Hadley voters bless new riverside camping regs

Staff Writer
Published: 5/24/2021 9:05:59 PM

HADLEY — More campers will be allowed by right to be parked along the Connecticut River after voters at annual Town Meeting on Saturday unanimously approved revisions to a 1980s-era flood overlay district bylaw.

While the change institutes a fee of $100 per camper every three years, and mandates that each site have at least 2,500 square feet of land and a minimum of 25 feet between campers, multiple RVs on a site are allowed for the first time.

During the 2½-hour meeting on a humid afternoon, voters easily adopted and passed 28 articles, including an $18.06 million municipal budget. They also approved Community Preservation Act spending that will create an emergency rental assistance program for people affected financially by COVID-19.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said the revised bylaw brings Hadley into compliance with state law, allows those who rent out riverfront properties to get insurance, explicitly allows multiple recreational vehicles to be parked on one property, and better protects the river from erosion.

“It does make placing RVs on riverfront properties a little easier,” Maksimoski said.

Some property owners have been concerned about the costs of Conservation Commission oversight, but Chairwoman Paulette Kuzdeba said the commission’s concern is that campers stay at least 100 feet back from the water.

Steve Szymkowicz of River Drive said that the revised bylaw will benefit farmers, who can continue to rent land to campers to supplement their income, as well as use the land for growing crops.

The longest discussion during the session, at more than 20 minutes, centered on the $20,000 to purchase a used ambulance from the city of Northampton, with concerns expressed by Sharon Parsons of Mill Valley Road that this might lead to adding permanent firefighters/paramedics to put the ambulance into operation.

But Fire Chief Michael Spanknebel said the ambulance would be in support of the private Action EMS ambulances and would handle the 100 to 150 calls annually that require mutual aid. Picking these up would establish a revenue account for the future. Spanknebel said there is no intention to add personnel to the department now, but that it will be necessary in the future as a tipping point in call volume is reached.

He said he had been in discussion with the University of Massachusetts about hybrid plan that would bring on student EMTs as part of the service, though that has been delayed by the pandemic.

Voters also agreed to spend $925,000 to replace 100-year-old sewer and water lines below Route 9 from Middle to South Maple streets. Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan said doing this project in tandem with the state’s widening project will save the town $1 million, and she is seeking a MassWorks Infrastructure Grant to cover the town’s costs.

From Community Preservation Act funds, $25,000 will establish the COVID-19 rental assistance program, while additional CPA funds are going toward various cemetery repairs and fixing the clock at the First Congregational Church.

Voters agreed to move the town election from the second Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in May so that it follows annual Town Meeting, and to adopt a stretch energy code so the town can join the state’s Green Communities Program. To protect town center from 100-year floods of the river, meanwhile, voters backed spending $150,000 to pay for the second phase of an assessment of the existing levee system.

The meeting began with Select Board members announcing that the town report was dedicated to former Town Administrator David Nixon, who served for 15 years and with 17 Select Board members and who was in attendance Saturday, and the late Marta Boisvert, whose family runs North Hadley Sugar Shack. The Fred Oakley Community Service Award went to siblings Sloane and Gage Spanknebel for their volunteering, which has included work at elections and with the fire department.

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

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