Fees for riverside campsites a concern for Hadley landowners

  • Mitche’s Marina along the Connecticut River in Hadley. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/5/2021 11:42:37 AM

HADLEY — Before Mark Britton can have campers parked on his property along the Connecticut River this summer, he will have to complete what could be an expensive permitting process with the town.

As one of the landowners affected by Hadley’s renewed oversight of riverside sites for recreational vehicles, prompted by the need to comply with updated Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations, Britton informed the Select Board last week that he has already spent more than $800 to go before the Conservation Commission.

“We have a lot of money out right now, me and other property owners, and we’re kind of like in limbo and don’t know what to do,” said Britton, who is looking to have up to five campsites on his Cemetery Road land.

With Hadley officials looking to revise the existing 1987 flood overlay district bylaw, when the first campers were authorized, a River Bylaw Committee appointed by the Select Board is recommending annual Town Meeting institute a fee of $100 per camper every three years. The committee is also recommending each site have at least 2,500 square feet of land and that at least 25 feet exist between campers.

But bylaw committee member John Mieczkowski Jr. said property owners and those who camp on the river had been under the impression that the recommended adjustments to the bylaw would not trigger cost-prohibitive permitting.

“Some of these landowners are looking at $2,500 for application fees,” Mieczkowski said. “That’s just an application fee, not granting them a yes or a no, and that’s our biggest concern now.”

Select Board members said they sympathize that people have parked trailers on the river for many years, and the property owners, could face an expensive permitting process, and hope to learn more about the Conservation Commission’s role by meeting with members this week.

“I think it’s really out of whack right now. I think it’s a little bit unreasonable,” Select Board member Joyce Chunglo said of the permitting fees.

Board Chairman David J. Fill II said because recreational vehicles are not structures, it’s possible that the Conservation Commission could take a more moderate approach.

“Hitting them with every possible fee under the sun, just because they can, is not the way to do business,” Fill said.

Britton explained that each parking of a camper is a separate activity and he has already paid $825 for notice of intent filings. He could have even more expenses if he has to file with the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, and is also covering the expenses of sending certified mail to abutters within 100 feet of his land.

In addition to the campsites Britton will have on Cemetery Road, others going before the commission on April 13 include Lionel Desforges for eight recreational vehicles on Mitch’s Way, and Christine Wolowicz, Donald Lacroix and Chris Fydenkevez and Dennis Kicza for three separate sites for campers on Aqua Vitae Road.

Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said the revised bylaw being brought to Town Meeting is streamlining permitting, including no longer needing a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing to bring a camper to the riverside, and instead just an inspection from Building Commissioner Thomas Quinlan Jr., as the town’s flood plain manager, and possible examinations by the Board of Health and the Hadley Fire Department.

Dwyer said the other change to the bylaw proposed is abolishing the limit of one camper per lot. He also noted that the Conservation Commission acts under the Wetlands Protection Act and River Act and not by zoning bylaw.

The town for many years has not paid attention to the growing number of recreational vehicles on the Connecticut River.

“The reason people are concerned about what’s been going on there for so long is that it should not have been going on for so long without regulatory oversight, and that has arrived,” Dwyer said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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