DEP rules 5 campers OK at riverbank site in Hadley

  • The Connecticut River FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2021 8:44:50 PM

HADLEY — Up to five recreational vehicles are being allowed at a Connecticut River campsite after a state official determined the campers are not altering the land and can be moved should there be flooding, overriding an earlier ruling by the town’s Conservation Commission.

The commission earlier this year limited a property at 93 Cemetery Road to just two campers but the regional office of the Department of Environmental Protection in August issued a superseding order of conditions that gives property owner Mark Britton the ability to have five campers at the site.

The decision on the simplified waterways application “approves the continued use of existing lawn and landscaped areas that do not constitute an ‘alter,’ including the seasonal parking of the requested five recreational vehicles,” writes David Cameron, chief of the division of wetlands and waterways for the western regional DEP office.

Robert Baranowski, who assisted Britton in going through the town’s new permitting process for the seasonal campers, and uses one of them during the warm weather months, told the Conservation Commission at a recent meeting that the DEP decision validated complaints that the local commission had overstepped its authority.

Baranowski wrote in a letter to the commission that Britton shouldn’t have had to file both a notice of intent and request for determination and that campers should not have been categorized as structures by the commission.

“While every other board and committee in Hadley has actively worked with the property owners being affected, we have only met resistance from the commission,” Baranowski wrote.

The campsites became an issue for the commission when Hadley officials formed the River Bylaw Committee as a way to bring the town’s 1987 flood overlay district bylaw into conformance with updated Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.

As part of this, the committee recommended changes to the bylaw that were approved by annual Town Meeting, assessing each campsite $100 every three years, and requiring 2,500 square feet for each site and 25 feet of space between each recreational vehicle. The revised bylaw also allows more than one camper per property.

The commission then took oversight of the process, with Paulette Kuzdeba, its former chairwoman, explaining that it would not require notices of intent filed for all properties, but only for those within 100 feet of the river. Less expensive determinations were required if a trailer was parked in the second 100 feet from the river.

Then, over the summer, the Select Board received complaints about actions by the commission and voted to remove Kuzdeba as its chairwoman and reduce the size of the commission from seven to five members. That prompted the commission’s longtime conservation agent and two members to resign in protest over Kuzdeba’s treatment.

Meanwhile, the state also found that that lawn and landscaped areas existed before Britton’s purchase of the site in 2013 and likely before the promulgation of the Wetlands Protection Act,

One aspect the state DEP noted was the ability to remove the trailers quickly should there be flooding, and the superseding order of conditions specifically prohibits the placement of permanent structures on the site.

“The appellant has provided documentation that all existing structures and recreational vehicles… are readily movable in the event of a flood event; that he has the equipment and machinery to facilitate said removal; and that contingency provisions are in place for removal of existing structures and recreational vehicles should the appellant be unable to do so himself.”

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


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