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Hinsdale’s RV park applicant has a history of challenging local zoning decisions it loses

Northgate Resort Ventures design for proposed Camp Emerson RV park

This is the project site plan included in the newest submission by Northgate Resort Ventures LLC to the Hinsdale Zoning Board of Appeals.

HINSDALE — A Hinsdale board could decide Tuesday whether Camp Emerson will become part of a national chain of RV parks. If the answer is no, Northgate Resort Ventures LLC, like any applicant, has the right to appeal — and has exercised that option before.

During public comments Nov. 30 before the Hinsdale Zoning Board of Appeals, one speaker noted the litigation Northgate brought in New Hampshire, when the town of Milton rejected the company’s request, through an affiliated LLC, for a special exception to expand an existing RV park from 223 sites to 396 sites on Northeast Pond near the Maine border.

The town of Milton, N.H., eventually determined the project would pose hazards to drivers and pedestrians.

Concerns about traffic safety have been raised in Hinsdale as well, both in comments at public meetings this year and in the 422 pages of letters filed by opponents of the Hinsdale project.


Members of Hinsdale's Zoning Board of Appeals listen Nov. 30 to a Northgate representative talk about traffic management in the Camp Emerson area. 

RV project in Hinsdale stirs a debate: What is, and isn’t, a summer camp?

A Northgate spokeswoman did not respond Monday to a request for comment on the company’s history of challenging local zoning decisions.

The Hinsdale ZBA will convene at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Nessacus Regional Middle School auditorium. The session will also be streamed on Zoom, with the link available on the town’s website.

After losing its bid for a special exception in the New Hampshire town, Three Ponds Resort LLC, which operates the Milton, N.H., site, appealed to the Carroll County Superior Court, which upheld the town’s decision. Three Ponds Resort then took its case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The company had purchased the Milton camp in March 2017, a year before proposing the expansion.

The state’s high court upheld the lower court’s decision that, as Judge Steven M. Houran wrote, “the ZBA could have reasonably concluded on the evidence before it that there would be an undue nuisance or serious hazard to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” The cases in Milton, N.H., and Hinsdale have similarities, but because they are subject to laws in different states, they are not comparable.

In both its Milton, N.H., and Hinsdale applications, the company submitted the findings of a traffic expert. In both, that same consultant — MDM Transportation Consultant — minimized the impact of additional traffic. In both cases, residents questioned the timing and adequacy of the traffic study.

Three Ponds Resort eventually reduced the number of proposed new camp sites to 95, down from 163, in what became a long and drawn-out review by the Milton board.

In the New Hampshire case, the high court rejected the company’s argument that members of the local Zoning Board of Adjustment, in rejecting the application June 29, 2018, failed to muster evidence specifically contradicting the applicant’s traffic expert.

In its appeal, Three Ponds Resort claimed that “the [Milton] ZBA chose instead to rely upon its own personal, unsubstantiated, conclusory opinions.” For that reason, the appeal brief said, the Superior Court judge erred in granting the Milton ZBA members that authority.

“We disagree,” the justices on the Supreme Court concluded, in an order June 3, 2020.

“The ZBA could have reasonably concluded the traffic study did not fully reflect the current conditions of Townhouse Road, that the road was not wide enough to accommodate existing traffic comfortably,” the justices wrote, “and that increasing the number of wide vehicles using the narrow road — with no shoulders or sidewalk — would endanger people walking, cycling, or running on the road.”

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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