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Blue Mountain campground gets OK

The Lower Towamensing Township Zoning Hearing Board approved a special exception request by Blue Mountain Resort on Tuesday night.

Blue Mountain Resort had applied for a zoning permit to add campground use to its property. The property is zoned resort and recreation, but campground use can only be granted as a special exception. They were notified in October that they could appeal or apply for a special exception.

Barbara Green, president of Blue Mountain Resort, said there has actually been recreation vehicle parking at the resort for about 20 years. Some winter employees like to park their RV in the overflow parking and sleep there after a long day on the slopes.

Camping in tents came about in 2009 when people attending the Blues Festival stayed overnight, she said.

The resort started a Kids Camp in 2014 that has grown to fill eight weeks in the summer. And in recent years, Blue Mountain has begun offering overnight stay in safari tents. It’s called glamping.

The tents sit on raised wood platforms and include bunk beds, coolers, 5 gallons of water and a portable toilet.

James Dailey, the general manager of the resort, said they have 25 glamping sites, 40 basic tent sites, four group glamping sites, and began charging last winter for the RV stays.

Green said the glamping tents can accommodate up to eight people, and the group tents can accommodate up to 10 people.

She said the campground has helped the resort to expand as a destination place year-round, and it also gives her employees work year-round. Ski slope groomers join mountain operations and assemble camp sites.

Dailey said employees also work in housekeeping, security and food and beverage. They provide meals for the children at the Kids Camp and fill and deliver orders from the restaurant to the other campers via all-terrain vehicles.

In order to qualify for the special exception, Blue Mountain Resort had to meet several criteria.

Campgrounds are not allowed to be located on land that is 10 acres or less. Green said that the her property consists of more than 1,200 acres. The campsites also have to be 100 feet or more away from the property lines. Blue Mountain has four glamping sites that are within the 100 feet, but most of them are about 600 feet from the property lines. The zoning hearing board did not require the resort to move the glamping when the special exception approval was granted.

Traffic complications have to be considered. Adam Smith, a senior project engineer with Barry Isett and Associates, said traffic is not a problem, because there are far fewer patrons with camping than during the ski season.

“All of the offseason business is a tiny fraction, a few hundred people per day,” Dailey said.

Also, most of the campsite do not have vehicle access, so the campers park their vehicles in the parking lot.

“We drive them in. We drive them out,” Dailey said.

Most of the sites are isolated along trails, not roads, so the campers are taken their via all terrain vehicles.

As far as safety, Smith said Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Company Fire Chief Rory Koons came out and inspected the sites. He said the sites are acceptable. Each camp site has a fire ring, and the campers are given a list of restrictions when they check-in. Fireworks are not allowed.

Stormwater drainage isn’t affected by the campsites, because the tents are on wooden platforms and water can drip through the boards to the ground. As far as water usage and sewage, each glamping site has a portable toilet, and a 5-gallon jug of water that is replenished frequently. Port-a-potties dot the landscape, and there are two bathhouses.

John Carson, an engineer also with Barry Isett, said the resort’s sewage treatment plant has a 60,000 gallon per day capacity, but the campers use at most 12,000 gallons.

As for planning, Smith said the resort has designed the sites to be out of the way and kept natural. That’s is the type of camping experience their clientele want, so the character of the neighborhood is not going to change.

None of the resort’s neighbors that attended the meeting had any problems with the campground use, and no one had sent in any concerns to the board.

After deliberation, James Ord, the chairman of the zoning hearing board, said, “We find that the applicant has met the requirements for the special exemption.”