Signs on Longview Ave in Hinsdale (copy)

Residents on Longview Avenue in Hinsdale oppose 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.

HINSDALE — The company that hopes to turn a Hinsdale summer camp into a destination for RV owners again will try to win approval, but from a different town board.

Even before that happens, the town is building out its bench of experts to scrutinize what Northgate Resort Ventures LLC has in mind for Camp Emerson.

Hinsdale has tapped one consultant, DPC Engineering LLC, to study Northgate’s plan to handle the 155-acre property's water and sewer needs. And another, Innovative Data LLC, will explore how the arrival of a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park business, with space to park 317 RVs, would affect traffic.

A spokeswoman for Northgate said this week the company plans to submit an application to the Zoning Board of Appeals. In June, it applied for a special permit from the Select Board, which forwarded it to the Planning Board for review and comment. A Northgate consultant told a gathering July 28 that he believed the company’s plan for the property was in keeping with its use by the Lein family over the past half century.

This time, Northgate will have to make a fresh case to the ZBA — not that the venture fits current zoning, but that it should be permitted even without conforming to what is allowed.

The Camp Emerson sale is contingent on Northgate winning approval from the town. It proposed a campground able to accommodate more than 300 RVs, some of them owned by Northgate itself. The company operates nearly two dozen similar parks in 13 states.

Camp Emerson location

Northgate Resort Ventures LLC is proposing the remake Camp Emerson in Hinsdale into a travel destination able to accommodate 317 RVs, about 100 of which would be kept on the property and rented to visitors.

Last month, Hinsdale officials called off a scheduled Planning Board open meeting. Its chairman, Richard B. Scialabba, told Northgate it needed to either explain how its plan is allowed under Hinsdale zoning, or take its request to a different board. 

“It appears that you are seeking a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals,” he wrote to the company Aug. 13.

A month later, that is indeed the next step for Northgate.

“After consultation with local counsel, we will be submitting an application to the ZBA in the coming weeks,” Tessa McCrackin, a company spokeswoman, said in an email in response to questions from The Eagle.

Robert Graves, the town administrator, said the consultants retained by Hinsdale will help local officials assess the project’s impact.

“So people knew we weren’t just accepting their word for what the traffic would be,” he said, referring to Northgate. Most needed, Graves said, are hard facts on water and sewer infrastructure and future traffic.

“One of the biggest questions people have asked is whether we can afford to do this,” Graves said in an interview, adding that the town’s ability to handle additional volume in its sewer system is a key question. Though this has been a wet summer, the region was in drought in 2020, he said.

“We don’t want the town to be absorbing any additional costs,” Graves said.

Sewage from the public system in Hinsdale flows first to Dalton and then to Pittsfield for processing, with the town paying fees to Dalton.

At the Planning Board’s July 28 open meeting, a Northgate representative said increased traffic might amount to an additional vehicle per minute. Graves said local people have questioned that estimate.

“People were worried that it would be this parade of camping vehicles,” he said. “I’m sure there’d be some of that. You’re going to have those build-ups, no matter what.”

Questions about traffic have rattled neighbors, who are organizing to oppose the project. In a newsletter sent to residents last week, Graves said the town’s due diligence is vital.

“This is the first time one of these camps is being re-imagined, which is why the Town is proceeding with caution as all of this is discussed,” he wrote.

Both of the consultants have worked with Hinsdale for years, with DPC Engineering already up to speed on the town’s sewer and water systems. Innovative Data, based in Belchertown, has run traffic studies for Old Dalton Road, George and Frank Schnopp roads and Peru Road, all in Hinsdale, according to Graves.

“We will continue to consult with our legal team and expert consultants so that we are confident in the decisions made on behalf of the Town,” Graves wrote in the newsletter, “and shall do so with the best of intentions.”

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

Investigations editor

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.