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Preston residents speak against proposed RV Park at Avery Pond

Preston — Two Lynn Drive families filed petitions for intervenor status, and several other residents spoke during an inland wetlands public hearing Tuesday in opposition to a proposed 300-space RV and luxury camping project on land bordering routes 2 and 164 on the southeast shore of Avery Pond.

Maryland-based Blue Water Development Corp. has proposed the RV park and campground under the name Blue Camp CT LLC, on three parcels totaling about 65 acres owned by the Mashantucket-Pequot Tribal Nation with about 300 camping spots — the number is being revised in new changes submitted by the group Tuesday — as well as a welcome center, three bathhouses, a swimming pool and volleyball, tennis, squash and bocce areas.

Much of the opposition centered on the project’s proposals at Avery Pond, where luxury “safari tent” areas, a floating dock, elevated boardwalk and kayak and canoe areas would be located. About 40 residents attended the hearing at the Preston Plains Middle School.

Susan and Timothy Hotchkiss of 20 Lynn Drive and Jennifer Hollstein of 12 Lynn Drive have hired attorney Richard S. Cody and filed petitions to become intervenors in the inland wetlands application, which allows them to have more of a role in the process. These residents of Lynn Drive, which is located along the west shore of Avery Pond, submitted written reports Tuesday to challenge the technical findings the Blue Water Development team filed with the application.

As Hollstein read the three-page letter written by their attorney, several other residents stood to the side of the podium in support. Cody wrote that the three residents have concerns about “the nature and scope of the proposed development, and in particular its potential adverse impacts upon Avery Pond.”

The residents submitted a letter from biologist and former professor Steven Loomis, who criticized Blue Water’s report for what Cody called “its abject thinness in the scope of its study” and for ignoring Avery Pond.

“Our clients believe that the number of campground units is an excessive number driven not by a careful study and a determined lack of harm to the natural resources, but instead is driven by profit,” Cody’s letter stated.

At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, project attorney Harry Heller and project technical staff described several revisions based on concerns from the town’s technical consultants.

Heller said instead of paving, the developers would use crushed stone for access roads and most parking lots, reducing the size of stormwater retention ponds. Overall, the changes reduced activities near the wetlands by 1.6 acres, he said.

All activity along a peninsula at the southeast shore of Avery Pond would be eliminated, fewer trees would be removed for the proposed boardwalk, and the boardwalk footings would be installed using a long-reach excavator.

At the east portion of the site, only park-owned, rented RVs would be allowed, reducing the size of the units, and one tent site would be accessible with golf carts only. There would be seven fewer safari tent sites.

The public hearing will continue at the Feb. 15 commission meeting.

Several residents objected to the proposed kayak and canoe activity on Avery Pond. Resident Andrew Stockton said Avery Pond is popular for recreational fishing. “Very seldom” are kayaks and canoes seen, he said.

“Introducing large numbers of kayakers to Avery Pond will likely mean the end of recreational fishing as seen today,” Stockton said. “Just a few inconsiderate kayakers out of the possibly 900 people staying there will cause major damage to the lily pad areas where many fishermen like to fish. Agitation to the water made by kayakers will disturb the fish, reduce catches and cause local fishermen to lose interest in Avery Pond.”

Gary Piszczek, chairman of the Preston Conservation and Agricultural Commission, read a letter submitted by the commission urging the wetlands commission to deny permits for the project.

Piszczek pointed out that no one knows who owns Avery Pond, so likely “everyone does and should” own it. He said the proposed floating dock and heavy use by kayaks would harm the shallow pond.

“Public access to the pond that everyone owns is already provided by the state of Connecticut boat launch that currently exists,” Piszczek read. “Therefore, we feel any additional access to Avery Pond would have an adverse impact on the watershed ecosystem.”

Route 164 resident Mary O’Neil said the heavy use of the property by the RV park would damage the pond, wetlands, soils and habitat. She pointed to a large, former Foxwoods employee parking lot on Route 2 in Norwich as a better place for an RV park and would not disturb neighboring communities.

c.bessette@theday.com

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