SANFORD, Maine — Michael Patterson can see the proverbial writing on the wall: his dream of building and opening a campground at Sand Pond in South Sanford is going to have to wait.

On Tuesday, May 21, the Sanford City Council will have its second reading of a proposed moratorium that would stop campground projects in their tracks for at least 180 days or longer, if deemed necessary. Also on May 21, the council will vote on the proposal — and if it passes, it will go into effect immediately.

“The moratorium is probably going to pass,” Patterson said. “This will put our project on hold for at least six months.”

Landowner Michael Patterson is proposing to build a campground on acreage he owns near Sand Pond in south Sanford. He shows off the area he's excited to create for others to enjoy the environment.

Landowner Michael Patterson is proposing to build a campground on acreage he owns near Sand Pond in south Sanford. He shows off the area he’s excited to create for others to enjoy the environment.

During an interview back in March, Patterson had expressed hopes of breaking ground on his campground this spring or summer, if approved.

In documents detailing the proposed moratorium, the city states a need for definitions of modern campgrounds; adequate setbacks at campgrounds; clarification of how long guests can stay at campgrounds; adequate regulations that check the potential impact of campgrounds on local resources; and better assurances modern campgrounds would not cause any public harm.

Earlier this year, Patterson brought before the city his application to create a campground comprising cabins and RV lots on 10 of the 100-plus acres he and his wife, Bonnie, own off Siddall Road on the eastern side of Sand Pond.

The Sand Pond Association, a newly formed group led by its president, Brian Dumont, is opposing the project, telling city councilors about their concerns about its effect on the environment and their quality of life during two recent meetings.

Dumont, like the Pattersons, has a residence on the pond. At a meeting on May 7, he argued in favor of the moratorium, saying the city needed time to examine and update its campground ordinances, given how camping has changed over the years from “paying five bucks for a little plot of land to throw your tent down” to paying hundreds of dollars for a glamping site that is more like a “five-star hotel.”

“Why should a very serious and presumably profitable business be allowed the same treatment as what camping was 30 and 50 and 100 years ago?” Dumont asked. “Other businesses are not afforded the same leeway.”

A few other Sand Pond residents spoke in favor of the moratorium at the hearing. One of them, David Dubois, even used a prop, taking the bottle of hand sanitizer from the podium where he spoke and placing it on the floor 15 feet away. Dubois engaged in this bit of theater, he said, to show just how close he felt his property would be to the campground, if current buffers persist.

“That scares me a lot,” Dubois said. “A developer’s going to take advantage of that.”

For all the opposition Patterson encountered at the May 7 public hearing, city councilors asserted that evening that the moratorium is not part of an effort to prevent any new campgrounds from opening in the community.

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy said the local campground ordinances are out of date, and the city needs time to review and update them. Particularly, Herlihy said, the city does not want to be in a position in which a developer could use current rules to try to build a campground that could result in year-round residential uses.

“I truly believe a moratorium is good for the community, so that we have better campground development in light of the modernization of camping,” Herlihy added.

Herlihy also addressed the environmental concerns Sand Pond residents raised about a second campground at Sand Pond. Currently, Huttopia has a glamping operation, complete with cabins, large tents on platforms, and recreational opportunities, across the water from where Patterson hopes to build.

Herlihy said the pond falls under the purview of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“We’re not talking about environmental issues,” Herlihy said.

Both the Sand Pond Association and Patterson had lawyers speak for them at the May 7 hearing.

Attorney Andy Sparks, representing the association, advocated for a moratorium, saying one would not be a “drastic measure,” but instead a “legal tool used to resolve a problem.”

“Your fellow towns and cities are all dealing with the same thing,” Sparks said.

Attorney Michael Traister, representing the Pattersons, disagreed with the notion a moratorium would not be drastic. He said his clients consider the proposed moratorium “distressing” and said for them the issue is a matter of “fair play.”

“They have relied in good faith on the city’s published rules,” Traister said. “They have invested great time and very substantial money in their project in reliance on those rules . . . By proposing a retroactive moratorium, you’re really pulling the rug out from the Pattersons.”

Traister asked the council what kind of message a moratorium would send to the local business community. He said businesses need stability and predictability.

“There’s nothing that creates more unpredictability and uncertainty than a retroactive moratorium and a retroactive application of the rules,” Traister said.

Traister also asked the council to consider whether there is “substantial public harm” possible in the Patterson proposal, “as opposed to private concerns.”

“We would submit there is not,” he said.

When Patterson spoke, he acknowledged people’s concerns about the water quality at the pond. He said the 560-foot frontage of his campground property would remain vegetated. He also argued that his project was environmentally friendly, with setbacks of 40 feet and RV lots that would be four times the required minimum.

Patterson raised his own concerns, however, about the clear-cutting he said some of his neighbors have done along the shores of the pond. He also mentioned their septic systems “less than 100 feet away.” He argued that these actions, and not the opening of a new campground, are the real environmental concern

“That’s what’s going to destroy the pond,” he told the council.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Sanford eyes ‘glamping’ campground moratorium: Here’s why

published 2007-12-14 14:53:20