April 07, 2020
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Neighbors concerned about Lucerne camp’s expansion after trees cut on wrong property

Bill Trotter|BDN
Bill Trotter|BDN
A utility pole and another in the distance stand in a cleared swath of trees that was cut partially and accidentally on a neighboring property as part of an expansion project at Camp Capella. Some neighbors want Lucerne officials to require that the camp plant replacement trees and improve drainage along a new access road to the project site before granting approval for the next phase of the project.

A planned expansion at a summer camp on Phillips Lake has drawn scrutiny from abutting property owners in the village of Lucerne after trees were mistakenly cut down on a neighboring property and a new access road appeared to cause erosion problems.

Officials in Lucerne have now taken some steps to get Camp Capella, which serves children and adults with disabilities, to fix the problems as it prepares to build two overnight cabins, a campsite with space for up to five tents, a parking area and a trail network on a 28-acre parcel behind the Lucerne Inn overlooking Phillips Lake.

Lucerne officials have sought to resolve the problems following encouragement from a land trust charged with managing that neighboring village-owned conservation property, and from a lawyer representing some village residents.

Among the issues is that an access road that leads to the proposed project area may not be built to proper standards, and that the camp cut down trees on an abutting village-owned property to make room for running electrical lines to the site.

Increased storm runoff aggravated by the road construction and tree cutting has caused erosion and may be contributing to drainage issues on nearby properties, according to letters sent to Lucerne and camp officials by Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust and by Ed Bearor, a Bangor lawyer representing local property owners Bob Clukey and Laurel Lockett.

None of the parties involved have objected to the camp’s expansion plans. They say they have raised their concerns with camp and Lucerne officials because they want to make sure the project is completed properly.

Ann Fossett, chairman of the Village of Lucerne Board of Overseers, said that Lucerne already has reached an agreement with Camp Capella about replacing the trees on village property that were mistakenly cut down. Camp officials believed the trees were on the camp’s property when they were cut, but realized after the fact that they were on property owned by Lucerne.

The camp will plant 83 trees, she said, and will try to match the variety of species that were cut down as closely as possible. The camp also mistakenly had erected utility poles on the town’s abutting property, but has since moved them to the camp’s parcel.

Lucerne is an incorporated village within the town of Dedham, approved by the Legislature in 1927, that has its own elected board of representatives — called overseers instead of selectmen — and its own development standards separate from the rest of the town.

At the overseers’ meeting Tuesday night, Bearor presented a suggested easement to the board, essentially a legal agreement between the village and Camp Capella that would ensure the public has access to the parking area and trails, as camp officials have promised. Fossett said the village is receptive to the easement proposal, but want to have the village’s attorney, David Szewczyk, review it first.

Lockett said she wants to make sure village officials secure the promised public access to the parking lot and trails.

“It’s a matter of making sure the village gets what it bargained for,” Lockett said, adding that village officials haven’t always “been great on details.”

Lockett said that some turnover on the board of overseers could partially explain why the village has not yet secured the public access in writing. To Lockett’s point, at Tuesday’s meeting Fossett and fellow overseer James Sutherland appointed Lin Rutherford to the three-person panel, filling a vacancy created by the recent death of Jeff Cammack.

The camp also has had staff turnover and is on its third executive director since it announced the expansion in the fall of 2016.

Landon Fake, Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust’s executive director, said the trust was “concerned” by the removal of the trees. It has a legal obligation to make sure nearby development doesn’t hurt the property it manages, Fake said.

“We want to make sure the conservation values are protected on that property,” he said, adding that the trust is not opposed to construction of the cabins, trails or parking lot on the camp property. “We’re working toward the same thing. We want to get all the loose ends sorted out.”

Harvey Chesley, Camp Capella’s executive director, declined earlier this week to comment, saying he first wished to speak with members of the camp’s board.

Subsequent efforts to contact Chesley have been unsuccessful.

When the camp might proceed with the rest of the planned development is not clear. Rick Leavitt, the village’s code enforcement officer, said Tuesday that the camp has not applied for a building permit for the cabins, campsite or trails to the village.


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