When people get their dander up sufficiently to march on Town Hall, they’re usually pretty clear about who they should be angry at. But in the case of the campers who packed the selectmen’s room Monday night (April 23) in Middleboro, Mass., in support of the Tispaquin Family Campground owners, their frustration was misguided.
In fact, it was the selectmen who were justifiably exasperated, the Middleboro Gazette reported.
The saga of Barbara and Ralph Holton and their campground on Tispaquin Pond has taken plenty of twists and turns over the past 28 years, and much of that time Barbara Holton was a more or less sympathetic character – still is, to some extent. She and her husband offer a pleasant setting for people who enjoy having a place to get away from it all on weekends, a place most of them have called their seasonal home for years.
Every year for the past nine years, Ms. Holton has come before the selectmen – acting as the board of health – to apply for a campground license. Every year the selectmen have denied it. They have to – and Ms. Holton’s own engineer made that clear last year when he told the board the campground’s septic system is adequate for 49 camping units by current state standards. The problem is, there are well over 100 units on the site.
The numbers have been the subject of lawsuits back and forth between Ms. Holton and the town for years, involving the zoning board of appeals as well as the selectmen since the ZBA 28 years ago granted a permit for 56 units plus a “safari field” – an area that could be used occasionally for weekend gatherings and the like.
After last year’s hearing, Ms. Holton acknowledged her septic problem by having her engineer draw up plans for a solution. Rather than submit the plans to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the agency that would have to approve them, she says she gave them to her lawyer. Her plan as she expressed it to the selectmen Monday night was to offer to submit the plans and implement them if the selectmen would give her a license for 113 sites.
The selectmen can’t do that because by her own admission Ms. Holton has a septic system that’s not adequate for that many campers. If she was granted a license and something happened to pollute the pond or worse, create a public health risk, those affected wouldn’t go after Ms. Holton. They’d sue the town.
Years ago, Ms. Holton was advised to go back to the zoning board and resolve her issues. She would have had support from many people in town. Last year, she was told the selectmen wanted to license her campground and she was urged to take the steps necessary to address the septic system issues. Monday night, the selectmen made it clear that they want to permit her business – they voted to issue her a license, for the first time in nine years, for the 56 sites and safari field that were granted to her by the zoning board.
It’s unlikely the license will remain in force long, since Ms. Holton has told the board in the past that she would not reduce the number of units at her campground if she were permitted for fewer than 113. It’s also unlikely, as campers feared Monday night, that some of them will be forced to leave. They’ve been there illegally for years now.
Seems like the best thing the campers could do for themselves and Ms. Holton would be to redirect their energy and encourage her to submit her septic plans to DEP and move forward toward a solution to that problem. She would also have to work with the town on the existing septic service.
Right now, at least, Barbara Holton has a board of health that would like nothing better than to make everyone at the Tispaquin Family Campground a happy camper.