Chain of Lakes residents raise concerns about proposed RV park

The Lincoln County Commissioners got an earful from some residents about a proposed subdivision for an RV park and campground in the Happy’s Inn area at a public hearing last week.

The meeting room in the Lincoln County Courthouse is typically lucky to see more than a few residents, but at the Wednesday, Aug. 10 hearing, there weren’t enough chairs for those who shared their thoughts on the plan.

According to the proposal, Parks Family Real Estate, a Whitefish-based company, wants to build a 21-acre park that would house 21 recreational vehicle spaces and 20 primitive tent camp sites. Happy’s RV Park would be located on the north side of US 2, across from Happy’s Inn.

Residents in the area had concerns about water, safety and how it may affect the character of the tiny hamlet they live or vacation in.

Jennifer Nelson, a landowner on Crystal Lake and a member of the Chain of Lakes Homeowner’s Association, spoke at length.

“I can’t support private land development there,” Nelson said. “I don’t think a 69-space RV park is congruent with the Thompson Chain of Lakes Neighborhood Plan. We already have issues with overuse.”

The Neighborhood Plan, three years in the making, was adopted in 2010 by the county commission as an amendment to the county’s Growth Policy. The Homeowner’s Association guided the policy. When it was adopted, the plan recognized that Thompson Chain of Lakes “is in a crossroads of potentially rapid change.”

“All the pieces are in place to attract more people to the area. Hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational opportunities are abundant on public and private lands as well as on conservation easement areas,” the document reads.

Nelson was also concerned about environmental issues.

“These lakes are spring fed. What goes in, stays in there. There is no flushing system in those lakes and we don’t know the condition of the aquifers there,” Nelson said.

According to the water and sanitation report for the RV park, which was prepared by APEC Engineering, the subdivision would be serviced with domestic water by the development of a new public water supply.

The plan calls for two 8-inch nominal wells, about 60 to 100 feet deep. The anticipated water yield is near 60 gallons per minute. The average daily domestic demands are estimated to be 100 gallons per day per RV lot and 50 gallons per day per tent site, according to figures from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

For the treatment of wastewater, the plan is to build a new onsite wastewater collection, treatment and disposal system. Each RV space within the proposed subdivision will have a gravity sewer service connection to a multiuser septic tank where filtration and primary treatment would take place.

Solid waste with the subdivision would be handled by the onsite manager. The plan specifies that each container would have an animal-proof lid and be stored at a designated central collection point. The waste would be taken to the Lincoln County Landfill by a private contractor.

Safety issues were mentioned by multiple people.

Guy Uithof, a former member of a local volunteer fire department, said: “The safety factor is really, really bad there.”

He said the last fire in the immediate vicinity was put out by residents using garden hoses “because there’s no one there (VFD) to operate the equipment.”

Gary Issacson, a Chain of Lakes resident and president of the Homeowner’s Association, also spoke of safety concerns.

“You’ve got little kids, they’ll want to go across US 2 to get ice cream and it’s just not safe.”

Tom Parks, the developer, shared his thoughts and apologized for causing concern among residents.

“I own property on Crystal Lake and we’re sorry we’ve upset you so much,” Parks said. “We’ll be paying taxes, probably more than most.

“At least we’re having dump stations as opposed to dumping in the woods or the water,” he added.

District 3 Commissioner Josh Letcher, who represents the Eureka area, spoke about what he’s seen in his section of the county.

“We’ve heard about it before with many concerns and over the years, people have come to see it differently,” Letcher said.

He referenced the Blue Mountains RV Park, located about five miles north of Eureka.

“They pay about $7,000 a year in property taxes,” Letcher said. “With this park (at Happy’s), we anticipate they’ll pay about $10,000 annually.

“I see this as a win-win to help those services, not a deterrent,” he added.

District 2 Commissioner Jerry Bennett said one subdivision in the Eureka area wasn’t approved because there wasn’t enough water.

“DEQ and (the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) will have to approve this plan,” Bennett said.

He also said the state Department of Transportation has authorized a speed study for the area.

The county Planning Board has approved the proposal and commissioners expect to make a decision at their Wednesday, Aug. 24 meeting at 10 am

County Planning Director Kristin Smith said the deadline has passed for written comments to be submitted, but the commissioners may accept verbal comments.