No conditions: Hume Lake Christian Camp project gets go ahead after remand
MONTEREY — The camp expansion will proceed — with no constraints.
That was the takeaway from the Monterey Planning Board's meeting on July 13. The regulatory body voted to pull all conditions from its site plan review approval of Hume Lake Christian Camp's proposed expansion of its facility in town.
"By this ruling, we are trusting you to do the right thing," said board member Thomas Sawyer.
The board's decision marks an end to a months long dispute between the town and the camp after an April 6 review ended with four conditions appended to the project's approval.
Hume's plans for the facility first ran into trouble when virtually all of the camp's neighbors raised concerns and complaints about the scope of the project, the noise of camp operations, and the impact on the community and infrastructure in the sparsely populated southwest corner of Monterey where Hume and its neighbors are located.
In an effort to assuage those concerns, the board told Hume that the camp would have to limit construction to the hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.; that the camp's use of loudspeakers would be limited to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.; that the camp not exceed the Board of Health's permit for the total number of beds; and that the camp pay for a police detail during construction.
Due to Monterey's zoning bylaws, which give broad latitude to religious institutions in the town for development, the board's site plan review was the only hurdle the camp had to pass to move forward with its expansion. And the Dover Amendment to the Massachusetts State Constitution added more protection for the camp — the amendment severely restricts any limitations on development for religious or educational institutions in the Commonwealth.
"If we've learned anything, it's that this is a discussion that should be taken up with the Select Board," said board member Pat Solomon. "We were the default."
The camp brought a civil suit against the board in land court on April 25. The case was remanded to the board for further deliberations. The meeting on July 13 was the first time the members met to reconsider the review.
Board member Donald Coburn made a motion to approve the site plan without conditions.
"Based on my understanding of the law, these were not conditions that could be addressed by the review," Coburn said.
But board member Thomas Sawyer said he was uncomfortable with approving the plans without talking to the camp about the review first. Sawyer suggested that there could be a compromise between the board's desired conditions and the camp's plans for construction.
But attorney Alexandra Glover, who is representing the camp, rejected that proposal.
"Hume isn't in a position to agree to any conditions," Glover said.
Glover was joined by Hume representative John Szablowski at the meeting.
Sawyer said that the preamble to the town's zoning bylaws makes clear that the goal of project reviews is to protect the general health and welfare of town residents. The reaction from the camp's neighbors to the project, Sawyer said, made clear that they feel their welfare is threatened by the camp's expansion. Board member Larry Klein agreed with the general sentiment.
"The will of the people is being harmed in some way, real or perceived," said Klein.
But town lawyer Jeremiah Pollard shot down any suggestion that the language provided the board with any power.
"The preamble does not give you any authority" in addition to the authority you already have, Pollard told the board.
The board approved Coburn's motion by a vote of 4 to 2. Solomon and Sawyer were the "no" votes.
Szablowski seemed pleased with the result.
"We're not legally bound," he told the board. "But we will be good neighbors."
Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-464-4872 or @BE_EoinHiggins.