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Huge campground proposal tests Quietside’s allure as crowd-free eden

Algerine Coast ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

TREMONT, March 13, 2021 – This town on the Quietside of MDI has its own quietside – away from the noise and bustle of Bass Harbor where cops were hailed last summer to crack down on illegal parking on the road to the lighthouse and where the queue outside of Thurston’s Lobster Pound has become a permanent element of the landscape.

The sections known as West Tremont and Seal Cove make up the quietest side of MDI. They share a 10-mile stretch of Rt. 102 with Pretty Marsh, leading up to the northern end of Long Pond. The artist Judy Taylor has her studio here as well as Seal Cove Pottery & Gallery. And there is the Seal Cove Auto Museum and the Quietside Campground.

Guided kayak tours discovered Seal Cove a few years ago, making some locals unhappy because the parking lot at the launch area filled up.

Now comes a whopper of a proposed business which, if approved, is destined to reshape the entire area tagged with the romantic moniker, Algerine Coast.

Kenya and James Hopkins, acting as Perry Lawson LLC, are proposing to build a campground with 154 camp sites able to accommodate 42 cabins, 72 RVs and 40 tents on 43 acres at 661 Tremont Road. Lawson was James Hopkins’s maternal great grandfather who once owned the land. The Hopkins purchased the lot from the most recent owner. The proposal also envisions a Santa’s village which would keep the business open beyond traditional camping season.

The rendering below shows the Rt. 102 (Tremont Road) entrance at the left leading into the RV sites, the cabins and finally the tents at the eastern end of the property.

The Hopkins are in the midst of building a smaller campground, Acadia Wilderness Lodge, on six acres off Kellytown Road that will feature 11 cabins. Neighbors appealed approval of that project but were rebuffed by the town’s appeals board.

Now comes a project exponentially bigger with 14 times the number of camping sites.

Residents, such as Rachel Kohrman Ramos and Kari Seavey, said the town is not doing enough to inform the citizenry of this proposal. Kohrman, who is an abutter, said she learned about it from the Feb. 24 article in the MDIslander https://www.mdislander.com/maine-news/campground-going-bigger-on-tremont-road.

Dueling petitions have surfaced to influence the Planning Board. Stephen Lawson, who lives on Kellytown Road, started one advocating rejection. https://www.change.org/p/town-of-tremont-planning-board-deny-the-application-to-expand-the-acadia-wilderness-lodge?redirect=false&fbclid=IwAR2Yyp3nS2g4LiqQEiuv7f5ON6_AlLxaiXz7_QaWwxXpX7Fi9dcMfIsqWio

“We live on Clark Point Road and foresee campers flocking here as a destination to view Goose Cove,” wrote Chris Wade in the petition. “We are the closest ocean viewing road to this campsite. This will present all modes of increased traffic from foot to campers coming to our community down our road. We will need increased policing as this campsite can easily hold 400-500 guests coming and going daily, weekly.”

The town of Tremont does not have its own police department. It contracts for part-time service from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Brett Metzger, manager of the Bass Harbor Campgrounds, said response time by the police is spotty if at all. He told of one time when he called police after drunken and unruly campers refused his request to keep the noise down. “They nailed trash and empty beer cans on our trees,” Metzger said. The police finally called the next morning at 8 a.m. to ask if assistance was still needed.

The proposed campground would be the largest commercial development on the Quietside since the Western Way condos were built in Southwest Harbor in the mid-Eighties. Moreover. it’s not just a Tremont issue. All the traffic to the campground will come through Southwest Harbor or through Mount Desert’s Pretty Marsh Road.

Becky Lawson Hopkins, James Hopkins’s mother, wasn’t shy about using her local island cred to create a petition with an over-arching populist tone. “There are people who have moved to Tremont who are attempting to tell us that we can no longer do what the ordinances allow us to do with our land.  We can’t have a small business, we can’t make a living for our family.  This is not how America works.” https://www.change.org/p/residents-and-small-businesses-of-tremont-maine-and-surrounding-areas-support-small-business-development-in-tremont-maine

That has some neighbors and residents upset that Becky Hopkins has chosen to use her political views to seek support.

The project “encroaches on the entire quality and fabric of Tremont,” said Kohrman Ramos, who lives two houses away on Kellytown Road. “To make it sound like we’re against small business is disingenuous.” Kohrman Ramos said she loves that her neighbors on the street sell eggs and lobsters.

Kari Seavey isn’t having any of Hopkins’s gambit to make this a local vs. folks-from-away grievance. There are 16 Seaveys buried in the cemetery across from Kellytown Road, the earliest born in 1872.

“Most of the people opposed to this are locals who have been here for generations,” she said.

The town ordinance provides for light commercial businesses in residential/business zones in keeping with the natural environment. “This is anything but a light commercial business,” Seavey said.

“It will create traffic making it too dangerous.” she added that the number of children in the area has doubled since she moved there.

Becky Hopkins tried to flip the argument. “We are creating walking and biking paths that the kids in the community can use.  The traffic on Kellytown Road and Tremont Road goes so fast it’s not safe to let my grandkids walk and ride their bikes.  Kids in our communities can ride their bikes through the trails we create safe.”

To that, Kohrman Ramos replied, “To say that they want safe places for their children to hike and walk … well that would be lovely. I would like that for my children, too. Please set up those places … But you don’t need to have 154 camp sites with 71 RVs with the pollution and the traffic and destroying the rural nature of this community to do that.”

The Algerine Coast is a special sanctuary for MDI residents, Kohrman Ramos said, where locals may enjoy nature without hordes of tourists. The campers would take over these spots, she feared.

The proposed business will actually be managed by Kenya Hopkins, James’s wife, who has a mechanical engineering degree and an MBA from Michigan State.

James was gifted six acres of land on Kellytown Road from his grandfather with the intention of selling the land to pay off his student loans. But he chose to explore other possibilities and said he was told by John Larson, Tremont Code Enforcement Officer at the time, that the land was zoned for a campground.

The larger campground idea came about as he and his wife thought about coming to Maine to raise their children, Hopkins said. (they now live in Miami).

He acknowledged the local opposition to the proposal and said, “The last thing we want to do is to build something detrimental to the community. I grew up on Kellytown Road when it was a dirt road so I know the community well.”

Still, the scale of the enterprise is just too overwhelming for many residents. “It’s going transform the town completely,” said Kari Seavey. Another neighbor said that ancillary businesses – coffee shops, trinket stores, t-shirt shops – will follow the campground.

“We’ll become another Bar Harbor.”

Real estate report: Year starts with huge inventory challenge

SOMESVILLE, March 13, 2021 – Joseph Wright, owner of LS Robinson Co. https://www.lsrobinson.com/, from whom I rented a camp for many years before retiring on the island, has agreed to aggregate real estate sales data for the QSJ.

The LS Robinson Report is designed to showcase the unique characteristics of the MDI home market, which is highly differentiated. Maine Listings, the statewide multiple listings service, reports data only for Hancock County as whole.

The following charts are for the period of Jan. 1, 2021 through March 9, 2021, keeping in mind that many of the sales were actually conducted late last year but the backlog of loan applications and title work pushed the closings into January and February. The data clearly shows the biggest challenge facing the industry: lack of inventory, as the four towns on MDI reported a 36 percent decline in active listings from a year ago.

The opposite is true for land lots which showed an increase in inventory by 12 percent, no doubt owing to the fact that lumber cost has doubled in the same period and cost of all construction has dramatically increased.

Single family residential sales

Land only

State warns of invasive mussels inside faddish moss balls

moss ball and moss ball display at pet store
Left: a moss ball, Right: display of moss balls for sale at a pet store

SOMESVILLE, March 13, 2021 – They are like bonzais for acquarians – live vegetation which can grow inside an aquarium tank or a terrarium. They’ve become faddish, and they are threatening to the environment.

In late February, a pet store employee in Oregon reported seeing a black-striped invertebrates hiding in moss balls to the U.S. Geological Survey, which has been tracking the highly invasive zebra mussel. Since then, there have been similar reports in 21 states, from California to Florida. Maine has not reported any yet.

This week the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued this invasive species alert:

If you recently purchased moss balls, immediately destroy them using one of these methods:

  • Freeze – Place the moss ball into a sealable plastic bag and freeze for at least 24 hours.
  • Boil – Place the moss ball in boiling water for at least 1 full minute.
  • Bleach – Submerge the moss ball in chlorine bleach for 20 minutes.

After destroying the moss ball, DISPOSE of the moss ball and any of its packaging in a sealed plastic bag in the trash. Do not dump moss balls down drains or in waterways or gardens.

If moss balls were placed in your aquarium, DRAIN and clean the aquarium:

  1.  Remove fish and other living organisms and place them in another container, with water from a separate, uncontaminated water source.
  2. Aquatic plants may also harbor zebra mussels and should be destroyed along with the moss ball.
  3. Sterilize the aquarium water by adding 1 cup of bleach for each gallon of water. Sterilize filter, rocks, décor, and any other items in contact with the water.
  4. Let the water sit for 10 minutes and then dispose of the treated water down a household drain.

Zebra mussels are very adaptable to their environment. Once introduced to a new lake or other body of freshwater, they can quickly crowd out and devastate local populations of other species. They can also clog up the intake pipes in water treatment and power plants, and damage boats and fishing equipment. That puts pressure on already strained infrastructure dealing with algae outbreaks driven by the climate crisis and human land use choices.

First discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988, scientists and wildlife officials have been trying to keep the zebra mussel from invading the rest of the U.S. ever since. Over time, it’s established itself throughout much of the eastern half of the country. But it still hasn’t spread everywhere, particularly in the western U.S.

That’s made the recent discovery of these mollusks in aquariums all the more worrying.

“The issue is that somebody who purchased the moss ball and then disposed of them could end up introducing zebra mussels into an environment where they weren’t present before,” said Wesley Daniel, a USGS fisheries biologist and the first to send out a nationwide alert about the discovery, in a statement. “We’ve been working with many agencies on boat inspections and gear inspections, but this was not a pathway we’d been aware of until now.”

Even after the alerts, a search for “moss balls aquariums” on Amazon resulted in many choices. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=moss+balls+aquariums&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Why did Kurt Schrader change his vote leaving Jared Golden alone in his defiance of rescue bill?

Rep. Kurt Schrader's congressional district includes Chemawa.

SOMESVILLE, March 13, 2021 – U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader compared Donald Trump’s impeachment for inciting the mob that broke into the U.S. Capitol to a “lynching,” which led to an apology.

Mark Wiener, a powerful Portland political consultant who worked for Schrader for years dating back to when the congressman served in the Oregon Legislature, tweeted out that his company, Winning Mark, would be severing ties with the legislator.

“Comparing the impeachment of a treasonous President who encouraged white supremacists to violently storm the Capitol to a “lynching” is shameful and indefensible,” Wiener tweeted.

“My words were wrong, hurtful and completely inappropriate. I sincerely apologize to my colleagues, constituents and friends for the pain I caused,” he said. “I recognize the horrible historical context of these words and have started to reach out to my colleagues personally to express that I understand the harm caused. I will work hard to rebuild trust and again, I humbly apologize.”

Around the same time, Jared Golden was tacking and weaving, and splitting his vote – yes for impeachment but no for conviction.

Six weeks later, they made news together as the only two Democrats to vote against the American Rescue Plan.

But when the legislation came back to the House after a Senate conference adjustment, Schrader changed his mind.

“Tomorrow I will be voting in favor of the American Rescue Plan to provide targeted assistance across this country. My concerns remain on the size and scope of this bill but believe the Senate changes provide meaningful relief for Oregonians in need.

“Funding for our local governments, small businesses, schools, families, healthcare providers and an extension on unemployment benefits will be a lifeline for many. And investing in vaccine distribution, testing and development is critical at this juncture when coupled with President Biden’s accelerated vaccine production. There is much work to do moving forward and passing this legislation is an important step.”

Which left Golden as the sole Democratic congressman to vote against the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, Joe Biden’s signature legislature which already is being compared to the Social Security Act and other landmark acts by Democrats.

Golden said in February that he believed the bill contained too much unnecessary spending. and he said Wednesday the final version of the proposal didn’t do enough to narrow its size and scope. But he’s already hedging his words, especially after Schrader called the legislation “a lifeline for many.”

Golden’s retort?

“I know there are people who will continue to need assistance getting through the final stages of this pandemic, which is why I have argued that Congress should have addressed their needs with a targeted bill that extends unemployment benefits, funds vaccine distribution, and increases investments in our public health infrastructure.”

Mainers for Accountable Leadership, a liberal group in the state, said in the statement that Golden “voted against helping the people of Maine.”

THE PUZZLE

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