modern campground camping is far more intense than the simple weekend-tent camping that ordinances are designed for. He raised the specter of a quiet neighborhood being “continually inundated with tourists.”

Recently, Sanford has seen a boom in development of luxury campgrounds and seasonal tiny homes. In addition to Huttopia, Purposely Lost is an eco-luxury treehouse site on Littlefield Pond. Estes Lake and the woods of Springvale may also see development proposals.

The Sand Pond development is proposed by longtime Sanford residents Mike and Bonnie Patterson. Their lawyer Michael Traiste told the council that halting review to change campground rules midstream is a drastic measure that not only hurts the Pattersons, who have invested time and money, but creates an unstable business climate. He said the moratorium would short-circuit discussions about details of setbacks and limitation on length of stay. Furthermore, he questioned whether allowing this campground to go forward would create any serious harm, a legal requirement for a moratorium.

Bonnie Patterson said that setback changes “could affect the viability of the campground.” She said studies have shown that campground residents spend an average of $200 per day in the community, which she said could produce an additional $1.2 million in revenue to Sanford area businesses.

Deputy Mayor Herlihy, who read the wording of the moratorium aloud, said a moratorium would allow the city to consider toughening requirements for setbacks and duration of stays.

“We’re not up here trying to prevent campgrounds,” she said.

Councilor Tranchemontagne said that “we do need some time to bring things up to date so things are fair for everyone and for future developers. That’s where I’m at.”

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