Opinion divided on Salmon Point Campground sale

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Selectmen and the Community Development Committee appear to be on different sides in the June 11 referendum seeking permission to pursue a sale of the non-beach portion of the Salmon Point Campground.

The CDC has invited the public to a site walk this Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m. at the Long Lake campground, in an effort to educate voters about the upcoming vote.

But while Selectmen agreed to see if residents wanted to pursue a sale, statements made by several board members at Tuesday’s meeting clearly show they are not in favor of selling any part of the 66-acre campground.

“I’m hoping no developer will be stupid enough to buy it at that amount,” Selectman Woody Woodward said, noting that the non-binding referendum would authorize the board to seek development proposals only if the purchase price is $2 million or more.

Selectman Chairman Paul Hoyt, who leases a campsite and therefore recused himself from the discussion, spoke as a resident, questioning the clarity of the referendum’s wording excluding “the beach and parking areas” from the sale. He implied that the referendum as worded does not make it clear that the current parking area would be part of the sale. The study recommends that the current public parking area be moved and placed on the southeast side of the lagoon, in order to provide direct access from the parking lot to the beach.

Woodward’s comments came as the board held a final public hearing and certified the text of the referendum. Resident Barry Denofrio and former Selectman Earl Cash were the only members of the public to speak.

Denofrio questioned how the town came up with a $2 million minimum asking price. He strongly urged the town to have the property professionally appraised.

“Nobody knows what that number is. Until you have it appraised it’s just pie in the sky,” Denofrio said. More to the point, he asked, “Why would the town want to sell” the campground? Noting he used to be in the real estate business, he said, “A good rule of real estate is not to sell unless you’re going to get something better.”

Woodward told Denofrio that the impetus behind the referendum came from the CDC, which asked the board some months back for permission to conduct a study on ways to make the campground more profitable, beyond its current annual revenue of around $66,000.

That study concluded that the best way to “maximize the financial returns” on the campground, while “preserving and enhancing” the recreational value of its town-owned beach, would be to sell off the non-beach portion of the property. Secondary recommendations were given on ways to improve the campground’s profitability, such as increasing site fees and dredging the lagoon, only if it was decided not to sell the campground.

CDC member Chuck Renneker said the committee wanted to do more to research the value of a possible sale and look into development possibilities, but “The board, in its wisdom, said let’s see if the voters want to sell it first.”

Denofrio said it sounded to him as if “neither side has done the proper steps” to bring the question before voters at this time.

Former Selectman Cash said it was unfair to “malign (the CDC) and say they didn’t do their homework.” He cited as good advice a letter in last week’s Bridgton News by Lakeside Pines Campground owner Gerald Doucette, who suggested requiring campers to remove additions and enclosures to improve the campground’s appearance, and to also increase the rate for seasonal sites to around $3,000 and boat dock fees to $600.

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