Going against the Cambridge and Lamoille County planning commissions, the Cambridge Conservation Commission voted 5-1 to send a letter to the state voicing its concerns about the planned Smugglers’ Notch RV Park, disagreeing that such a development is in accordance with the town plan.

Committee chair Justin Marsh cast the sole vote against sending the letter to the District 5 Act 250 Commission.

The letter was written by Sara Lourie, a commission member who has become allied with a group of Cambridge residents organizing against the RV park. The letter focuses on the potential environmental impact for the nearby wetlands and wildlife and shares concerns like those expressed by the anti-RV group.

The commission cites the extensive documentation of wildlife provided by anti-RV group member David Gottshall in its argument against the park and the use of the land this way will make it less desirable for wildlife.

Lourie also toured the nearby land with anti-RV group members to get a sense of the park’s potential impact on the environment. The letter noted concerns that the park would interfere with Route 108’s designation as a scenic byway, another pillar of the anti-RV group’s concerns.

The letter, which technically still needs formal approval from the committee, also voices new concerns about the stability of the embankment that would separate the RV park from the wetland and potential pollution hazards posed by nearby septic tanks.

“On the site plan it seems that the treeline is intended to be cut back over the edge of the very steep bank down to the wetland, quite significantly in some places,” the letter said. “Aside from reducing wildlife habitat and protection, it is likely that this bank is extremely unstable (as are banks elsewhere in the Brewster River basin) and any loss of woody vegetation could lead to extensive erosion, and subsequent compromising of the wetland’s ability to protect ground and surface water.”

All this input has proceeded the Smugglers Notch RV Park’s actual Act 250 application. Tom Wawrzeniak and John Pitrowski, who are helping to guide the project through the process, have disagreed with the anti-RV group’s concerns about the project and argued that a residential or commercial development would have an even larger impact on the area’s wildlife.

Marsh agrees.

“While I value the findings of Gottshall’s wildlife monitoring, and the concerns of my fellow commissioners, I think there are far greater threats to our environment, wildlife and sustainability elsewhere in Cambridge. This corridor, and Route 108 South in particular, is some of the most prime for development in a town riddled by many low valleys prone to flooding (like most of the Route 15 corridor),” Marsh said. “I think something like several single-family homes with large yards and a road would have a more lasting environmental impact than an RV park with somewhat minimal long-term infrastructure. Personally, I concur with Wawrzeniak’s and Pitrowski’s comments and mindset as reported in (last week’s News & Citizen) piece.”

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