Canterbury couple proposes 265-acre campground; neighbors worried about Rocky Pond
Canterbury could soon be home to a 265-acre campground – if the landowners can get past a group of critical abutters and secure the necessary town approvals.
Linda and Ed Schmid want to build the Mourning Dove Camping & RV Resort on a parcel near the intersection of Route 106, also called Rocky Pond Road, and Harmony Lane. Aimed at seasonal campers from May to October, it would be built in phases and eventually have roughly 300 sites, mostly for RVs. The plan went before the Canterbury zoning board earlier this month and that hearing will continue in January. If approved, it will move to the town’s planning board.
Tim Bernier, a land use consultant and licensed surveyor working on behalf of the Schmids, said the campground would be in the town’s best interest because it would add to the tax rolls and draw in more customers for local businesses. The Schmids echoed that sentiment in a phone interview, saying the site is ideal for a high-quality campground.
“We thought it would be a good fit,” Linda Schmid said. “We tried to match what our needs were and what we thought would be productive and helpful to the town.”
But about a dozen people who live nearby, some from Loudon and Gilmanton, told the zoning board they aren’t keen on a large campground imposing on their neighborhood.
The Schmids, who are now retired, formed Mourning Dove in 2012. They’ve hired a consultant with campground experience to help with their project and are envisioning a campground that is family oriented with on-site recreation, including 4 miles of hiking trails, a pavilion for activities, swimming pools and a water park for campers.
But according to draft meeting minutes, the abutters and other neighbors are concerned about if and how the campers will use Rocky Pond, beside which many of their homes sit. Others were concerned about traffic in and out of the campground and noise. The proposal says there will be a main entrance to the campground on Route 106 and an emergency entrance off Harmony Lane.
Aaron Roy, a Loudon resident and member of the Rocky Pond Association, was concerned about contamination of the pond and asked who would have access to it. He also asked what effect the campground would have on property values and what type of events would happen in the activities pavilion, according to the draft minutes.
Bernier said the campground owners do not intend to allow mass access to Rocky Pond. Instead, they will be seeking to allow roughly 30 canoes and kayaks on the pond, which will be closely monitored by campground staff. He did not have a chance to explain this to residents at the last zoning meeting because it wasn’t really the meeting’s purpose, he said. Recreational use, including use of the pond, will be a focus of the next zoning meeting alongside a discussion of possibly building a convenience store.
“I really feel badly that everybody left with the sense that somehow we were going to wreak havoc on a little pond, that’s absolutely not the intention,” Bernier said.
At the start of the meeting, consultant Jane Cohen said she did studies on similar campgrounds and found there would be no harm to property values. She and Bernier also said the design of the campground was modeled after some of the area’s most successful campgrounds.
If approved, the owners would like to start building the campground in 2014. At this time, there aren’t any estimates on how many campsites would be built in the first phase, but Ed Schmid said bringing it up to full capacity could take five to 10 years.
The second zoning board hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8.
Update: The initial version of this story incorrectly referred to Tim Bernier as a lawyer.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3390 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)