'They're asking you to buy a pig in a poke'

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Attorney Roy Tilsley of Bernstein Shur addresses the planning board as Norm Turgeon of the TPPA, foreground, awaits his turn to speak in a packed meeting room Tuesday in Milton. (Rochester Voice photos)

MILTON - About 100 Milton residents crammed into Tuesday's Planning Board meeting room to excoriate Mi-Te-Jo owners and town officials for letting the campground run roughshod over townspeople's concerns that overdevelopment of the campground will lead to severe degradation of Milton Three Ponds' water quality and attendant losses to residents' property values and property tax revenue for town coffers and as one resident said, "our way of life."

Town Planner Bruce Woodruff scans documents during Tuesday's contentious meeting regarding a site plan review for Mi-Te-Jo Campground amenities.

Some of the most stinging criticism came from Norm Turgeon, a member of the Board of Directors and former president of the Three Ponds Protective Association, who said the developer's (Northgate Resorts) intent seems to be to turn the former family owned campground into a full-scale resort.

He pointed out that Mi-Te-Jo has continued to allow unbridled expansion through its installation of cabins that are designed to house many more people on existing RV sites than was originally intended.

"The developer has continued without site plan review, like installing meadow cottages that are not on site plan," he said. "Site work occurred this spring." He said Code Enforcement Officer Brian Boyers, the chair of the Planning Board, who was not at the meeting, had approved the cabins as RVs so as not to be in violation and that "amenities," which had been banned were now mysteriously termed, "accessories," which had been approved by the town.

About a 100 sat in the Planning Board meeting room while another 15 listened from the hall. Some pondered whether the crowd may have exceeded fire code capacity.

Turgeon said the campground's website offers extended families lakeside accommodations in the cabins, which have permanent water and sewer hookups, skirting and don't look like a travel trailer you'd pull behind a typical pickup truck.

Resort representatives asked board members to keep the public comments to a narrow view, only looking at the site plan application before the board, but residents and lake protections activists, fed up with two years of battling the resort giant's expansion and amenities plans, would have none of it.

"You are doing great damage to the lake," said John Locke, a Bolan Road resident.

Kim Silva of Hideaway Lane, another abutter, told the board she'd seen firsthand the damage the ever expanding campground has done.

"We see the sand being brought in, we see the spas leaking into the lake ... and hear the screaming, the noise at night still at 11:30 p.m.," she railed.

Many speakers from the audience referenced the findings of Dr. Jim Haney of Milton, a scientist at UNH who said allowing the expansion of amenities and visitors would not only be a health problem but a huge potential financial burden on the town.

"The proposed expansion and development of the Mi-Te-Jo campground would clearly represent a major disturbance and increase in human activity in the Milton Three Ponds watershed," he wrote in a letter prepared for the TPPA. "Considering its close proximity to the eutrophication-sensitive Northeast Pond, the likely consequence will be increases in of loading of nutrients such as phosphorus. It is also important to note that once a lake develops cyanobacteria problems, the costs of short-term remediation are considerable. For example, this summer Lake Attitash, Amesbury, Mass., (360 acres versus Milton Three Ponds 271 acres) underwent an alum treatment to reduce phosphorus at a cost of roughly 1.7 million dollars."

Turgeon also pointed out to the board that the developer has appealed the Strafford Superior Court's rejections of its expansion plan which includes the amenities, and that to undo its rejection of the proposed amenities expansion set a dangerous precedent even as the state's Supreme Court continued its review of the same plan.

Turgeon urged the board to reject the site view application until the developer made official their longterm intent for the campground.

"They're asking you to buy a pig in a poke," he said to thunderous applause by residents.

Cynthia Wyatt, chair of the Milton Conservation Commission, echoed Turgeon's concerns but also reminded board members of the town's 2017 master plan which relied on a 2015 survey of town residents, 90 percent of whom urged town officials to prioritize water quality.

"With the MTP's shallow depth, cyanobacteria, nutrients and human activity will all cause an increase in phosphorous," Watt said.

She also painted this as a regional picture because Lebanon and Acton, Maine, will be directly affected due to quality of life and real estate tax valuations; and downriver, Somersworth and Berwick, Maine, rely on the Salmon Falls River for their drinking water.

"The planning board is turning a blind eye to the dangerousness of these campground changes," she said adding, "They've (Northgate) brought us to court twice, so how can we trust them!"

Earlier during the meeting the board rejected the developer's wish to build a structure that is part of their amenities package without application while allowing them to install lighting in consultation with Boyers without additional planning board approval.

The public hearing will continue on Oct. 1.

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