The Day – Preston to resume review of controversial motorhome park on Tuesday

Preston – City agencies will this week resume their review of a controversial luxury motorhome park on 65 acres of land owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe at the junction of Routes 2 and 164 and abutting Avery Pond.

Maryland-based Blue Water Development Corp. offered the RV park and campground as Blue Camp CT LLC, on three rental parcels in the Mashantuckets. The plan includes approximately 300 campsites, a visitor center, three bathhouses, a swimming pool, wading pool, playground, volleyball, tennis, squash and bocce courts, a floating dock and an elevated boardwalk at Avery Pond. The developer called the site ideal for the proposed RV park.

The facility would be called Bluewater Recreational Campground Resort at Avery Pond. Todd Burbage, CEO of Blue Water, said the company learned of the property when Mashantuckets announced a campground developer nationwide for the site.

Burbage told The Day on Friday that the property has several features that make it ideal for a luxury RV park, both for the development and nearby residents. Having the entrance on Route 2 would mean the town wouldn’t have RVs driving on narrow side roads. Access to municipal water and sewer lines is another plus, he said.

Burbage also argued that systems designed to collect runoff would improve water conditions in the pond, compared to decades of agricultural activity on the property.

“There is strong evidence that agricultural runoff is much more responsible for degrading pond water, along with pesticides and herbicides,” Burbage said. “It’s a plot of land that has been cultivated for generations.”

He added that the seasonal station would be closed for nearly six months with no scheduled activities.

The proposal was strongly criticized by residents living on several streets near Avery Pond, including two Lynn Drive residents who applied for intervenor status in the city’s review process, submitting their own reports and testimonials.

The Wetlands and Inland Waters Commission will hold its third night of public hearings on the project at its 7:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday at Preston Plains Middle School before beginning its deliberations on the necessary wetland permits to the project. The Planning and Zoning Commission will begin its public hearing into the broader special exception permit the project needs at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 23 at Preston Plains Middle School.

Burbage said he will attend Tuesday’s wetlands hearing, alongside wetland experts from the project to address residents’ concerns.

At previous wetland hearings in December and January, the panel heard a lengthy presentation by project lawyer Harry Heller and project engineers and architects. During the January session, most residents who addressed the commission opposed the project.

Residents Susan and Timothy Hotchkiss of 20 Lynn Drive and Jennifer Hollstein of 12 Lynn Drive retained attorney Richard Cody and filed motions to become intervenors in the interior wetland claim.

Both residents submitted written reports challenging the voluminous technical documents that the Blue Water Development team filed with the application. Much of the opposition voiced at the wetlands hearing centered on the proposed use of Avery Pond as part of the luxury facility.

Plans call for a 118ft long T-shaped floating dock at Avery Pond and a 12ft wide golf cart walkway through the wetlands to reach a safari tent area at the edge of the pond. .

At the January 18 hearing, Heller said the plans were revised to address some concerns from the city’s wetland expert. Most roads and parking lots would be replaced with gravel to allow rainwater penetration, which would reduce the size of the stormwater harvesting systems needed. The footings for the boardwalk would be installed using a 75-foot reach excavator, perched on a ridge outside the wetlands.

During the public hearing, much of the opposition focused on the proposed activities in and near the pond, particularly the planned heavy use by kayakers, which they said would destroy the area as a privileged fishing ground. Residents fear the kayaks will damage water lilies and fish habitat and scare fish into the shallow pond.

Burbage said Friday that Blue Water was “flexible” to possibly downscaling the project, including inviting customers to use the existing public boat launch instead of building a new dock. He said most Blue Water campgrounds are located on waterfronts, hence the name, and guests would be welcome to use the pond for passive recreation and fishing, like all residents of the state are encouraged to do so.

“It’s a public pond that has a public boat launch that the state encourages for recreation,” Burbage said. “If Todd Burbage wants to go up there and fish in that pond, he can get a fishing license and he can go do it. It’s not their private pond.

Much of the property is located in the commercial resort area, where campgrounds are permitted by special exception permit. The PZC will have the authority to review the plans for factors such as neighborhood compatibility, lighting and traffic impacts.

Blue Water’s Special Exception Permit Application describes the project as “consistent with the purpose of the commercial zoning district of the complex.” The application cites the project’s low-profile buildings, conservation of existing vegetation along the shore of Avery Pond, and buffer zones between the project and nearby residential neighborhoods.

“Downlighting is offered throughout the site and the building design incorporates classic New England architectural features,” the application states. “Due to the project’s lack of verticality, it is the most appropriate type of resort commercial development on the outskirts of a residential area.”

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