Ordinance likely to create town controversy

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BYRON – Judy Boucher believes town officials are holding she and her husband’s proposed Coos Canyon campground expansion hostage. Byron planning officials say otherwise.

These opinions, and undoubtedly more, are expected to join a host of others at tonight’s public hearing on the board’s proposed commercial campground development ordinance.

“I can live with an ordinance, but not when it’s so restrictive it’s ridiculous,” Boucher said Wednesday afternoon at the campground.

Boucher and her husband, Roger, have the only commercial campground in town.

In March, she said they bought 100 acres across Route 17 from their campground, and along Swift River to expand onto 10 acres.

They bought the original campground and cabins from Byron Town Clerk Rosey White, before she married Robert Susbury Jr. The Susburys own and operate the Coos Canyon Gift Shop on the other side of Route 17 from the campground.

Judy Boucher said planners didn’t even decide to do a campground ordinance until after they bought the 100 acres, which is adjacent to the Susbury’s land.

“They never in the world would have thought of this if they hadn’t seen the land transfer go through. We want to expand and create 25 to 30 sites and probably use 10 acres,” Boucher said.

According to the 6th draft of the ordinance, it was designed to protect the public health, safety and welfare of Byron residents by regulating commercial campgrounds.

The 16-page document took members of the Commercial Campground Ordinance Committee nine months to complete, Chairman Dave Duguay said by phone late Wednesday evening in Portland.

“We’ve done a lot of work and want to make sure we’ve interpreted the will of the people correctly,” he said.

That’s why they’re holding the public hearing, something Duguay said the board isn’t legally required to do. They simply want to learn whether people want the ordinance more restrictive or less.

The ordinance would apply to any new commercial campgrounds or enlargements of existing commercial campgrounds. Permits would be required and applicants would have to go before planners.

The proposed ordinance would also require a variety of engineering studies more commonly required for subdivisions.

“We don’t want to restrict people. People have a right to do stuff on their property, but not so it affects their neighbors. We’re just trying to have a growth plan,” Duguay said.

He said they didn’t specifically target the Bouchers’ campground, but rather, met the will of the people. However, he did say that he talked to Roger Boucher before he bought the extra 100 acres.

“Then, the next thing you know, there were rumors about a big campground going in over there,” he said.

That’s when the town voted in a moratorium on any commercial campgrounds, giving the board time to draft an ordinance to regulate them, Duguay and Planner Sonny Gestaut said Wednesday night.

“Byron’s being discovered just like everything else and large landowners are selling off large lots,” Duguay said.

Gestaut called the proposed ordinance guidelines, not hard and fast rules, but that’s not how the document reads.

“Basically, we want to keep things from getting out of hand up here and changing the nature of the town,” Gestaut said.

Judy Boucher, whose family has been in Byron since the 1800s, said she agrees with Gestaut.

But, faced with rising costs, if they can’t expand, they’ll have to sell their business, she said.

Pullout box:

What: Byron Planning Board public hearing on proposed Commercial Campground Development Ordinance

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25

Where: Old Coos Canyon Schoolhouse off Route 17

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