Casco zone-change hearing heralds confusion, concern

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Since last fall, Camp Sunshine has made public the transfer of the residential property adjacent to the nonprofit’s lakefront spread. In order to move forward with renovations on that parcel, two contract zoning changes must occur.

On May 8, the contract zone change public hearing was held as a joint meeting between the Casco Board of Selectmen and Casco Planning Board. The hearing lasted for two hours.

In those 120 minutes, people brought forward many questions; and abutting neighbors listed worries regarding quality-of-life issues such as nighttime lighting, increased traffic on roads shared by the community, additional noise, and insufficient noise buffers that could be provided with taller trees or appropriate fencing.

One of the biggest concerns was the removal of the existing home in order for a much bigger structure to be built on the parcel. A two-story (or 30 ft. tall), 75 ft. x 30 ft. building with an attached 32 ft. x 23 ft. section will be used to store Camp Sunshine’s maintenance equipment.

Nearby property owners argued that the large building would change the flavor of the residential neighborhood located near Sebago Lake.

However, many of the details addressed or left vague will not be finalized until Camp Sunshine goes before the planning board for its site plan review. Both the town’s attorney and contracted Town Planner Jim Seymour stepped forward to explain the difference between the public hearing and what will happen as the project is heard by the planning board.

According to Attorney Natalie Burns, “What is being requested is a contract zone change.”

Camp Sunshine must exit the contract zone agreement it has had since October 1992 with Point Sebago Resort; then, Camp Sunshine can redefine its contract zone agreement. This change will appear as a warrant article at the annual town meeting in June.

Burns referred to the sketches presented by Camp Sunshine, saying that the paperwork was “an exhibit of the contract zone agreement.”

“The planning board reviews site plan applications,” said Burns

“The site plan application addresses items in context with the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection.).” It will still have to go through a site plan review. So, more information will have to be provided,” Burns said.

In the future, there will be “full engineers’ plans, more information provided like space around septic systems and wells. This is not the site plan. This is an exhibit for the contract zoning change,” she said.

Burns also pointed out that the setbacks “cannot be changed. (Setbacks) cannot be located closer to property lines, or closer to the road. The site must be developed in accordance with this plan,” she stated.

A few people, including Selectman Ray Grant, had suggestions for possible setbacks for the proposed Camp Sunshine maintenance building.

But, South Casco property owner Donn Davis cut to the chase when he said, “It would be good if they moved it back 50 ft., but then it would be 50 ft. closer to me.”

“I care about it because it will change my property value,” Davis said.

He recanted how he first heard about the changes occurring on the property of Camp Sunshine — which offers camp experiences to children and their families dealing with cancer.

“In my view, I thought the building would be used as it existed. Then neighbors told me about the size and scope” of the proposed building, Davis said.

“The character of the neighborhood is 50 ft. lots, not having a home that is 100 ft. long. Most of the homes are a couple thousand square feet,” he said.

“I think there is a difference between want and need. I don’t think that a building this size is a need. It is an imposing structure, especially in our neighborhood,” said Davis.

“It is about putting a huge barn in a residential neighborhood,” Davis said, asking Camp Sunshine to “downsize the structure” so it would not deter from the value of his retirement home in South Casco.

Davis’ neighbor — who would benefit slightly from the new building being set 50 ft. back — spoke earlier in the evening.

“I am sort of on the downhill side of this,” Yates Kennedy said of the property at 51 Arcadia Road.

“A lot of things come to my attention. The size and scale of the building — it is in a private residential area. The visual quality and scenic was not applicable. Why is this maintenance building two floors? The site plan has no vertical dimensions, other than an eight ft. stock fence. This building is enormous, Kennedy said.”

Kennedy asked for modifications to the roof design to make it more appealing — perhaps a different type of siding. He was also concerned about the color of the large structure.

“When the sun comes up, if it is light colored, I will get a direct glare on my home,” he said, later addressing nighttime lighting.

Lastly, the discussion turned to Camp Sunshine’s proposed entrances to the property. There are at least three curb cuts to gain access to the property; and people expressed their concerns that construction would bring additional heavy traffic.

“This appears to be a rush on Camp Sunshine’s behalf without (looking at) how it will affect homeowners in the neighborhood,” Kennedy said.

When Camp Sunshine’s Executive Director Matt Hoidal regained the podium to counter the comments, he said, “This is not a rush job for us. We have been guided by the planning board the whole way. It is easy to be swayed by statements that might not be true.”

“We are trying to limit traffic on Arcadia Road. Our intent is to make sure construction vehicles come through Camp Sunshine,” Hoidal said.

“It is not expectable for Camp Sunshine to pay for a road that everyone else uses,” he added.

“We feel comfortable telling you that the size is no different than what is the neighborhood,” Hoidal said of the proposed building.

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