|Dream Away 'Glamping' Proposal Draws Vocal Opposition|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff |
05:30PM / Friday, April 15, 2022
|A screenshot of the proposed glamping camp at Dream Away Lodge. The Becket Planning Board continued a heavily attended hearing on Wednesday to May 11. |
Illustrations provided to the Planning Board on what the tents and cabins would look like.
BECKET, Mass. — Nearly 150 people logged into a virtual public hearing on Wednesday to express their concerns about a proposed 48-acre glamping facility at Dream Away Lodge.
A Change.org petition has generated almost 500 signatures of people who are opposed to the development of the County Road property at this scale.
Citizens and Planning Board members expressed fears of negative effects on traffic and the environment, and even questioned if the plan could be considered camping at all.
"Pave paradise, put up a parking lot, is that what the world really needs right now? Is that what Becket needs? Pave paradise, put up a glamping lot?" resident Shelley Chanler said while bringing up ecological concerns about the proposal.
"A parking lot for 150 cars, 50 luxury camping cabins, 50 tents with king-sized beds and full bathrooms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, septic systems for 100 sites, 10,000 gallons of water a day, is that what the world needs right now?"
Board member James Levy reacted directly to Chanler's comment, visibly upset.
"Although I'm completely, completely sympathetic, the problem is single families on large pieces of property are actually the least ecologically friendly way of organizing human civilization, it's not a great way to go," he said.
"Nobody's gonna stop, I mean, maybe we should stop all housing, all new housing in this town because hey, it's a crappy way to do things, it's ecologically unsound, but I don't see any upswell of 'let's forget about any new housing development, all housing development that's right now on the books, freeze it and stop that stuff because it's ecologically unsound.
"It just frustrates me because no one is complaining about something that's a really serious problem but everybody doesn't want any kind of commercial anything developed in this town and they certainly don't want high-density housing."
The storied Dream Away Lodge featured numerous folksingers and songwriters in its nearly 100-year history, including Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. It closed during the pandemic and Daniel Osman, its owner for the past quarter-century, recently put it up for sale. It includes the 200-year-old farmhouse, restaurant, music/event room and grounds.
Hit The Road LLC is proposing to reopen the lodge and develop the surrounding parcel into the Dream Away Campground consisting of 100 camping units. The guest accommodations will include cabins and canvas-walled tents on platforms.
It is considered to be "glamping," a form of camping with accommodations and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.
The site proposal also includes a guest lodge with a pool, a 155-car parking lot for campers, a guest relaxation area, and maintenance and operation structures.
Though a road is mapped through the property, guests will be expected to park in the lot and travel by foot or bike around the campground. The road is for maintenance and emergency vehicles.
The plan is designed so that more disruptive activities are stationed close to the road and areas that were previously disturbed. In the original site plan, there was a village for permanently installed Shasta or Airstream campers and fire pits at every site but those items were scrapped.
With the combination of existing and new utilities, the campground intends to use less than 10,000 gallons of water a day.
"We worked really hard when creating the site plan to make sure that we were disturbing as little of the site as possible because it is currently a beautiful forested site and it is adjacent to the [October Mountain] State Forest," designer Sara Tie explained.
"And so the design team did put a lot of effort into making sure that the disturbance that was occurring on the site was only disturbance that was necessary, for example, to place the structures or to provide the emergency access road, and then otherwise we tried to aggregate the disturbance into specific areas so that the rest of the site could remain forested and natural."
There were some positive comments at the hearing. Resident Nathan Hanford told the other attendees to do their research on the concept rather than name-calling, shouting, and pointing fingers.
He said a bunch of people on the call needed to apologize, as that is not how he was raised in Becket and if anything is going to save the town, it's everyone reassessing their manners and how they speak to one another.
"I'd like to say as a child of Becket, Jacob's Pillow saved my life, allowed me to buy my first car and go to college and if any young people in Becket have access to employment through this company, I am all for this," Hanford said.
"My nieces and nephews live in Becket, I have five of them, they need jobs, we're not an extremely wealthy family, they need to go to college, they need to be educated, places like this allow young people to meet others from outside of their experience circle in the hilltowns and broaden their prospects in life."
A teen resident also called into the meeting to express a need for the jobs that the campground will provide.
"I'm 16 and I'm just about to get my license, and there are no employment opportunities in Becket at the moment for people my age," she said.
"There are lots of specialized opportunities for painters and construction workers but as far as entry-level jobs, there really aren't any and I've looked into their plans for how many people they plan to hire and it's, as far as somebody from my point of view children, young adults trying to save some money to go to college, buy a car, this is like an incredible opportunity and I think we really just need to give them a chance to better our community."
Planning Board member Howard Lerner called to the traffic study that was conducted for the project that measured an hourly average of 25 vehicle trips per hour in the morning peak and 41 per hour in the afternoon peak.
He argued that the numbers were low because the study was done on a Wednesday morning in November, stating that numbers would be much higher on a weekend during the summer.
"t seems to me that you might want to do a traffic study on a Friday or Saturday p.m. in July to get a more accurate reflection of what the traffic's like during," Lerner said.
"I mean November a.m., it's not surprising you didn't see any traffic."
He also said that the Dream Away Lodge's current parking lot is insufficient and often leaves people parking on County Road.
The hearing was continued to May 11 so that more residents can express their thoughts on the situation.