The Fort Ann, N.Y., planning board showed its support on recently for a campground project that has been held up in the permitting process because of traffic concerns.
For more than a year, Vinny and Donna Pagliaro have been mired in discussions with the Adirondack Park Agency, state Department of Transportation and Fort Ann Planning Board about whether the proposed Chocolate Moose Campground would exacerbate traffic along the heavily traveled Route 149 near Tripoli Road, according to the Glen Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star.
The full-service campground would feature 500 sites, most of them RV sites, on 180 acres.
Concerns from the permitting agencies have focused on an increase in pedestrians and vehicles at the intersection, which has been the site of many accidents.
Over the years, Fort Ann has unsuccessfully petitioned the New York Transportation Department for a speed limit reduction or a stoplight. There is currently a flashing yellow light and a 55 mph speed limit, followed by a blind curve to the west with a reduced speed.
On the issue of pedestrian safety, the agencies at one point suggested the Pagliaros build a pedestrian bridge or a tunnel between the campground and the Hillbilly Fun Park across the road to prevent crossings by foot.
The couple rejected that idea, saying it was not their responsibility.
At a recent meeting, Pagliaro said the camp would put in place rules prohibiting campers from crossing N.Y. 149 or Tripoli. Security would enforce the policy, he said.
The board agreed that a bridge was not reasonable, and that the policy should satisfy their concerns about foot traffic.
Planning board member Ron Jeckel asked for confirmation that an insurance company would insure the camp’s rules.
“I’m all for this project, but we have to do our due diligence just like you do,” he said.
The board was split over the issue of vehicle traffic into and out of the park.
Planning Board Chairman Howard Dennison acknowledged that the intersection has been problematic for years, but said the planning board still has to consider whether the campground would make the situation worse.
“There is a need for a traffic study, in my opinion, to show the ingress and egress will be safe,” Dennison said. “With a positive traffic study, I would have no qualms saying the project was great and there will be no issues.”
Engineers for the town and the campground estimated that such a study would take one to two months to complete.
An exasperated Pagliaro said he could not continue to spend money on the project with no clear indication whether it would ever be built.
“Every time we present something, it’s something else,” he said after the traffic study was proposed. “If it is not going to happen, I want to get out. I’ve sunk $1 million into this already and the well is going dry.”
Pagliaro’s attorney and engineer noted that the transportation department is already asking that the project meet the most stringent sight distance requirements for the entrance, which can be accomplished with the removal of six trees in the state’s right-of-way.
Mark Rehm, the attorney for Chocolate Moose, said the campground needed the board’s support to move forward with permitting at the Adirondack Park Agency and state levels. The state agencies are awaiting feedback before moving forward with their permitting processes.
When verbally polled, the other board members unanimously expressed their support of the project and said the applicant should not be asked to provide a traffic study.
“They’ve done everything they could,” board member William Holman said. “Maybe it will be so busy (at the campground) that traffic will be stopped on Route 149.”
Many of the 40 or so people in attendance clapped and cheered after comments in favor of the project, which is expected to bring more than 100 jobs to the area.
While the planning board did not approve any of the project plans, it volunteered to take the lead among the various agencies involved.
The board also agreed to send a letter to the transportation department, asking for a speed reduction or other change at the intersection.
At the next meeting on May 17, the board is expected to open the project to public comment, after which point board members will have 60 days to make a decision.