Lamoine voters are likely to consider a temporary development moratorium at an Aug. 15 town meeting, following months of resident opposition to a proposal for a luxury campground roughly eight miles from Acadia National Park.
A petition sparking a proposed six-month moratorium was brought about by a local nonprofit, Growing Lamoine Responsibly, which sprouted in May in response to a “glampground” proposal from Clear Sky Resorts.
Stu Marckoon, administrative assistant to the Lamoine Select Board, wrote in an email on Friday that there will be an Aug. 1 public hearing on the proposed moratorium. Following that, backers want to bring the proposal to a special town meeting on Aug. 15.
The Arizona-based company applied in January to develop 12 acres of a 230-acre parcel on Partridge Cove into a high-end camping resort called “Clear Sky Acadia.”
The application includes plans for dozens of dome-shaped lodging structures, ranging from 425 to 845 square feet, full of amenities like electricity, running water and air conditioning that make them more akin to hotel rooms than campsites.
Aside from the 90 “guest domes,” the campground would feature a restaurant, spa, employee housing and “activity domes” for stargazing and bird watching.
Clear Sky Resorts owns a similar 45-dome glampground outside of Grand Canyon National Park in Williams, Ariz. At a June 5 public hearing on the Lamoine proposal, owner Hal Feinberg said Lamoine’s dark skies, wetlands and proximity to Acadia made the parcel an attractive location.
“We were really intrigued because there’s a lot of dark skies here in Lamoine,” Feinberg said. “Our logo is a telescope. Stargazing is really important to our guests.”
Feinberg added, “It’s close to Acadia but still far enough away from all the hustle and bustle.”
Far outnumbering Feinberg and Clear Sky Acadia proponents in the Lamoine Consolidated School Gymnasium at the public hearing were rows of people who spoke against the proposal.
For some, it was the very reason Feinberg cited — Lamoine’s rural character and relative isolation — that they said makes the area the wrong candidate for Clear Sky.
One speaker expressed a fear that developments like Clear Sky Acadia’s would push Lamoine closer to the density of neighboring Trenton and Bar Harbor.
“This is setting a precedent for more campgrounds, more glamping resorts … Do we want to become Trenton and do we want to become Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor? Most of us don’t even want to go to Bar Harbor anymore,” the speaker said to an outburst of applause.
Numerous residents also voiced concerns over how the resort would affect roadways, drinking water, waste disposal and public safety personnel, predicting that Lamoine’s infrastructure might not have the capacity for all the guests and employees.
“Since the climate crisis has worsened considerably in the last decade or so, in the summer I have to be very careful of my water usage,” another attendee said. “I’m very concerned about tourists coming and taking half-hour long showers while I am trying to use just a few gallons of water a day.”
Earlier, Feinberg addressed some of the environmental concerns by highlighting his company’s respect of the wetlands and vernal pools that abound on the property.
“Learning about wetlands and vernal pools is part of an experience that we can provide with this property,” Feinberg said.
He also read tributes from people who live near the Clear Sky Grand Canyon glampground, who despite initial doubts praised the company for being a respectful neighbor.
Amy Morley, founder of Growing Lamoine Responsibly and organizer of the moratorium petition, took the greatest issue with the Planning Board’s review process for the Clear Sky Acadia application.
During a May 1 meeting, the board voted unanimously that the application was complete, with the condition that the company seek approval for its application from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which it had not done.
Morley said Friday that her group’s attorneys believe DEP approval is required before the Planning Board begins the substantive review of the application, which has also not occurred.
Board members said during a June 19 meeting that they would meet with the town attorney in early August before starting the process.
Morley said she hopes the moratorium will, in part, provide the Planning Board and town officials with more time to revise the town’s ordinances regarding campground developments.
The moratorium would prohibit the development of any hotel, motel, glampground and resort development in Lamoine for six months, coinciding with a broader trend among Maine municipalities looking to curb development and pump the brakes on major building projects.
Tremont residents later adopted strict standards for future campground developments that impose size restrictions and spacing requirements, the most stringent in Hancock County.
Development moratoriums have not only followed controversial glampground proposals in Maine, but also a 2,500 acre, $1 billion patriotic theme park north of Columbia Falls.
Feinberg said Friday night he was shocked by the moratorium’s potential reach.
He said company attorneys will “look at all of the avenues to see where it takes us,” adding that they’ve followed the tasks set out by town officials.
Morley said she was optimistic that the Lamoine moratorium would pass. She said her group’s petition brought in 172 signatures and she thinks even more supporters will show up at the special town meeting.
The town has scheduled a public hearing on the moratorium for Aug. 7, a week before the vote.
If passed, Morley said she and her group members hope Lamoine residents will be involved in the revision of the town’s ordinances.