HIGHLAND – After a motion proposed by the Highland Planning Board Chairman Norm Sutherland at their regular meeting September 27 passed by a vote of 3-2, the town is moving forward with the …
HIGHLAND – After a motion proposed by the Highland Planning Board Chairman Norm Sutherland at their regular meeting September 27 passed by a vote of 3-2, the town is moving forward with the request for an independent environmental impact study (EIS) for the Barryville-based Camp FIMFO project.
Following the Chairman’s notion that he wished for a study to be done, board members casted their vote on whether they believed it was necessary to pursue an environmental study with the three yeses being from Chairman Norm Sutherland and board members Tim McKenna and Jeffrey Spitz. Board members JT Vogt and Steve Bott voted against the motion.
Sutherland told the Democrat he understood why Vogt and Bott voted no, but that he voted in favor of the EIS because he felt that the various government agencies involved in the process had “dropped the ball” in providing substantial information that he felt was expected from them.
“I thought we were going to get more information from the county, state and National Park Service (NPS), but none have been to our meetings,” he said.
“This is probably the longest application in the county,” Sutherland said, with it reaching back to February of last year. “Since I took over as Chairman, I’ve been to other meetings…and this is a big one. I guess I would like to see about getting an environmental impact statement done.”
“A lot of the work for an impact statement is already done, I would say probably close to half,” Sutherland continued. “It is a lot of work…it is a lot more paperwork. It’s a lot of everything.”
That work would fall on the shoulders of the applicant, as well as footing the bill for the EIS. Sutherland noted that the process could take anywhere from six months to a year.
Prior to the motion being carried, a correspondence letter from Tom Shepstone, a consultant hired by the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), was read aloud. In Shepstone’s letter, he noted that he believed the National Park Service’s use of definitions of words, like ‘camping’, ‘dwelling’ and ‘RV’ were inconsistent, among other reasons, ultimately resulting in his belief of an error made on the NPS’ judgment in its disagreement with the UDC, who [NPS] said that the project did not conform with the Upper Delaware River Management Plan.
According to the letter, Shepstone said that he believed that the project does conform to the River Management Plan.
Legal attorney for the applicant, Daniel Ruben, was asked by the Planning Board if he had any further comment following Shepstone’s letter.
“[It is] hard to top what’s in that letter, I think he [Shepstone] did a very succinct job of making some of the points that we did in our letters,” Ruben said. “In addition to the fact the board has had every opportunity to ask us questions, and we have submitted multiple revisions of the project and answered those questions, the only other thing that happened during that period of time [review process] is that we welcomed over 20,000 people to Camp Kittitinny this summer, and we had 40,000 people in the river.”
“The types of fears that we’re hearing didn’t manifest this season,” Ruben said, specifically referring to the public’s past concerns of traffic influxes. He went on to say that he thought that the numbers of visitors last summer is “one of the more telling facts about this application.”
Sutherland noted that he found the applicant to be punctually compliant with everything that the town asked of them.
“They have been more than cooperative,” Sutherland said.
Camp FIMFO (Fun is More Fun Outside) is owned by Northgate Resorts and is a $40 million project proposed to be installed at the current Kittatinny Canoes campground just off of State Route 52. Northgate Resorts already has two operational Camp FIMFO campsites in New Braunfels and Waco, Texas, as well as a number of other campgrounds under Jellystone Parks and a Margaritaville RV Resort.
Chairman Sutherland told the Democrat that the next step is for the applicant to complete the EIS and then return to the Planning Board upon its completion.
Pushback on the project
The project has historically received pushback from a number of residents in the area via public comment, correspondence and the formations of an anonymous organization, such as “Know FIMFO,” a coalition of concerned citizens formed shortly after the introduction of the project.
A major percentage of the concerns that are being voiced from dissenters of the project relate to concerns of potential environmental impacts, traffic congestion throughout the town, noise and light pollution, unavailability of EMS and police presence and the overall health of the Delaware River.
Alongside Delaware Riverkeeper Network Water Watch Director Faith Zerbe, Narrowsburg resident, Anie Stanley, distributed “Know FIMFO” pamphlets and stickers noted that before the meeting, which listed a number of criticisms against the project. According to their website and signage, one of their major goals was to have the Planning Board look into the independent environmental impact study moving into the future.
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