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Camp Emerson

With RV project off the table, Camp Emerson preps for summer’s influx in Hinsdale

Signs on Longview Ave in Hinsdale (copy) (copy)

Residents on Longview Avenue in Hinsdale opposed a bid by Northgate Resort Ventures LLC to transform Camp Emerson into one of the company's branded Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park RV camping properties. For 2022, the 212 Longview Ave. site is returning to its historic use.

HINSDALE — In January, a Hinsdale town board said no to transforming Camp Emerson into a tourist destination for recreational vehicle owners.

That wasn’t the last word, though, because applicants for special permits in zoning matters have a right to appeal.

That appeal window just closed for Northgate Resort Ventures LLC. The family-owned company based in Grand Rapids, Mich., did not exercise its right of appeal by the deadline set by state law — in this case, last Friday.

“Our lawyer contacted us today and said they are past the deadline,” Bob Graves, Hinsdale’s town administrator, said Tuesday.

Sue Lein, Camp Emerson’s owner, said that once the property’s prospective sale to Northgate failed to come about, thoughts turned to preparing for the camp’s 55th summer.

“We’re focused 100 percent on summer camp for the kids,” she said Tuesday.

The Lein family had reached an agreement to sell the camp to Northgate, contingent on the company winning approval to develop 317 RV campsites on the 155-acre property. The company runs nearly two dozen RV camping facilities around the country, many branded as Yogi Bear campgrounds.

Coming off two years of pandemic-impacted summers, Lein said she’s finding pent-up demand for camping experiences and is busy planning the 2022 season on Longview Avenue.

When asked whether she is also considering next steps for ownership of the property, which has been in her family’s hands for more than a half century, Lein said no.

“Our next step is summer camp for children,” she said.

In January, the Hinsdale Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to reject a special permit application filed by Northgate, ending more than six months of public debate about the proposal’s impact on the Longview Avenue neighborhood — and on the town as a whole.

“To me, it’s a massive, massive development. It would be the biggest development in Hinsdale,” Jeffrey Viner, the ZBA chairman, said in January on the night the board denied the special permit.

Camp Emerson Google Earth.jpg (copy)

A view of the 155-acre Camp Emerson property in Hinsdale. The town's Zoning Board of Appeals denied a special permit in January to transform the 155-acre property into an RV camping destination. The applicant's deadline to appeal that decision passed last week. 

Northgate’s representatives told the ZBA, over the course of several well-attended meetings, that the project would benefit Hinsdale financially and safeguard natural resources.

Neighbors countered with concerns about traffic, water use and public safety.

Given Northgate’s track record of fighting decisions that go against it in local zoning cases, members of the ZBA sought assurance from the town in December that Hinsdale would defend them legally, if the applicant fought the case in court.

Jeffrey Scrimo, the Lenox lawyer who represented Northgate in the ZBA proceedings, could not be reached for comment.

Tessa McCrackin, a spokeswoman for Northgate, did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the company’s decision not to appeal.

Marvin and Adeline Lein started Camp Emerson in the 1960s. Today it is run by their daughter, Sue, under the business name Camp Tanglelake LLC.

In a statement released last year through Northgate, Sue Lein said she had been negotiating with Northgate for six months about the future of the property, at 212 Longview Ave.

Lein said at the time she believed Northgate would do right by Hinsdale. “Northgate and their family campground operation will be a positive contribution to the town of Hinsdale and Berkshire County,” she said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Managing editor for innovation

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.

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